October 21, 2017

Developing Leaders in the Church

Ken Hay

Through the years church-growth specialists have published articles, books, and surveys that demonstrate a vital principle: when the pastor is the leader of the church and is inspiring the lay people to be the ministers, that church has growth potential. But on the other hand, when the people become the leaders and the pastor is the only minister, a church’s growth potential diminishes.

I have a vivid childhood memory of how a Sunday school superintendent illustrated this truth. He instructed the pastor to stand in front on the left side of the auditorium, and the superintendent stood on the right. At a signal, each one went into the audience and brought a person down to the front. The pastor returned to the audience by himself to bring down a second person, then a third one. The Sunday school superintendent led someone down front, and then the two of them went back into the audience and brought two more people. Then the four went out and brought down four more. This process continued until everyone was either on the right side of the auditorium or on the left. All but four or five of the congregation were on the side of the Sunday school superintendent. We immediately understood that, although the pastor was working hard, the real growth came from the people reaching others. In light of this principle, I appreciate the way my local church bulletin lists its staff, “Ministers: The Congregation at Large.”

In his book Management: A Biblical Approach (pp. 15–17)[1], Myron Rush points to the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1–9 as an unusual outline for success in ministry. He outlined their building efforts as follows:

  1. They were committed to a goal (vv. 3, 4).
  2. They were united in the cause (v. 6).
  3. They had an effective communication system (vv. 1, 6).
  4. They were doing the will of God (vv. 7–9 shows they were not).

God said nothing could keep them from success in their project (v. 6), but because they were not doing God’s will, He disrupted their communication system and confused their construction efforts.

If a church’s leadership is going to successfully build a growing, stable body of believers, it must be committed to training ministry leaders. When a church is united in its mission, has a proper philosophy of ministry, and establishes an effective communication system, God can abundantly increase and bless its ministries.

Effective communication involves delegating areas of ministry to responsible individuals. D. L. Moody understood this concept when he said, “I would rather put 1,000 men to work than to do the work of 1,000 men.” However, not all church leaders have grasped this idea. As a result, their churches grow until they reach a plateau. Then growth levels off or dwindles because the leadership does not involve its lay people in ministry opportunities.

The Bible cites many Biblical examples of delegation:

  • God gave responsibility to Adam in Genesis 2:15 and reiterates it in Psalm 8 to guard the garden and to have dominion over the earth.
  • Moses was advised wisely by Jethro to delegate the work of judging the Israelites (Exod. 18).
  • Nehemiah chose good men to help carry on the work of establishing the people and their city (Neh. 7).
  • Jesus Christ delegated the responsibility of witnessing to His disciples (Matt. 28:19, 20).
  • The disciples delegated specific ministries to the deacons (Acts 6).

The following is a simple formula for delegation.

  1. Create an assignment—This involves giving proper instruction so that the people know exactly what the task is and how to accomplish it.
  2. Give authority—This empowers the person and gives incentive to achieve the assigned responsibility and not simply be an “errand boy.”
  3. Insist on accountability—This involves establishing performance guidelines and a date for completion of the task.

Obviously, the key to the success in delegating is each person understanding what the goals are, why they should be carried out Biblically, and how the task will be done in line with the pastor’s philosophy. Without this clear communication, ministries easily change directions with each change of leadership. Furthermore, staff and lay people become frustrated when the leadership is reactive to someone’s action rather than proactive. This also leads to members doing what is right in their own eyes regardless of whether it is in line with the pastor’s methodology. The church’s programs could, therefore, become like a rocking chair: “There is a lot of action, but no one is getting anywhere.”

In contrast to the above, note the positive results of delegation:

  • It makes the leader’s job easier.
  • It increases the productivity of the congregation and provides growth.
  • It develops additional leadership.
  • It gives the pastor more time for personal spiritual development (see Acts 6:1–7).
  • It stimulates creativity.
  • It demonstrates a confidence in members’ ability to minister. (Someone has advised that if you want more Sunday school teachers, make heroes out of the ones you already have.)
  • It also stimulates a member’s motivation and commitment to his church and pastor.

Myron Rush notes, “As long as leadership avoids delegation, he is making sure the organization never accomplishes more than he personally can plan, think, create, and produce” (p. 148).

Therefore, we leaders need to recognize our limitations in time, energy, and ability. We need to determine why we should delegate and then select projects and activities to be delegated. We must be sure to select the proper people according to (1) their abilities, (2) their interests, (3) their available time, and (4) their energy level. We need to thoroughly instruct the person to whom we delegate responsibility and maintain an open line of communication with that one.

Many leaders make excuses for not delegating. The excuses may include the following:

“The job will not be done the way I would do it.”

“My subordinates lack the necessary training to perform the job.”

“I enjoy doing the work personally, so I don’t want to delegate.”

These excuses often grow out of personal insecurity or pride, and they are certainly self-incriminating.

With proper delegation, we can be assured that lay people will be involved, and church growth will result.

Therefore, it is important for pastoral leadership to know what their goals are, how they are going to achieve them, and to instill these goals in the minds of the congregation. It is equally important for the congregation to recognize its responsibility to take up the yoke and accept delegated responsibilities.


Dr. Ken Hay is the founder and president of the Wilds Christian Camp. He lives in Greenville, South Carolina.

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. Management: A Biblical Approach. Victor Books, a Division of SP Publications, Inc., Wheaton, IL 60187. []


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