Today’s Churches Need Leaders, Not Just Followers

There’s an important leadership distinction that’s been on my mind:

Recruiting followers versus developing leaders

So many of the leaders I work with talk almost exclusively about recruiting followers – increasing membership numbers or getting people to buy into a vision. It’s a little like being the Pied Piper; when the pastor says “Let’s do this,” or “You do that,” people agreeably comply.

“It is a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead and find no one there.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

And pastors do need a following, or followship as it’s sometimes called. When other people are following our vision of leadership, it makes us stronger.

Yet the missing piece is often to develop leaders within the congregation. And that’s the whole theory behind the coach approach to ministry – to develop other people and their leadership qualities.

And be clear – this takes courage and a certain level of emotional maturity. You’re positioning others for success, without feeling threatened by that.

How does a pastor identify potential leaders?

First it has to be on their radar – it all begins with awareness. The pastor must realize that there are leaders out there to be developed, and must be committed to doing that.

Yet not everyone in your congregation is a potential leader, so where do you start?

What I love about coaching is that when I take a coaching approach, leadership bubbles up to the surface. I can spot it almost immediately.

Try approaching your next conversation as if the person was already a leader; living out their potential (Benjamin Zander calls this giving someone an A). Notice what qualities and gifts you see in that person from this new perspective.

There is a season of leadership

Can people move from being followers to being leaders? Absolutely! In fact I would say that we need to be fluid – there are times when leaders need to step out of leadership as well.

When it’s time for congregant leadership

  • To support the pastor
  • To empower individual congregants
  • To stretch the church’s dollars
  • To get things done

When it’s time for congregant followship

  • To rotate leadership and give someone else a chance
  • To experience retreat and rejuvenation
  • To avoid burnout
  • To allow for a fresh view of whatever you were leading

In the next great awakening of ministry, all pastors will empower others in their congregation with a coach approach to ministry. Are you with us?

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J. Val Hastings

J. Val Hastings, MCC, is the Founder and President of Coaching4Clergy, which provides specialized training for pastors, church leaders and coaches. Val is the author of the book The Next Great Awakening: How to Empower God’s People with a Coach Approach to Ministry and the e-book The E3-Church: Empowered, Effective and Entrepreneurial Leadership That Will Keep Your Church Alive. Val currently holds the designation of Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, the highest coaching designation.

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