Recently, I received an email from a member of our Advanced Leadership forum asking an excellent question that many pastors ask. Here it is.

“I just received George Barna’s latest e-news where he has an article ’30 Respected Leaders Weigh in on What It Takes to be a Master Leader.’ I want to shift the focus from the individual to the whole community/congregation/organization and ask ‘What does it take for a community/congregation/organization to master the shared gift of leadership in a community/etc?’”

Here’s my response:

I’ve never seen what you’re asking for. One of the tenets of biblical leadership is that it always comes through a person, never a group. It might be a team like Moses and Jethro, but still Moses was clearly the dominant figure. The same would be true with teams like Paul and Barnabas.

I know it is fashionable and honorable to think about the congregation being the leader but that just doesn’t work and when it is tried the organization itself fails or it dwindles down to nothing. God just doesn’t work through groups.  If you can find a place God did, let me know.

One recent attempt at a team based leadership where everyone was equal was at Bible Fellowship in Little Rock, a church that is now several thousand in several locations. Three guys started the church and their goal was them collectively to lead the church. But over time one of them clearly came to the front as THE leader. They became clear that in order to continue to grow one of them had to be seen as the leader.

Price Waterhouse did a study on team based leadership more than a decade ago and their conclusion was it was the quality of the leader that determined the quality of the team. Put a great leader in the team and the team became great. Put a mediocre leader in the same team and the team became mediocre.

When it comes to succession of leadership, again it is the leader who has to make this happen by spending time over several years or decades forming a leadership pipeline that will result in not only his or her successor but also other leaders throughout the congregation.

I know this doesn’t answer your question but I hope it deters you from seeking your goal. All it will do is keep your church small or if it isn’t small now, grow it down to a small size. This is clearly one of the reasons why very few large congregations have congregational meetings to vote of major issues.

Now the question I think you should be asking is “How do I empower the congregation to share in the mission of the church? That is a totally different question, one that will grow healthy, thriving congregations that have the potential to reproduce themselves.”

How does a leader to that? To offer a quick, simple answer-

1. Set out a clearly defined mission.

2. Set out clearly defined, realistic, stretch goals.

3. Discuss how to reach those goals.

4. Provide the resources and coaching to reach those goals.

5. Continual follow-up on how the mission and goals are progressing.

6. Hold people accountable to the goals.

7. Reward those who get it and make it happen (this is more of a staff issue)