In the course of my work as a consultant with TAG Consulting, I use an assessment tool, the Transforming Church Insight (TCI). Part of that tool gathers basic demographic information from those participating in the survey.
One question we ask is, “What is your position/role at the church?” We then give them the following answer choices: 1. Pastor/Staff 2. Volunteer Leader 3. Member 4. Nonmember. In some churches, the percentage of people that self-select “Leader” is 20 percent or higher. But in far too many churches, the percentage is so low that the actual number of those who self-select as leaders is less than the number of people on the church board! What this means is that the percentage of people in leadership positions who see themselves as leaders is very low.
Who are the leaders in the church? There are two types of leaders in the church, those who have it by position and those who have it by the way they live. Positional leadership alone is no leadership at all. Those in the church that are in leadership positions (board members, ministry team leaders, teachers, small group leaders, etc.), but who do not claim that leadership in the way they live, are not leaders. And the church is full of these positional leaders who have not stepped up to claim it and live it. And the church suffers because of it.
So why do people fail to claim the role of leader? It seems that most people almost run from it. Ask someone to lead and they will say that they want to be involved, but they don’t want to be a leader. There are many reasons people refuse to claim their leadership, including:
They don’t see in themselves the gifts that others see.
The world constantly tells us how much we are lacking. We aren’t smart enough or experienced enough or pretty enough or … (fill in the blank). To raise up leaders, we must not just see the gifts in others, we need to help them see those gifts in themselves. Everyone has been given unique gifts and talents by God to be used in intentional ways. We must build people up even as we are recruiting them, for the world is busy in tearing them down.
They have taken on leadership before and had no support or guidance.
Sadly, this is too often the case for many who have stepped up in leadership in churches today. Leaders need support, guidance, training and partnership. Too often, a staff member recruits someone, and then fails to provide what the person needs to be successful. This is actually a failure of leadership on the staff’s part. We must remember that leadership is about mobilizing people for ministry. Thus, when we place someone in a leadership position, we must ensure that they have everything they need to be successful.
They think that only great and famous people are leaders.
Too often, people think that only people like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. or Billy Graham are leaders. We forget that the kindergarten teacher who helps a child learn to share is engaged in leadership. We forget that inviting a neighbor to church is leadership. We forget that organizing the food drive is leadership. Anytime we mobilize someone else to be engaged in ministry, we have engaged in leadership.
They think that they need to have all the answers to be a leader.
Leaders do not always need to have everything figured out. In fact, many times leaders will not have a clue as to what to do. In times like that, leaders gather others together to wrestle with the issues and problems they’re facing. This act of gathering people and knowing what the issue is and what questions to begin asking is the very act of leadership that is needed.
We need to intentionally build a culture of leadership in our churches by helping people claim and live into their roles as leaders:
- Start by building up and encouraging leaders to see their God-given gifts and talents.
- Intentionally partner with and support the leaders in your church.
- Define leadership as not always doing great things, but doing small things with great purpose.
- Help people trust that leadership is not grounded in having the answers, as much as it is grounded in the values and vision for what can be.
- Start calling people “leaders.”