Rethinking Leadership: How Broken Leadership Methods Are Holding Your Church Back

The church, by its very nature, is an ever-evolving entity, yet grounded in the timeless teachings of Scripture. The challenge many churches face is not about whether they’re adapting fast enough to the times, but whether their current leadership methods are truly serving the purpose they’re meant to. As leaders, we must constantly ask ourselves: are our methods aligned with God’s will, or have we unknowingly allowed broken systems to hinder our mission? 

Today, we are going to shed light on the common misconceptions about church leadership, exploring why it’s crucial to continually evaluate and refine our approaches. But our compass isn’t the latest fad or trend—it’s the unchanging Word of God. Instead of chasing what’s “new”, we’ll dig deep into biblical principles, uncovering wisdom that can guide us away from broken leadership and towards a model that empowers and enriches both leaders and congregations alike.

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Signs of Broken Leadership

Church leadership, a sacred calling rooted in shepherding the flock, sometimes encounters detours. Although we strive to guide our congregations closer to God’s teachings, there are times when even our best-intended methods inadvertently erect barriers to genuine spiritual growth. Recognizing the symptoms of fractured leadership is the first stride toward mending it.

A glaring indicator is the prevalence of stagnation over innovation. When leadership methods become deeply entrenched in tradition rather than aligning with the changing needs of the congregation and community, the church may inadvertently miss golden opportunities for growth. This stagnation is not merely about chasing trends; it’s about understanding the evolving spiritual needs of our congregation.

Another sign lies in the burnout among leaders. When only a few individuals shoulder the majority of responsibilities, it not only leads to rapid exhaustion but also hinders other potential leaders within the congregation from rising and serving. This centralization of roles often coincides with a lack of clarity in responsibilities. When members of the church community or leadership team are uncertain of their roles or the expectations that come with them, it signals a muddled leadership structure.

Perhaps one of the most telling signs is when a church’s actions and teachings diverge from its stated vision and mission. This misalignment can hint at a lack of strategic leadership direction or, worse, an inconsistent spiritual compass. Healthy leadership thrives on feedback, values its congregation’s input, and sees every piece of advice as an avenue for growth.

A Better, Biblical Model for Leadership

Amidst the challenges of modern leadership, there remains a timeless touchstone that guides our path: the Holy Scriptures. Not only does the Bible offer spiritual sustenance, but it also provides a proven, effective model for leadership, evident in its many historical accounts and teachings. 

Exodus 18 paints a vivid picture of such an approach. Moses, despite his deep connection with God and incredible leadership qualities, was, quite simply, overwhelmed. He spent day in and day out settling disputes among the Israelites, acting as the sole intermediary between God and His people. It wasn’t until his father-in-law, Jethro, observed this taxing routine that Moses realized the need for a change. Jethro’s counsel was simple yet profound: distribute the leadership. Instead of one man shouldering the immense burden, why not appoint leaders over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens? By doing so, only the most challenging cases would escalate to Moses, while the others could be resolved at more localized levels.

This interaction in Exodus underscores the importance of decentralizing leadership responsibilities and recognizing the unique capabilities of individuals within a community. It’s a testament to the idea that leadership, in its truest form, is not about holding onto power but mastering the art of letting go. It’s about creating a system where many are equipped, empowered, and entrusted to lead.

By revisiting this biblical model, we can grasp a clearer understanding of leadership, one that emphasizes multi-level leadership based on clarity of competency. In the same way Moses identified and nurtured leaders based on their ability to fear God, be trustworthy, and detest dishonest gain, we too can cultivate a broad base of leadership within our churches. This approach not only lessens the load on a few but also invigorates a larger section of the community, bringing forth diverse perspectives, fresh ideas, and an unwavering commitment to a shared mission.

The Leadership Pipeline: A Modern Implementation of Biblical Principles

The Leadership Pipeline stands as a bridge between ancient biblical leadership wisdom and the modern-day needs of the church. Just as Moses reimagined leadership in Exodus 18, the Pipeline equips churches today to tap into, train, and elevate leaders from all levels, ensuring that the mission of Christ is propelled forward by many hands and hearts. Let’s dive into the critical components of this model.

A Pipeline Has a Structure

Much like an architect’s blueprint, the Leadership Pipeline provides a structured outline for leadership within the church. At its core, this structure defines levels of leadership and ensures that every leadership level has clarity. Roles aren’t just about titles; they’re about function and fit. 

From managing small teams to overseeing entire departments, every position has its place in the Pipeline. By having this clear structure, churches can ensure that the vast potential within their congregations is identified and channeled correctly. It prevents bottlenecks where too many are vying for limited leadership roles and also avoids gaps where potential leaders are overlooked.

