Learning how to be an effective leader in the church requires many qualities. There is no authority except from God (Romans 13:1); those who are in positions of church leadership are there by the grace of God and must lead in a way that is honorable and pleasing to Him.
However, leadership is challenging, involving the ability to navigate people and circumstances with nuance – every situation is different. While some aspects of leadership may come naturally, not all traits of an effective leader will.
Leaders in the church often struggle with leading because it requires a mix of skills and insights that often require time and experience to acquire. This challenge doesn’t mean you don’t have God’s anointing on your life – just that you need to learn how to steward it well.
Before diving into how to be an effective leader in the church, it is worth spending a little time addressing the purpose of Church leadership, the difference between calling and gifting, and commitment to developing necessary leadership skills.
Church Leadership Roles And Responsibilities
The Bible clearly states that each person in the Body of Christ has a unique role to fulfill and special giftings. The Bible also describes leadership roles that God places a person in:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13
The word pastor in verse 11 means a herdsman, esp. a shepherd. Even though the English translation of this verse uses the word pastor for this role, the original Greek word, poimēn, is found in other places in Scripture describing the task of caring for people in the same way that a shepherd cares for a flock of sheep.
Caring for people in the same manner as a shepherd cares for sheep is emphasized throughout the Bible. Jesus would often use this relationship to illustrate His love for people.
Because Jesus modeled this level of care for people in His life and ministry, those in leadership should follow His example. A pastor should understand that his goal is to build up the body of Christ by being used by God to equip His people.
4 Primary Church Leadership Roles And Responsibilities
- Serve the flock by attending to their needs. (John 10:11-15)
- Care for the flock by protecting them from danger. (John 21:15-17, Matthew 7:15)
- Search for the one who strays from the flock. (Luke 15:3-6)
- Multiply the flock by training new leaders. (Titus 1:5, 2 Timothy 2:2)
Such responsibilities should not be taken lightly or entered into abruptly. While it is scriptural to teach that God does “call” individuals into pastoral ministry, the “called” are first trained and equipped before performing their God-given task.
- Jesus first trained Peter, John, and the other disciples for three years before being commissioned. (Matthew 28:16-20)
- The Apostle Paul, after his conversion, was sent out to preach under the prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch. (Acts 13:1-2)
- The Apostle Paul referred to Timothy as a son in the faith, indicating a level of mentorship and training.
Understanding The Difference Between Calling And Gifting
Many people have several gifts that can serve the church; however, giftings are not designated to a specific location or church; they simply exist and can be used. On the other hand, a call involves a specific location, area, or body for the gifts to be used within.
“In considering the boundaries of leadership in a Christian, we must recognize the dynamic tension between a call and a gift. The Bible clearly states that men are sovereignly given gifts to take up places of leadership in the Christian community.
It seems that some leaders receive multiple gifts to fulfill functions in the churches, literature, communications, education, and world missions.
One contemporary writer distinguishes between the two in this way: A call is like the ‘the rudder that steers the ship.
None of the spiritual gifts delineated in the New Testament has any geographical connotation. No one, for example, has the gift of missionary work in Africa or ministry to inner-city youth. The gifts instead describe the what of ministry, and the call designates the where of ministry.” – Ted Engstrom
It is vital to clarify the difference between receiving a call and being equipped to carry it out. It is evident in Scripture that although the Lord gives a calling, it is necessary to learn and develop the skills to perform.
How To Be An Effective Leader In The Church
Beyond a healthy relationship with God that involves prayer, there are five primary aspects of being an effective leader in the church: vision, strategy, empowerment, communication, and service.
5 Aspects Of Effective Church Leadership
1. Effective Leaders In The Church Have Vision
A leader must articulate a vision of what could be in the future. People will engage with leaders who can share beliefs about a goal worth building and working towards creating.
Vision is not optional for an effective leader. To use a movie reference from Back to the Future, vision is the “flux capacitor” of leadership. It makes time travel possible for a group of people to suddenly see a preferable future. –Dave Ferguson
People must be able to see what you see if they will follow your leadership.
2. Effective Leaders In The Church Are Strategic
Church leaders must be able to plan for success by determining worthwhile goals and how to achieve them.
Leaders must be able to look toward the future and make strategic plans. When they are aware of opportunities and problems that will arise in the business environment, they can respond accordingly. A strategy helps leaders think in entirely new ways to ensure future success. – cmoe.com
Often strategists and visionaries are cast as opposites; however, influential leaders are willing to lean into strategic processes and thinking to ensure that a worthwhile vision is realized.
3. Effective Leaders In The Church Empower Others
Team members and volunteers want to experience a sense of ownership when serving in the church. Highly invested people do not enroll in a mission to act like robots; they want to be a part and make decisions too.
When you delegate authority, what you’re doing is giving your leaders an opportunity to grow. You’re just controlling them when you tell them exactly what to do. The reality is this: you can have control, or you can have growth, but you can’t have both. – Craig Groeschel
Leaders understand that it’s best to create a healthy church culture that enables others to thrive, collaborate, and make decisions.
