The church had done all the hard work of building a solid foundation. They identified their mission, vision, and values and they developed both membership and leadership covenants. It looked like they were ready to move to the next steps of growth.

Enter the nominating committee.

There were several leadership positions that needed to be filled, but few “qualified” leaders – at least in terms of those who were living up to the church’s adopted leadership covenants. That created a dilemma for the committee:

On the one hand, the situation meant that there were more positions to fill than there were bodies to fill them. The bylaws said the church needed twelve deacons, so there had to be a dozen deacons. (Never mind that twelve deacons made up almost a third of the worshipping congregation.)

On the other hand, if they filled all the positions they would have leaders who may well have a strong commitment to the church, but who had at best a dubious commitment to living and modeling personal faith. But they didn’t have the covenants in the past … how bad would it be to waive them for just another year?

They waived them. Bad decision. Here’s why.

Leadership Lacks a Spiritual Foundation

As go the leaders, so goes the congregation. One of the reasons churches have been branded with the reputation as a haven for hypocrites is because those in leadership too often lack a spiritual foundation … and don’t behave well in difficult circumstances. As go the leaders, so goes the congregation. 

No one expects church leaders to be perfect, but there is a level of spiritual maturity that is expected of church leadership. Leaders who consistently and regularly engage in spiritual disciplines exude a kinder, gentler, wiser spirit that becomes increasingly noteworthy.

Lack of Leadership Accountability

In most churches it seems that “accountability” is a four-letter word. The pastor, the board or council, and other church leaders all seem to be more concerned with being nice than they are with being faithful. But “nice” isn’t a Christian value – kindness is. [On Not Being Nice for the Sake of the Gospel] By “excusing” leaders from the church’s covenants means it’s difficult – if not impossible – to hold leaders accountable. Sure, the committee could let the candidates know what their expectations are, but we all know that’s not going to happen. Especially when the whole point of the exercise is to fill slots with bodies (willing or not). The chance of holding these leaders accountable for their behavior, let alone for results, are between slim and none.

Lack of Leadership Integrity

“Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” – Jesus.

There are two issues the nominating committee overlooked. In this case, the church board had approved the leadership covenants for new leaders. When the nominating committee overturned that unilaterally, they undermined the integrity and the intentions of the church. But there’s a second, perhaps more critical issue. It’s a sad reality, but when we don’t expect much of our leaders, not much good gets accomplished. It’s essentially mediocrity embraced and embodied. Indeed, the number of committee members who skip out on church meetings is legendary in most churches – never mind the fact that this practice often indicates a lack of integrity, let alone a lack of commitment.

The Results

So now the church has 12 commissioned deacons and every committee position is filled. But in the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” After the last phone call, here are the results to date:

  • The same five deacons who served last year continue to serve when they’re scheduled. The other seven may or may not show up (so far, mostly not).
  • Three of the seven committees haven’t met this year because the new chairs haven’t called a meeting.
  • The same three committee chairs haven’t appeared at any of the monthly board meetings.
  • There are no mechanisms to hold any of the leaders accountable for their behavior.
  • The spirituality level of the congregation continues to flat-line.

Lowering the bar for leadership doesn’t help the church. Not in the long run, and as you can see, not even in the short run. If the nominating committee expected their leaders to take their commitments seriously enough to agree to the leadership covenant, they may not have filled all the positions, but those who stepped up would at least have come with an understanding and a commitment to the congregation’s future. As it is, there are no guarantees that there will be much of a future after this year anyway.

Question: What are the minimum expectations you have for your church leaders? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.


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