It may seem a long time until the Lay Leadership Committee starts doing their work in preparation for Charge Conferences . . . and that’s exactly why I want to invite you to consider this question now: What are the minimal expectations which your congregation has for its leaders? For many, the primary requisite is willingness to serve. In other words, “If asked, will Bill say, ‘Yes’?” But what if your congregation established clear minimal prerequisites for the core leadership of your church? In this post, I’d like to suggest several qualifications for consideration.
Lease some say that setting qualifications for leadership is odd, let’s remember that in Acts we read that the early church set qualification for choosing a replacement for Judas, and that in I Timothy 3 Paul lists qualifications for overseers and deacons. Here are five qualifications for your prayerful consideration which I’ve seen congregations adapt for their leadership:
Spiritual Vitality: Is this a person who is seeking to grow spiritually and is spiritually mature? I’m not suggesting a Mother Teresa standard of spiritual maturity, but too often we immediately assume that because someone is a leader in business they will make a good leader in the church. The church has a different set of commitments, values and priorities. Sometimes the decisions which make sense in terms of the world, come out differently in terms of the Kingdom of God. Someone who is a brand new disciple or who has not been involved in church for years may not be ready for church leadership. Church leaders ought to be committed to leadership in a community committed to helping people get to know and follow Jesus and to join Jesus in ministry in the world that makes a Kingdom difference. Leaders in the church should both understand what this means and be committed to it personally.
Congregational Engagement: Is this person positively engaged in the life of our congregation? Asking people to be in leadership should not be a strategy for helping them gain a sense of belonging in the church. Instead, it should be one expression of the reality that someone already belongs to the congregation (and by belonging here, I’m talking about much more than membership). Is it okay for someone to be in leadership that seldom attends worship? Is it okay for someone to be in leadership who is brand new to the congregation and really doesn’t know people or the culture of the congregation? If your congregation encourages everyone to be in a small group or to be involved in a ministry to others, is it okay if a leader does not?
Demonstrated Leadership Ability: Has this person demonstrated the capacity for leadership? We don’t encourage people to sing in the choir who can’t sing, why would we consider inviting someone to assume a position of leadership that can’t lead? While every person can learn to improve their leadership skills, there are some very fine people whom God has not wire up to be leaders. They may be great team players; they may be effective doers, but they are not equipped to lead. Some people have never effectively led in any arena in their life and seek to gain power in a congregation. Please don’t hear me say that we shouldn’t mentor and coach people to become more skilled leaders. I do think it is wise, however, to look for the evidence of effective leadership in a person’s life if they are going to be asked to play a significant leadership role in the church
A Biblical Way of Living: Does this person’s lifestyle and relationships reflect Kingdom values? Does this person’s lifestyle reflect basic biblical values? I wrestled with this once when one of the leaders of our congregation moved in with someone without being married. Another time, a leader in our congregation received his second ticket for driving under the influence. Some people have a knack of getting things done and leaving a wake of people who feel manipulated, caste aside or run over. Does this person get things done in a way that builds community or rips its fabric asunder?
Generous Proportional Giving: Is this person tithing or giving proportionally and committed to stepping towards tithing? I once served a church where I discovered that two members of the finance committee did not give a cent to the church, according to the giving records. If a person’s personal stewardship does not reflect their commitment to Christ, why would we want to entrust them with the responsibility of helping the church make decisions that reflected our faith in Christ? It has also been my experience that people who do not give to the congregation have a low commitment to both Christ’s mission and the congregation.
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Dr. Jeff Stiggins
The Center for Congregational Excellence