Finding Leaders vs. Forming Leaders

The leadership void

I hear it often, the cry for more and better leaders in the church. It comes from fellow pastors, who complain about the need for more men and women to step up lead. The sentiment is shared by board members, elder teams and sub-committees. Everyone wants more leaders. Even the people who sit in the pew and watch from a distance complain about the leadership void.

What should the church do about this common problem?

One of the reasons we have a leadership void is the result of our strategy for integrating leaders. We look out on the horizon of our churches and search for leaders, hoping that one will appear in the distance who is primed to step in and lead. Our strategy is limited to finding leaders rather than forming leaders.

Leaders can be found

We look for already capable leaders to fill the leadership void. All to common, a need arises in our churches and our response is reactionary instead of proactive. We have someone step down from leading a particular team or small group, and we need someone new to fill that role. The search begins. We scour the list of our members hoping to find a pearl of a leader buried in the sea of people. We may or may not find someone to fill the need who is capable of leading well, but we need to find someone, so we just start asking.

In some scenarios, it is absolutely essential to look for men and women who are ready to lead. This commonly happens when a church is planted, as the lead planter invites a group of people to serve on a launch team. In these situations, they need mature and capable leaders to serve as the core of their church plant to help it get off the ground.

Or maybe a church is trying to launch a new program or ministry strategy. Finding quality leadership is vitally important to the success or failure of this new venture. Finding leaders is necessary at times, and they can sometimes be found just waiting to be asked, but if all we ever do is spend our time searching for mature leaders, we will often go to the well and find that it is dry.

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Leaders must be formed

Eventually, all churches must learn how to grow leaders. The church as a whole cannot thrive if we are always looking for leaders who are already formed. God has given us the task of preparing tomorrows leaders. Ultimately, it is God who makes them and God who calls them to leadership, but we have the awesome privilege of being part of the process.

Eventually, all churches must learn how to grow leaders.

Forming leaders requires you to be intentional. If we have been working hard to form and train future leaders we will be prepared when a new role needs to be filled. Instead of scouring the field of people for that hidden pearl, we have already done the hard work of forming new leaders to fill the void.

My challenge for you is to be intentional about forming leaders. You don't need to create a fully fledged leadership development program in the next six weeks. Just take a step, any step, toward the development of leaders in your church. This can be as simple as asking a few people to read a book with you that teaches principles you hope to instill in your congregation. At First Baptist Church, we are launching a Leadership Development Group this fall and have over 20 people signed up for our inaugural course. The Porterbrook Network is a a great resource, as well as its online counterpart BibleMesh. Some churches have developed entire training programs, for example the Leadership Development Institute at Hope Community Church in Minneapols has a fantastic program to train leaders.

Whatever your next step is, just take a step toward forming leaders in your church. It will change the complexion of your congregation and increase your church's Kingdom impact.

Question: In the comments below, let us know what has helped form you as a leader and how you could see it working in the context of a local church?