If you desire your church to reach more people, expand its resources, and amplify its impact, building a leadership pipeline is of utmost importance.
Occasionally, after we share our articles or resources online, a well-intentioned individual might comment, “This is irrelevant. We just need to preach the Gospel!” Fundamentally, I agree. It’s easy to complicate ministry and stray from the fundamental mission of sharing Jesus’ death and resurrection and teaching others to emulate His life.
However, even the simplicity of the Great Commission raises crucial leadership questions: Who will be our audience for the Gospel? How will we engage with them? How can we effectively teach and disciple them? How do we ensure consistency and maintain sound doctrine? Who will undertake preaching, teaching, encouraging, and exhorting?
Ultimately, the most straightforward missions and strategies demand effective leadership. Advancement of the gospel requires leadership. This is why Jesus prioritized leadership development. He chose specific individuals, ensuring that when the pivotal moment at Pentecost occurred, there were 120 capable leaders ready to disciple a burgeoning congregation.
Many pray for a Pentecost-like moment, beseeching God to bring a spiritual harvest. Yet, it’s possible that God, in His sovereignty, is waiting for our churches to be ready with trained leaders who can nurture a surge of new believers. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
To enhance your church’s impact, forget looking for a quick-fix outreach strategy. What’s needed is what Jesus modeled: a church teeming with leaders capable of nurturing more leaders. It’s time to unify discipleship with leadership development. For a healthy future, your church requires a leadership pipeline.
In this article, we’ll examine five prevalent leadership challenges and discuss how a leadership pipeline can mitigate these issues. Our six-week Leadership Pipeline Cohort offers a quick and cost-effective way to implement these principles in your church. Let’s delve into the five reasons your church needs a leadership pipeline.
You Don’t Have Enough Leaders
A common complaint among churches is the shortage of leaders. It’s rare to hear a pastor say they’ve got too many leaders and not enough roles for them. This often creates a sense of desperation, which, ironically, can make it even harder to attract volunteers and worsen the root problem of ineffective recruitment.
At the core of this issue is a flawed message in how churches recruit leaders: the idea that by volunteering, you’re doing the church, the pastor, or even God a favor. This attitude results in a volunteer base made up of people who have time, feel guilty, or believe it’s their religious duty, while others excuse themselves due to busyness or a perceived lack of skills.
So, what’s the fix? We need to start with a shift in how we view volunteering, drawing from a deeper understanding of what it means to be part of the church. The Bible, particularly in Ephesians 4, talks about equipping everyone for ministry work, not just a special few. This isn’t about filling slots; it’s about activating every member of the congregation into their unique role and spiritual gift.
In practice, this means our leadership recruitment should reflect an Ephesians 4 mindset. We should aim to help every church member discover and step into their God-given role and calling.
In our leadership pipeline framework, we call this process mobilization. It’s about moving away from desperately seeking volunteers and towards unlocking the potential in every member of your congregation. By the end of this process, your church will have a strategy that transforms passive attendees into active, purpose-driven participants.
You’re Structured for Burnout
Here’s a leadership truth that’s held up in my experience with dozens of churches over the last decade: Your church will develop exactly as many leaders as it’s structured to handle. You might not agree, but I’ve seen it time and again.
Even if you think you can manage five or ten more leaders, without the right structure, they’ll likely be underdeveloped, or you’ll neglect your current leaders to focus on the new ones. Jesus himself, with all his divine attributes, recognized the constraints of time and attention in leadership development. So, if even He had to be mindful of his limits, it’s wise for us to acknowledge ours.
Many church leaders are stretching themselves too thin, overseeing too many ministries and volunteers, leading to underdeveloped leadership and increasing the risk of burnout. I’ve been there, stretched beyond my limits, and nearly lost everything. If you want to lead effectively and sustainably, it’s crucial to focus not just on the quantity of leaders but on how your teams are structured.
In our Leadership Pipeline process, we show you how to create levels of leadership within your church and manage your responsibilities so you don’t burn out and your leaders get the attention they need. This doesn’t have to mean a huge increase in personnel costs; it’s about smartly structuring for growth and sustainability.
It’s a common misconception that only big churches need structured leadership pipelines. From my own experience in church planting, I regret not implementing a leadership pipeline from the start. Small churches might even benefit more from early adoption of such a structure, as it helps cultivate leadership skills broadly and is easier to implement when the church is more nimble.
Large churches can find it harder to shift from outsourced solutions to activating internal leadership. The sooner you bring in a leadership pipeline, the smoother your growth will be. And the best part? A well-implemented leadership pipeline scales up with your church, making growth more manageable and effective.
Your Leadership Philosophy Is Undefined
A prevalent issue in many churches is the absence of a clearly defined leadership philosophy. Without a clear definition, it’s challenging for leaders to understand what constitutes good leadership within the context of their church. They lack a target to aim for and a standard to measure themselves against. This often results in a leadership culture that is inconsistent and subjective, varying wildly from one leader to another.
The solution lies in developing a comprehensive set of core competencies for leadership, stratified by level. By doing so, leaders aren’t left guessing what’s expected of them; they have a clear understanding of the skills, behaviors, and attitudes necessary at their current level. Moreover, they gain insight into what it would take to progress and succeed at higher levels of leadership within the church.
