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Big Church Small Church Myths | That Pioneering Spirit | Delegation Made Simple | Small Church Finances | Leadership Teams | Planning the Future Getting Organised


Leadership Teams

One of the most important things you can ever do in your church is to build a Leadership Team.

Many churches, even small ones, have a Management Committee because it is a legal requirement. However, let me explain the difference between a Leadership Team and a Management Committee.

Typically, a lot of Management Committees focus largely on administrative issues. So, they discuss the constitution, consider the minutes of meetings, inspect financial statements such as Balance Sheets and Profit and Loss Statements, report on progress of supported missionaries, inspect the Correspondence In and Out, talk about the positioning of chairs in the hall, discuss the church's bank account interest rate, and the like.

This is not to say that many of those things shouldn't be discussed.

But if this is the main diet of your meetings, you have a problem. Too often Management Committees get bogged down in these kinds of issues instead of real leadership issues.

In a lot of ways, management implies maintaining the status quo, looking after something that already exists and attempting to make sure that it continues to run smoothly without too many hiccups.

Committees, generally speaking, thrive on such minutiae. This is why the same things can be discussed for month after month without making much progress. In a committee, the most important thing is making sure that everything is discussed to the nth degree, everyone's opinion is heard, and no one's toes are stepped on, so that you only move ahead when there is total agreement by everyone.

The problem with that is that everything sinks to the level of the lowest common denominator. That's why they say that a camel is a horse designed by a committee! You can't really make much progress under those conditions.

By contrast, Leadership Teams lead. (For more information on the implications of leadership, take a look at the Leadership Studies section of this website.) They also act like a team. And that makes all the difference.

So let's take a look at some important principles in forming a Leadership Team in a small church.

1. Choose Leaders

Fill your Leadership Team with leaders - those who have leadership ability. (Again, you may want to check out the Leadership Studies section of this website to get a full grasp of what I mean.) Far too many churches have a very different basis for selecting leaders. Frequently, if a person is seen as a good fellow, reliable, amiable, and regular in attendance, they are asked to join the Leadership Team of a church. Let's call this the "Good Guy Principle". He's a "good guy" so let's put him in the team.

But that person may not have a leadership bone in their body.

This kind of selection process is a serious mistake.

Here's some indispensable advice when choosing leaders for your small church: Start the way you want to finish. Don't think to yourself that you can just grab a bunch of people around you while you're small, and then when you've got a bigger church, you can change your Leadership Team.

That's not so easy to do. People get offended and that can have all sorts of repercussions in your church. Instead, right from the beginning, choose the people who are qualified to fulfil a leadership role. They should be demonstrating some sort of leadership ability, either in the church or the community, before you give them a position in the Leadership Team.

The benefit of using this method of choosing leaders might be more understandable if I use an example.

Imagine you're a research physicist and you're setting out on a new research project. You realise that you can't possibly do the job all by yourself, so you decide to get a team together. You go out on the street, grab a whole bunch of people, and interview them. Then, based on the Good Guy Principle, you select the first six people who qualify to be on your team.

A week later, you call your first team meeting to discuss your current progress and the direction of your future research. Not one of them is a physicist and they have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Some of them think they understand, or pretend to, and agree with everything you propose. Others call for long, detailed explanations and call into question everything you say.

Guess what? You brought that on yourself. There's no mysterious flaw in these people. They are good people. They just aren't qualified to do what you want them to do.

Small church leaders often fall into the same trap. They look around, think that they don't have a large pool of prospects from which to select a team. So they choose their Leadership Team based, not on the leadership abilities of their prospective team members, but on the Good Guy Principle.

In a situation like this, what happens next is that you either end up with a bunch of yes-men who have no ideas of their own, or you encounter ongoing resistance from people who really don't understand what you're trying to achieve. And is it any wonder?

Those people weren't designed to lead, so they're not even on the same page as you are. They're barely on the same planet when it comes to discussing leadership issues. It's a major challenge for them to approach church issues from a leadership perspective.

This doesn't imply that having a team of gifted leaders is always going to be smooth sailing. But at least they have a level of understanding even if they don't necessarily agree with everything you say. Real leaders can make a serious contribution to your Leadership Team. Non-leaders are incapable of making such a contribution.

2. Involve Your Leadership Team

There's no point in building a Leadership Team if you're not planning on having them involved in the running of the church. If you want to do everything yourself, then you may as well prepare yourself now for the disillusionment and burnout that are the inevitable part of your future.

Your team will help you shoulder the load, but they can only do that if you involve them in the leadership process. You can do that in several ways.

First, pass on as much as possible of this information about church leadership to them. If you elect to do the Leadership Studies, share it all with your Leadership Team. The more they understand where you're coming from, the more they can support you.

If you are impacted by a book that may influence the way you go as a church, buy a copy of the book for each of your leaders too. Encourage them to read it, and discuss the book and its implications at your team meetings.

If you don't do this, here's what will happen. You will have had a sudden influx of ideas that have made an impression on you, and as a result, you decide there are some changes that need to be made in the church. But when you discuss it with your Leadership Team, the support isn't really there.

Reason? They have not had the benefit of the same input that you had. Be smart. Keep them up-to-date. And don't worry about the fact that they know it wasn't originally your idea. It doesn't matter whose idea it was, as long as it originated with God.

Second, if you attend pastors' meetings or conferences and you are permitted to take along your key leaders, do it. This has many benefits. One benefit is that you are keeping them in the loop with the latest thinking. If they hear great ideas from someone else besides you, then you don't have to convince them yourself. And the next time you have a Leadership Team meeting, they are already onside with what you may want to do.

