3 Things That Keep People from Leading in Your Church

We need more leaders.

We’ve tried it all, but we can’t get people to step up.

I end up doing everything because we don’t have enough leaders.

A lack of leaders is the visible problem in your church, but we want to address the root cause. After all, if you simply put a Band-Aid on the symptom, you’ll never be able to truly experience a healthy and growing church.

Here are three reasons people might not be leading in your church.

If you’re struggling to recruit or develop leaders in your church, it’s time to look under the hood.

#1 – Mission confusion.

Every church shares the same purpose: Making disciples.

We say it in different ways and express it in different languages, but our root purpose is the same. Every church in every setting is called to make disciples.

Most Christians will fundamentally agree with the purpose of your church.

It’s Biblical.

It’s broad.

And that’s why it may not be enough to inspire leaders to serve.

Some people in your church (and I think it could be as many as half) aren’t motivated by purpose because it doesn’t seem tangible. It’s this eternal thing always out there, always calling us forward. But because it’s an eternal mission, there’s sometimes not a sense of urgency.

Leaders need to know the eternal purpose, but they need to know the one thing you’re doing about it RIGHT NOW.

They need to know the clear and present mission.

Here are some questions to help you drill down on this:

  • What specifically is your church trying to do?
  • Who is your church trying to reach?
  • What is the top priority in this next season of ministry?
  • What is the time-sensitive opportunity before us?
  • What is at stake if we don’t accomplish this?

These are the kinds of questions you must answer for leaders. They don’t have generic answers; they require specificity. They aren’t eternal; they have deadlines.

If you want leaders to serve in your church, you need to cast a clear, compelling, and CURRENT vision.

Want to know more about the difference between purpose and mission and why it matters in your church? Read this article.

#2 – Having an outdated structure. 

The structure of your church can help or hinder your growth. Carey Nieuwhof says, “If you want your church to grow, you need to structure bigger to grow bigger.”

An outdated structure doesn’t just hinder growth in the church, it hinders growth in people.  It prevents leaders from leading.

Leaders don’t want to serve in a stifling environment where there is little freedom. They don’t want to operate in a committee-driven culture where decisions are made at the top and pushed down through the ranks. They don’t want to operate in a bureaucracy where results aren’t visible.

When you look at the structure of your church, particularly your staff, board, or committee involvement, ask yourself if that structure enables leaders to lead or prevents leaders from making decisions.

Leaders make messes. Leaders try things. Leaders don’t always follow the checklist.

So if your structure doesn’t allow for leaders to shine, you’ll probably always struggle to involve leaders.

Brandon Cox says churches with unhealthy structures have too many committees, vote on too many issues, lack simple parameters for decision-making, spread authority out randomly, and move slowly to allow everyone’s turf to remain safe.

Conversely, he says a healthy structure is built on high trust in leaders, gives responsibility away whenever possible, has fewer committees, votes on few issues, and adapts to change more quickly.

Structure is not a quick-fix issue and it won’t be solved with a free eBook or webinar. In order to address your structure issues, you must be willing to get your hands dirty and have courageous conversations.

You must move into the process knowing the structure that allowed your church to flourish in the past may be the very thing holding you back from the next season of growth. You must realize that if your church is structured for your current size, you might need to make preemptive changes. The right time to re-structure is BEFORE you need it.

Structure isn’t just about growth or organization. It’s about freeing up leaders to lead.

#3 – Unclear roles. 

There is a huge difference between a leader and a volunteer. Recognizing that difference might just be the key to getting people in the right spot.

This might be an overly simple distinction, but a volunteer moves stuff around while a leader moves stuff forward. Volunteers and leaders are both important and necessary in your church, but they meet very different needs.

A volunteer wants to serve because they love the church, believe in the mission, and want to play a part. They want to do something.  

Leaders also love the church, believe in the mission, and want to play a part. But they want to use their gift of leadership. They don’t just want to do things…they want to lead things.

If you ask a volunteer to be a leader and they don’t want those extra responsibilities, it could be a disaster. And if you ask a leader to stay in the lane of volunteering, they will not be fulfilled and will never reach their full potential.

Here’s another way to look at it:

Asking a volunteer to be a leader often results in burnout. Asking a leader to be a volunteer often results in boredom.

If you sit down to make a list of leaders in your church, the first people who come to mind will probably be hard-working volunteers who are always present. You’ll naturally gravitate toward people who are present and visible.

But a hard-working volunteer who shows up at every church event is not necessarily a leader.  Because leaders don’t just do tasks, they have followers.

That’s why your job is to create clarity of roles.

What exactly does it mean to be a volunteer at your church? And what exactly does it mean to be a leader? Can you articulate the difference? Is there a path between the two?

This type of clarity comes from a commitment to work on your leadership system. We’ve got resources to help and plans you can implement, but it’s up to you to do the work.

How to get leaders involved in your church 

One thing we’ve noticed about leaders in the church is they typically crave training. Leaders love opportunities to get better and develop their skills. So we created an eBook all about leading a staff.

This resource will help you learn:

  • How to clarify everyone’s role so they remain focused on the right things
  • Manage your team to accomplish their goals
  • Streamline your team meetings so they maximize everyone’s time
  • Ways to develop their leadership skills

The Senior Pastor's Guide to Leading a Staff is one of our most popular resources and it's yours free when you click below. 


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