In our Leadership Pipeline process, we assist churches in identifying these core competencies that resonate with their unique context and values. This process involves a thorough assessment of the church’s vision, mission, and values to tailor a leadership model that not only aligns with the church’s doctrine but also propels the church forward in its mission. Once these competencies are established, they can be integrated into a clear pipeline structure, providing a roadmap for leadership development.
This approach not only clarifies expectations and sets a standard of excellence for current leaders but also serves as a motivational tool for aspiring leaders. It fosters a culture of continuous growth and improvement, where leaders are encouraged to develop their skills and advance through the ranks. With a well-defined leadership philosophy and a clear set of competencies, churches can cultivate a robust leadership culture that is aligned, effective, and sustainable.
Your Leaders Aren’t Growing
A significant challenge facing churches today is the stagnation of leader growth. Even with a clear structure and defined competencies, without a dynamic and consistent leadership development process, leaders often find themselves plateauing. Many churches either lack a systematic approach to leadership development or, if they have one, fail to implement it consistently, leading to a cycle of underdeveloped leadership.
The key to overcoming this stagnation is adopting a robust leadership development system, akin to a professional sports team’s training regimen. In sports, athletes engage in a continuous cycle of preparation, performance, and recovery, always striving to enhance their skills and capabilities. Similarly, a church’s leadership development system should involve a continual process of assessing, training, and launching leaders, maintaining a consistent rhythm of growth activities.
This system should focus on two core aspects: character and capacity competencies. Developing a leader’s character involves nurturing their spiritual, ethical, and relational qualities, ensuring that they lead with integrity, humility, and empathy. On the other hand, enhancing capacity competencies involves expanding a leader’s skills, knowledge, and abilities to perform their duties effectively and take on greater responsibilities.
A good leadership development system is not sporadic or ad hoc; it’s a deliberate, structured process that includes regular assessments to identify areas of strength and need, targeted training to address specific competencies and practical opportunities for leaders to apply their learning and grow through real-life leadership experiences. By implementing such a system, churches can ensure that their leaders are not just maintaining but constantly growing, improving, and ready to take on new challenges. This approach not only strengthens the church’s leadership capacity but also invigorates the entire congregation, as leaders inspire and empower others to step up and serve.
Our Leadership Pipeline process is specifically designed to equip churches with the tools and framework necessary to establish a sustainable leadership development rhythm. We understand the nuances of spiritual leadership and the need for a process that is both structured and flexible to accommodate the unique dynamics of church life. Through our process, we guide churches in setting up a systematic approach to developing leaders, one that includes regular assessments, tailored training programs, and opportunities for practical application.
You Have No Plan to Make Things Better
One of the most significant hurdles in enhancing church leadership is the tendency to put off developing a robust leadership development system. This issue can be well understood through the lens of the Eisenhower Matrix, which categorizes tasks into four quadrants based on urgency and importance. Leadership development typically falls into the “important but not urgent” category. Because it doesn’t demand immediate attention like daily crises or pressing deadlines, it’s often neglected or indefinitely postponed. However, neglecting this critical area impedes the church’s ability to grow and thrive.
The reality is that without intentional steps and a concrete plan, the aspiration for effective leadership remains just that—an aspiration. This is where our Leadership Pipeline process comes into play. We provide churches with a clearly defined one-year implementation plan, offering a structured approach to transition from disarray to a systematic leadership development culture. This transformation doesn’t require an unfeasible commitment of time and resources; instead, our process is designed to create significant change within manageable timeframes.
Our Leadership Pipeline Cohort is an intensive program that focuses on the keystone pieces of leadership development planning. Within just six weeks, church leaders can lay down the groundwork for a sustainable, effective leadership pipeline. This isn’t about temporary fixes or superficial changes; it’s about establishing a solid foundation and a continuous improvement mechanism for your leadership culture.
Postponing leadership development is no longer viable. The longer it’s delayed, the more the church suffers from potential leader burnout, stagnation, and a lack of direction. By investing time now in a structured leadership development process, your church can expect to see a transformation in its leadership culture, resulting in more and better-equipped leaders. The benefits of such an investment are far-reaching, leading to a more vibrant, impactful, and sustainable church community.
In conclusion, building a strong leadership pipeline is not just an administrative task; it’s a critical investment in the future and vitality of your church. The challenges of not having enough leaders, undefined leadership philosophy, stagnant leader growth, and the absence of a proactive plan can severely limit your church’s potential and impact. By recognizing and addressing these issues with a structured, intentional leadership development system, you can transform these challenges into opportunities for growth and revitalization.
Our Leadership Pipeline process offers a practical, step-by-step approach to cultivating a culture of leadership that is sustainable, dynamic, and aligned with your church’s vision. With our guided implementation plan, including the Leadership Pipeline Cohort, your church can move from confusion to clarity and from stagnation to growth in less than a year.
The journey to effective leadership development is not just about filling roles but nurturing a community of leaders who are equipped, empowered, and inspired to carry forward the mission of the church. So, don’t wait for a more convenient time or for leadership needs to become urgent crises. Take the first step today towards a brighter, more impactful future for your church by investing in a leadership pipeline. The benefits—healthier leadership, a more engaged congregation, and a greater impact in your community and beyond—are well worth the commitment.
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Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).