We don’t have enough leaders!
A church may enter phase 2 of decline when the decline in attendance and/or membership reaches a point where replacing capable leadership becomes difficult, ministries and programs begin to be compromised or condensed.
When a church begins to lose some of its key leaders, what often happens is the remaining current leaders take on extra responsibility. As the church continues to decline and more leaders exit the church, some of these same leaders will take on yet another position of responsibility. And the cycle continues. It is not uncommon to see five to eight people in a smaller declining church (150 or less members) each carry five to seven areas of responsibility, sometimes more.
One church I worked with faced this dilemma. This church was averaging about 125 in worship on Sunday morning. A few people in the church were carrying the major load of responsibilities for church administration and ministry. One woman served in no less than ten positions of leadership that I can remember. Her husband was almost as busy at the church serving in about seven positions of responsibility in the church.
This couple was not trying to take over the church. Rather, they had such a passion for the church that when a leadership position was open, if no one stepped up to fill it, these were two of about five people who would step in and undertake the responsibility. God bless people like this who are willing servants with a passion. However, too often this leads to burn out and the loss of even these willing leaders.
As I worked with the church, I realized two missed opportunities. My first assumption was this church had done very little if any leadership development in the previous ten years, which church members affirmed to be true when I inquired. Without building potential leaders and opening up leadership responsibilities, potential leaders will leave your church. Thus began part of the church’s decline. Contrary to some belief, people do want expectations.
Any person’s satisfaction comes from serving and leading. Churches need an open door to leadership development and a strategic process for recruiting, and developing new and future leaders. Unfortunately, many churches simply recruit to fill an open slot with any warm body.
The second missed opportunity I recognized in this church was when things were going good those who were in leadership positions remained in the positions until relocation due to retirement, or death. There was nothing in place to train new leaders or give younger and newer members an opportunity to move into leadership positions. This was not a blatant closed-door policy of the church. It was simply an oversight.
Several years earlier, things were going okay for the church. Positions were filled, the programs and ministry were being carried out. Herein often lies the signs of phase one of decline, which the church had not realized. One good stop guard for this scenario is to have a policy for every leader to be apprenticing a potential leader.
Does your church have a strategic plan for recruiting and apprenticing leaders? Is that process active? Are current leaders required to apprentice and bring along other potential leaders? All leader training should include a spiritual growth aspect as well as the academic performance.
What is your personal first step in assisting your church in becoming a spiritual leader developing congregation?