The lack of leadership is one of the top reasons pastors and other church leaders point to for why their church isn’t growing. “We need more leaders to get the job done. Our current leadership is tired and overworked.”

When quizzed about what they’re doing to raise up more leaders, the answers tend to include putting notices in the bulletin, making announcements from the pulpit, and inviting people into leadership training.

Others admit they’ve been heavily investing in individuals to groom them as future leaders, but haven’t been able to expand their leadership base by much.

So, here’s a counter-intuitive recommendation: stop investing in so much leadership development so you can focus on getting ministry done and get busy growing your church.

Here’s a hard-to-hear axiom: The smaller the church, the fewer level 5 or above leaders you’re going to have (on a scale of 0–10, where 0 is no leadership potential and 10 is a strong leader). It’s simply a law of diminishing returns – great leaders rarely remain in situations where there are limited leadership challenges; and so leaders with great, or even good, potential drift away from small churches in search for a greater return on their leadership abilities.

This situation has provoked many church leaders to redouble their efforts to develop leadership in the church. Unfortunately, rather than raising up great leaders, what happens is that the pastor looses focus on what really matters in a church – making disciples and therefore, by extension, growing the church.

The solution, therefore, is to stop trying to develop leaders using any method … except … Delegation.

Because few smallish churches have access to awesome leaders, the most effective way to develop great leaders is to grow the church enough so that you’re attracting leaders who have a greater capacity for leadership. But to grow the church, significant ministry has to get done. As we wrote in the Effective Staffing book, the lead pastor must spend as much time with the unchurched as possible (up to 90 percent of their time, for a church averaging under 100), but as we all know, the rest of the church’s ministry needs to get done too.

The way to get most church ministry done in a smaller church (and often in a larger church), is to spend less time “empowering” leaders and more time “delegating” to those who can get the job done.

For instance, I was recently in a coaching conversation with a pastor who was spending significant time each week trying to line up greeters and ushers for the weekend service. In addition, he was in a tiswas trying to find a Hospitality Champion who could take over that task. I reminded him that his primary task was to get the job done. The next Sunday morning he grabbed the first smiling face through the door and asked if they would be the greeter … and would they get one other person to greet with them and someone else to get the coffee made.

The results? Two greeters greeting and hot, fresh coffee served. With a lot less work or headache than trying to raise up a leader.

Problem solved. And as time goes by, if this particular conscripted volunteer continues to do a great job, then it might be time to have the “leader” conversation with them. Maybe. Too many pastors give leadership positions to low level leaders, only to discover three months later that a great leader with passion for that position shows up … but by then it’s too late (or too costly) to offer them the position that you’ve already filled. Heed Paul’s words to Timothy Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands.

Another example is communion servers and offering collectors (both are variously called ushers). When we were at New Hope, Oahu the ushers were mostly first-time guests that were recruited as they arrived. All you need is one person who’s done it before to explain how to do it – and pretty much anyone can hold an offering plate or a patten.

We talk more about delegation versus empowerment in our staffing book. But the reality is, pastor, if you spend less time “developing” leaders and more time growing your church, the level 6+ leaders will begin to show up. And that’s when you’ll have your best shot at raising up the leaders you need to undergird your church’s growth.

Question: Can delegation really free you up so you can engage the church growth tasks you need to work?
Share your answer with us in the comments section below.