4. Effective Leaders In The Church Can Communicate With Clarity
Leaders in the church must be able to communicate. Church leaders are required to communicate in a variety of settings and dynamics. There is no getting around this aspect of church leadership.
There are different types of communicators, and your style can develop. You don’t have to imitate others or try to be something you’re not, but you will need to improve.
Communication is a skill that you can practice, and finding your voice may require some time. Regardless of your communication type, all communicators must be genuine, honest, empathetic, and straightforward.
5. Effective Leaders In The Church Are Given Over To Service
Leading as a Christian is a response to Christ living within. Jesus led by serving and provided a perfect leadership model to follow. Tight management, driving rigidity, or enforcing others is not leading; it’s controlling.
Some leaders may serve the Word, and others may serve tables, but all leaders serve! (Acts 6)
Service is sacrificial and often means that you will give more than others may return, but we know that Jesus said that giving is better than receiving.
To build relationships and lead a diverse group of people, a pastor or church leader must be a well-rounded individual. Specific skills are necessary for leadership and can also benefit from refinement.
Learning how to be an effective leader in the church is possible. When you know what skills and attributes you lack, you can intentionally put forth the effort to develop what’s missing.
6 Characteristics Effective Leaders In The Church Develop
1. Effective Church Leaders Practice Humility
Humility is one of the most attractive qualities of a leader. When church leaders exhibit humility, it demonstrates their dependence on God and appreciation of others.
Humility is a difficult quality to maintain when you are in a leadership position. It’s easy to become prideful and think that you are the one making things happen, and understandably so. However, leaders must develop greater self-awareness and be open to others providing feedback.
People are drawn to humility because it shows that you recognize your weaknesses and can learn from others. It also shows that you’re willing to put others’ needs before your own. People will follow a humble leader.
2. Effective Church Leaders Practice Integrity
As a leader in the church, you must have integrity if you want people to trust you. Practicing integrity means being consistent in your words and actions in and outside the church. In a world where it seems like everyone is out for themselves, it is refreshing to find someone who has integrity.
Leaders understand that trust essentially equates to confidence and work to build it through a transparent lifestyle and following through on their word.
If there is an area you struggle with, you’re not alone. There are a few things you can do::
- Be honest with yourself. If you’re not living a life of integrity, be honest about why and what needs to change.
- Surround yourself with godly people who will hold you accountable.
- Study the Word of God and learn what it means to live a life of integrity.
- Depend on God’s grace. It’s impossible to consistently live a life of integrity without the Holy Spirit empowering you and changing your heart.
Ask God for help with this area, ask for the help you need, then step out in faith and start living the way Jesus wants you to.
3. Effective Church Leaders Practice Faith
It’s not enough to talk a good game or preach passionately from the pulpit if there isn’t an equal measure of passion demonstrated through personal example. Followers need to see the leader living out the vision and values of the church, not just preaching about them on Sundays.
Therefore, church leaders must be intentional about keeping their faith active and alive.
To help create healthy practices that build your faith, evaluate how often you engage in different spiritual disciplines like:
- Honest Transparency With Close Friends
- Requesting Feedback
- Scripture Reading
4. Effective Church Leaders Practice Prioritizing Their Well-being
The repercussions of a lack of focus on the well-being of leaders in the church are becoming more evident. When leaders neglect their mental or physical health, it is a good indicator of their spiritual health.
It’s easy for church leaders to consume themself with work, performance, the needs of others, all of which are driven by insecurity and a lack of self-awareness. But if you want to be an effective leader, you need to be emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy.
Healthy leaders understand the value of setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, and forgiving themself if they make mistakes. By doing so, you’ll also model health to those you lead and help them to do the same.
5. Effective Church Leaders Practice A Willingness To Learn
Leaders must be pliable, adaptable, and willing to grow too. A church leader who is stuck in their ways becomes difficult to follow and eventually loses influence with others.
Great leaders are secure enough to learn from others; they ask lots of questions, remain open, and stay teachable.
6. Effective Church Leaders Practice Engagement
Leaders in the church must stay in touch with those they lead. Isolation, autonomy, and separation from the team or congregation can create unhealthy dynamics.
Seek to know the people who serve with you or come to your church personally. Learn about their life, discover their strengths and weaknesses, and find ways to connect with them in meaningful ways.
How To Be An Effective Leader In The Church Summary
If you’re curious about how to be an effective leader in the church, the simple answer is modeling Christ-like leadership. Christ was a servant leader who showed up for his people, engaged them in the ministry process, and empowered them to do their best work.
Take time to reflect on your leadership style and any church leadership problems you may be facing. Consider if there are things you can improve on. The more open you are about your shortcomings, the better you’ll be.
And remember: it’s not all about you – leadership never is! You need God’s grace to be an effective leader and empower those around you. So, lean on Him and others, believing that you can create a Christ-centered ministry.
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