With all the other shifts we’ve made this past 18 months, it is time for yet another. We need to consider a shift in how we elect leadership for our boards or councils in our churches. We have historically and traditionally been trained to recruit leaders who had experience and expertise in finances or banking, construction or real estate, and human resources. These were the leading criteria the Committee on Nominations searched for in finding leadership for the traditional structure filling the committees of finance, SPRC, and trustees. Often the church council was a collection of some representation of those three committees, some ministry committee leaders and perhaps some members a large.
While this expertise is very much appreciated and helpful, we have come to realize it is not wise for this to be the leading criteria for leadership recruitment. Instead, it is a better practice for the Committee on Nominations to discern spiritual leadership as the leading criteria. Having spiritual maturity at the leadership table is much more important than having secular expertise. If we have spiritually mature leaders who also happen to have the secular expertise, it is a huge bonus. But, if we only have the secular expertise without spiritual leadership at the table, we are in trouble. The missional focus is often lost! The church is not modeling spiritual leadership so the cycle continues. We can always bring in experts as needed!
Here is a perfect example of why our traditional model of expertise gets us into trouble. I was conducting a consultation with a declining church and as a part of that process was interviewing the Finance Chair. In asking some questions, I began to feel there was something amiss. I referenced something that had been shared in worship the past several Sundays. It was then that the Chair shared that he did not attend worship. I asked what he did attend. He said he attended nothing at the church. I laughed and said then he must gift the church a whole lot of money. He looked at me strangely and asked why I would assume such a thing when he didn’t attend the church and hadn’t in many years. I told him that was the only logical explanation for him being the Finance Chair. He thought it was crazy to send money to a church that he didn’t attend. In fact, he didn’t attend any church. I asked if he was a member of the church and he confirmed that he had attended as a child and he and his mother were members. He went on to share that she was on the Committee for Nominations. No one else would take the Finance Chair position, so she called and begged him to take it. And, there was no one else on the Finance Committee! Here was a man that had nothing to do with the church, had all the power to make financial decisions because he had the expertise, but did not attend the church, tithe to the church, or was even a practicing Christian.
Moving from expert leadership to spiritual leadership is one of the many shifts we recommend in moving to accountable leadership. A church can practice accountable leadership no matter if they are in traditional structure or simplified structure. Many churches are starting with an “interest form” completed by interested leaders followed by a discernment conversation as part of this shift in the nominations process. If you are ready to start this important shift from expert leadership to spiritual leadership, consider training your Committee on Nominations. It all starts there!