Building Effective Leadership Teams In The Local Church
As a Senior Pastor, I had the privilege of serving with some very gifted leaders in the local church. They played a huge role in the successful mission of our church and were a big part of my life personally as a pastor. There was a mutual respect and love between us. So what made it so effective and meaningful?
While every local church is a unique environment, here are a few things to consider that seemed to work well for us over the years.
Keep it small. We decided early on that our Church Leadership Team would never get out of single digits in size, and this didn’t change as the church grew from 200 to over 2,000. A team of fourteen or seventeen would be unwieldy and slow any process down. While many decisions call for careful thought and prayerful consideration, most churches are notorious for moving with the speed of a glacier! A smaller team is more nimble and can move with swiftness when needed. Our team varied between a low of five and a high of nine. Members of the team were annually reaffirmed by the others. Some stepped off because of moves or because they had served for ten years or more and felt it was time, but there were no “term limits.”
Keep it select. Obviously, a genuine Christian life and character are key factors to be on a church Leadership Team, but that is not enough! Paramount for us was that somewhere in their “gift mix” leadership was in the top two or three. I remember one person I really wanted to consider for the Leadership Team, and I asked a couple of times several months apart, “What are your top two or three spiritual gifts?” Leadership wasn’t there, so we resisted putting the person on the team. It isn’t a teaching team, a hospitality team, a shepherding team (we had elders who were the shepherds)—it is a leadership team!
Obviously, we looked at other things as well—their commitment to the church, did they have a circle of influence? We also looked for humility. Jim Collins in his bestselling book Good to Great, talks about the personal humility of “level five leaders.” One woman under consideration for the team, a very high executive in one of America’s premier companies, took a monthly turn watching two-year olds in the church nursery, and she did not have any kids in there! That spoke to the team of her humility and willingness to serve wherever needed.
Keep potential members in “the bullpen.” We usually had a list of fifteen to twenty names that were potential members for the Church Leadership Team. Some of them went through a leadership development group, though not specifically for eventual inclusion on the Leadership Team, but for all areas of leadership in the church. Consider giving a potential leader for your Leadership Team a “trial run.” A significant milestone event in the life of our church was coming up and we had given it a significant amount of funding, so we asked one of the leaders in our “bullpen” for our Leadership Team to lead this effort. Could they align a team and work with them? Could they drive the vision of the event? This person passed with flying colors!
Keep it focused. Our Church Leadership Team was a visionary, big-picture group for leading the church. The natural gravitational pull of groups is to get bogged down in minutiae and details. I cringed at having highly skilled leaders come together to decide what brand of copier the church should have and whether to buy or lease. We had a church staff to handle the detailed decisions of the church, that enabled us to keep the Leadership Team focused on the bigger vision. I was blessed with a Leadership Team that was often out in front of me in faith and vision.
Keep it small, keep it select, keep a list of potentials and keep it focused. Maybe some of this will be helpful in leadership in your church!