In our Leadership Pipeline process, we help you to define what the “chiefs of 1000’s, 100’s, 50’s, and 10’s” defined in Exodus 18 look like in a contemporary context. And just as these chiefs had different levels of responsibility, you’ll need to clearly define the levels of leadership in your own church.

A Pipeline Demands Defined Leadership Competencies

But structure alone isn’t enough. The Pipeline’s true strength is in its demand for defined leadership core competencies at every level. Drawing inspiration from the biblical model, where Moses sought out capable, God-fearing men of truth, the Pipeline insists on clear competencies for each leadership role. 

These competencies must be judged by your church to be core to leadership at every level, but adjusted to the scope of each level. By clearly defining these competencies, the church can ensure that individuals are not just placed in roles because of tenure or availability but because they truly are the best fit for that role.

In our Leadership Pipeline process, we help your church define a set of core competencies that aligns with your particular view of leadership. Then, we help you create a mechanism for training up your team of leaders to live out these competencies so that you don’t just have more leaders in your church–but better leaders, too.

A Pipeline Is Activated Through Continual Leader Development

Lastly, the Leadership Pipeline is not a static entity. It’s dynamic, demanding continual leader development. This mirrors the biblical model where guidance, mentorship, and support were paramount. Moses didn’t merely delegate and disappear; he provided ongoing counsel to those he elevated. 

Similarly, the Pipeline emphasizes the need for consistent training, feedback, and growth opportunities. This ensures that leaders, once identified and placed, are not left to stagnate but are nurtured, challenged, and equipped for greater Kingdom impact.

By fusing biblical principles with modern strategies, the Leadership Pipeline offers churches a comprehensive roadmap. It invites them to not just fill leadership roles, but to create a thriving ecosystem where leaders are identified, cultivated, and set up for continual growth and success.

Practical Steps to Shift from Broken to Biblically-Based Leadership

The path from recognizing flawed leadership models to establishing a system rooted in biblical wisdom may seem challenging. Still, it is a journey of profound transformation and spiritual alignment. Let’s consider some tangible steps that can make this transition smoother and more effective:

1. Embracing Continuous Learning and Training Opportunities Grounded in Scripture: 

The Bible isn’t just a foundational spiritual text but also a reservoir of wisdom on leadership. It’s crucial to immerse ourselves in its teachings and seek out training sessions, workshops, and seminars that weave scriptural insights into their fabric. This ensures that our approach isn’t just theoretically sound but also grounded in God’s word, enabling us to navigate modern challenges with ancient wisdom.

2. Recognizing and Promoting Potential Leaders from Within the Community: 

The beauty of the church community is that it often holds hidden gems—individuals who, with a little encouragement and training, can rise to leadership roles and make a significant impact. By identifying and nurturing these potential leaders, we’re not only strengthening our leadership pipeline but also ensuring that the leaders understand and are deeply connected to the community they serve.

3. Seeking External Guidance and Resources: 

While it’s vital to leverage the innate strengths and capabilities within the community, there’s also immense value in seeking external expertise. Affordable resources like The Malphurs Group’s Leadership Pipeline Cohort offer structured, comprehensive programs designed specifically for church leadership. By engaging with such resources, churches can benefit from fresh perspectives, proven strategies, and a community of like-minded leaders.

4. Encouraging Feedback and Open Dialogue within Your Teams: 

For any leadership model to be effective, it needs to be dynamic and adaptive. Encouraging open dialogue within the leadership teams allows for constructive feedback, new ideas, and a sense of collective ownership. It ensures that the leadership model isn’t top-down but rather a collaborative effort where every voice is valued.

Incorporating these steps not only paves the way for a leadership model rooted in biblical principles but also fosters an environment of growth, unity, and shared purpose. As churches embark on this transformative journey, they move closer to realizing a leadership vision that’s both impactful and aligned with God’s design.

Leadership in the church goes beyond managing tasks and coordinating events. It’s a spiritual undertaking, a commitment to guide a congregation closer to God’s purpose, and a challenge to lead with both wisdom and heart. The outdated, broken models of leadership may have served their purpose in a different time, but as we look ahead, it’s evident that a shift is necessary—a return to principles rooted deeply in Scripture and a forward-facing embrace of effective, modern methods. 

By recognizing the signs of broken leadership and proactively seeking a biblically-based model, churches can create a thriving environment where leaders and members alike are aligned in their mission. With the right resources, like The Malphurs Group’s Leadership Pipeline Cohort, and a heart tuned to God’s guidance, the path to transformative leadership is within reach for every church, ensuring a brighter and more impactful future for all.

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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).

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