Addressing the Renewal Leadership Challenge

Written by Keith Doornbos
March 7, 2022

“As leaders go, so goes the church.” That maxim is self-evident to anyone working on church renewal. The challenge is finding good leaders. 

“As leaders go, so goes the church.”  That maxim is self-evident to anyone attempting a congregational turn-around.  The challenge, of course, is finding good leaders.  Many congregations first identify they are in trouble when they no longer can find qualified leaders for essential leadership positions.  Sadly, the knee jerk reaction is the adoption of an “any warm body will do” policy. Churches begin inviting perennial grumble bunnies, persons with one foot out the door, half-hearted recruits and fear-focused individuals to serve in critical leadership roles.  This works for a season, but the net result is toxic to congregational life as good leaders become frustrated when great possibilities are mired in negativity, ineptness, and extreme caution.  There are better ways to address the leadership challenge.

 Here Are 7 Commitments that Improve a Leadership Culture:
Commitment 1:  Only Allow Called and Gospel-Transformed Leaders to Lead

The only thing worse than no leader is a bad leader.  No matter the depth of the leadership challenge, leaders in Christ’s church must be worthy the office.  Never accept merely acceptable leaders.  Instead, pray and work vigorously to find persons of the Spirit’s choosing.

Commitment 2:  Rewrite the Leadership Rulebook

A crisis of leadership sometimes is created by unhelpful rules.  For example, limiting good leaders to three-year terms followed by a three-year hiatus rotates out invested leaders and upends progress towards an agreed upon vision.  Examine and rewrite rules to aid renewal.

Commitment 3:  Expand the Pool of Leadership Candidates

Leadership councils filled with old white men often complain about the lack of potential leaders while qualified women, persons of color, new members, singles and energized youth who are capable and willing to lead are sitting in their pews.  Reflect on your leadership culture.

Commitment 4:  Right-Size the Leadership Council

As churches grow smaller, they must right-size the organization.  Councils of 20 or more serving churches of 200 or less is unnecessary.  For most congregations a leadership board of 5-9 is sufficient especially if work is distributed and a culture of gatekeeping is eliminated.

Commitment 5:  Raise Up and Empower a Visioning Team

Renewal churches need a visioning team composed of persons passionate for pursuing a God-preferred future.  Team members should come from every segment of the congregation. This team will relieve the heavy lifting of leadership councils and attract fresh leadership possibilities.

Commitment 6:  Create a Leadership Mentoring Process

Churches that have a thriving leadership culture intentionally mentor future leaders.  Following the pattern of II Timothy 2:2 they identify and invest in potential leaders through discipleship formation, leadership skills training and thoughtful structures for growth and accountability.

Commitment 7:  Develop a Clear, Shared and Compelling Vision

Some churches believe that limiting the size of a leadership “ask” will increase the pool of leadership candidates.  The reverse is closer to the truth.  Good leaders just want to know, “Is this vision worthy of the sacrifice I’m being asked to make?”

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