The Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development will soon begin their annual work determining who they will place before the charge conference for election into leadership for the upcoming year. This is commonly referred to as the nominations process. Most Nominations Committees (as they are commonly called) meet a few times and peruse the latest church pictorial trying to identify people they can arm wrestle into saying yes – I mean – identify people to invite into serving in ministry.
While we may have all chuckled imagining the first scenario described above, it is closer to reality than many of us want to admit. In the past couple of years, churches report finding people willing to serve is growing even more difficult. Some of that difficulty is due to shrinking congregations, but I believe the difficulty is more systemic. People are frustrated serving where no impact is made. Time and energy are some of people’s most prized possessions. When time and energy are invested and no real impact is realized, people (especially younger generations) will not remain engaged. They will use their time and energy in other ways that are more meaningful.
Because many churches have become so desperate to find people to serve and specially to find people to lead, the church has lowered their expectations thinking this is the solution. One being asked to serve might hear such promises as, “you won’t have to do much,” or “the committee hardly ever meets,” or “I just need a name to place on this form.” This type of messaging tells the congregation that these “jobs” aren’t important, the person being asked has no special gifts or skills related to the request, and there are absolutely no expectations of service from the disciple being asked. The bar for serving the church – for serving Christ – has been set at virtually zero! And we wonder why there is a lack of commitment and accountability to serve the church.
It is past time for the church to think about leadership with a fresh approach. In particular, the shift needs to begin with the Leadership Board. The Leadership Board is accountable to Christ for leading the church in its mission of making disciples. This shift is particularly effective in simplified, accountable structure when the church has moved away from a representative model (reps from all the ministry areas). Nominations shifts their focus away from secular experienced leaders (human resources, construction, finance) to spiritually mature disciples. It is imperative that first and foremost mature disciples lead the church. Those who have the secular experience can always be brought in to advise the Leadership Board when needed. In addition, the Nominations Committee brings potential leaders in for holy conversations inquiring about their spiritual journey, spiritual disciplines, their call to leadership, how they are living out their membership vows, etc. There is no guessing or assuming about one’s spiritual maturity; there is holy conversation to discern it. Expectations about their leadership role are discussed such as meeting attendance, how the leaders will do their work together, being prepared for meetings, confidentiality, etc. The leader is informed upfront about expectations.
While many churches are resistant to this leadership shift, most leaders appreciate it. Leaders understand what is expected. They know that they can now have tremendous, focused impact on not only their church, but also on their community. They appreciate the streamlined yet missional approach to decision-making. Setting the expectational bar high results in higher quality servant leaders who are more deeply committed and desire to be held missionally accountable.
As your Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development takes to their work this season, challenge them to take a look at this needed shift. Once this shift is made, they can take on the next needed shift – create and implement a leadership development process. If some training for your Nominations Committee is needed, here is a short equipping video to get them started. You will also find Nomination resources in Mission Possible.