Every year the Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development gathers.  They find the latest copy of the church’s pictorial (now at least 4-5 years old) and begin searching for their next victim – I mean nominee.  Who isn’t currently serving that they could finagle to say yes?  Who should call to ask them to serve that is most likely to get the yes?  How can they make the ask sound as easy and as unbinding as possible so that they can fill in those required blanks on that darn charge conference form the district superintendent is requiring them to complete?

Does this sound at all familiar?  While we might all chuckle as we relate to the story (some more than others), the sad truth is that this happens all too often in churches each year as we prepare for fall charge conferences.  We struggle to find servants.  In particular, we struggle to find servant leaders. Why is this? The reasons for our leadership struggles are multi-faceted. 

First, most churches do not have a leadership development process.  The Nominations Committee has been trained to come together once a year for a month or so to coerce people into saying yes.  Unfortunately, they have not been equipped with the full understanding and responsibility of their position as a member of the Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development.  Yes, this is the group who have been tasked with developing a process and pipeline for leadership development. 

Second, the church has shifted most every responsibility that isn’t a paid staff position in the church into a standing committee position.  This is not a requirement of our polity.  This requirement has only evolved over time.  Depending on the leadership structure, the church is required to have only a certain number of administrative committees, but the rest can be ministry teams. Teams come together for a specific purpose and disband when the work is completed.  For example, a person does not have to serve on a children’s committee for three years.  Instead, a person passionate about VBS, could serve for three months and be finished.  People are much more willing to serve in areas they are passionate about for shorter periods of time.

Third, the way churches are structured and led are not inviting or attractive for effective leaders and/or younger generations.  These leaders will not be willing to sit in two to three-hour meetings and see no results or impact.  Complicated or complex systems will simply not due.  These leaders will not serve where there is no trust, transparency, and accountability.

Fourth, too many churches have become pastor-centric and/or staff-dependent.  There are many reasons for this.  It is not productive to point fingers nor cast blame.  We must recognize that the result of this shift is that laity are no longer being encouraged or well equipped to serve and lead.

In Barna’s State of Your Church Report, David Kinnamon states, “A renewed Church requires contributors and participants in gospel mission, not just consumers of gospel content. I believe this is one of the key shifts we need to prioritize coming out of the last few years: The Church must become better at developing people and releasing them in their giftedness. Some of our recent studies show that 92 percent of pastors prefer lay-driven initiatives to new church programs and 96 percent say that for their church to be healthier, lay people must take more responsibility. Yet only 9 percent of pastors say their church is very effective at developing new leaders and only a small minority of churchgoers says their church has helped them to identify and use their giftedness.”

What is your church’s leadership development process?  Do you have more standing committees or short-term teams for disciples to serve in?  Is the way your church is structured and led simple, flexible, missionally focused, transparent, and accountable?  Has your church become too pastor or staff driven?  What are your next steps in developing effective, healthy leaders?