Also, you are allowing your leaders to rub shoulders with leaders of a higher level. That will be good for them and good for your church too. And don't forget that your leaders will appreciate the fact that you considered them "worthy" to be invited along to meetings they would otherwise not have access to.

Another way of involving your Leadership Team is to involve them in the decision-making process. You don't necessarily have to adopt all of their ideas, but the fact that you have taken their ideas into account, will mean that they will have a higher level of commitment to the decisions that have to be made.

3. Lead Your Leaders

Sometimes leaders are a bit nervous about involving their Leadership Team in the decision-making process. They think that they are losing control or that they are abdicating their responsibility to get a vision for the church.

Well, that depends on how you handle your role and your team.

For example, you should always be the one who organises the agenda. Never ever turn up without one. There will always be a certain number of administrative items for you to get through. That's a given. But make sure that the lion's share of material you have to get through is leadership oriented, and that the discussions centre around the direction you believe God wants your church to go in.

Make sure also that your leaders know right from the beginning that your goal is to form a team. Define a team as a group of people who work in harmony towards a common goal. What you're aiming for is unity of the Spirit. (Eph 4:3)

This does not imply that everyone will always agree on everything. But it does mean that attitudes and egos have to be checked in at the door. There is no room for self-interest in a group of people who claim to be acting on God's behalf in leading the church.

So if a member of your team doesn't get their own way, then they need to understand that it is immature to get the sulks. This sort of thing should be discussed with your team so that they understand your expectations of their behaviour.

4. Keep The Team Meetings Focused

Leadership oriented material is material that is designed to move your church forward. Anything else, apart from the necessary administrative items, is a waste of your leaders' time.

With that in mind, and as a leader of a team of leaders, you have to keep your team meetings focused. Don't let them drag on forever or get bogged down on a topic. If the matter isn't urgent, postpone the discussion till the next meeting.

Not only do you need to make sure you have an agenda, you also should have thought through all the issues. This is true even if you aren't sure what direction you want to take. Your leaders will quickly lose respect if they repeatedly discover that you haven't given any thought to the issues you want to discuss.

Nature abhors a vacuum. So remember this: If you don't lead, someone else will.

5. Focus On Your Leadership Team

By this, I mean that you need to be thinking about them, their development, and their welfare.

Jesus spent a lot of time teaching and training, but most of that time was spent exclusively giving input into His Leadership Team, His disciples. He knew that ultimately they were the ones who would continue His ministry, and His impact was multiplied through them.

In the same way, your Leadership Team will multiply your ability to lead if you lead them well. They will do things that you can't do. And ultimately, as your support group, they will save you a lot of heartache, plus the possibility of burnout.

6. Allow Your Leaders To Lead

Of course, this implies first of all, that they have an area of leadership. Every member of your Leadership Team should have a practical area where they have the responsibility to lead. The Leadership Team should not be the only place in the church where they get to lead.

Also, there's hardly a lot of point in having a Leadership Team at all if you see them primarily as lackeys to help you fulfil your ministry. You need to release them to function as leaders.

This doesn't mean that they become a law to themselves, but you need to allow them a certain amount of freedom in what they do. If they have to come to you, begging for permission every time they need to make a decision, they will never develop into great leaders, and that will be your fault.

You can still have input, adjust what they are doing and make corrections as necessary. But you need to show confidence in your leaders by allowing them the liberty of developing their area of leadership as long as it fits in with the overall vision and mission of the church. Don't micromanage!

See yourself as a father (or a mother), and your leaders as your children. You don't want your children to be forever dependent on you for everything. The goal of every functional parent is to bring their children to the point where they can function independently. Naturally, you don't want your leaders to take advantage of this and ignore you. But you do want them to be able to take initiative.

One important area in which you can help them to achieve this growth to maturity is in the area of the church finances. We've already looked at some of the basic principles of Small Church Finances in Module 4. But here's something very practical you can do in developing your leaders - expect them to prepare a budget.

How do you do this? Get them to assess how much they will need to spend on a monthly basis to develop the area they are leading. All of your leaders should do this, and then it should be discussed at the Leadership Team meeting when you are working on your church budget.

Once this has been done, you then estimate the impact this has on your overall church budget. If your expenses are greater than your (realistically) estimated income, then you have a problem that needs to be addressed. You need to cut down on expenses.

Here are two tests you can use if you have to make cuts to your leaders' budgets:

Reality Test

Don't forget the steps mentioned in Module 4 for dealing with budget blowouts. But you also need to talk about your leaders' individual budgets. Make sure the budgets are realistic and they haven't just pulled a figure out of the air. They should be able to justify their budgetary claims by explaining exactly what they intend to spend the money on.

Priority Test

Let's face it. Some areas of your church are more important than other areas. This may be permanently true, as in the case of reaching the lost which should be a permanently high priority. Or it may be temporary. For instance, your music department might currently need new equipment which, once purchased will bring the music up to speed. This will immediately place it lower on the priority list.

If you can accommodate everyone while making budget cuts, that's great. But often, this will not be possible. That's why you need to apply these tests in determining where the cuts need to be made.

However, whatever the financial reality of your church may be, the purpose of this budgeting process is not just to keep your church financially on track. That's important, but you also have another goal. You are training your leaders to lead and budgeting is an essential part of that.

Not only will this help them to take proper ownership of their area of responsibility, thus ensuring that they will put their heart and soul into it. But budgeting is a skill that will apply to their private lives too.