Growing Your Church: Leadership Style Matters

Week three in our discovery in what makes churches grow, we turn our attention to leadership within the church of all kinds and levels.

When we think about leadership I wonder what comes to mind.  There is a spectrum from authoritarian to laissez-faire.  Somewhere along that spectrum, we find a particular leadership style which growing churches are modelling.

This is not to say that there is not value in other leadership styles, but the evidence suggests that there is one particular style that stands out.

As a side note, we are surrounded by these leadership styles all of the time and particular styles relate to particular contexts.  For example, we might like it if a policeman was more laissez-faire if we get pulled over for speeding, but we would want him or her to be authoritarian in arresting the person who stole some money that belongs to you. It is important that people in particular roles have a consistent leadership style and then people know what to expect and feel safe.

That being said our leadership styles naturally become nuanced when faced with particular situations. The person who is caught speeding might actually be speeding because they’re trying to get to the hospital for some reason, and so the policeman would (hopefully) nuance his or her response within the bounds of an authoritarian leadership style.

I digress, according to research the leadership style that stands out above others is the collaborative style.  This is not to say that there are times for authoritarian stances, but in these particular growing churches in traditional denominations, people are allowed to find their role in a collaborative way.

People within these churches are resourced properly and not overburdened by the tasks that they are given. One person does not do all of the jobs but the jobs are shared.  More important roles like the treasurer are broken down into bite-size chunks so that the treasurer doesn’t become overwhelmed.

This model of church and of ministry is not just about the few people of power, but instead, leadership is shared across the whole people of God. This has meant for those churches the people have been enriched and empowered and the churches flourished.

In contrast, there are many in our churches who may sometimes think that they can’t let go of a particular task. The question in that person’s mind becomes who would or could take over, and who could I ask?

All too often there appears to be a lack of volunteers and the assumption for  that  individual who is overburdened is that they will just have to carry on regardless.

In nearly every church I have ministered in I have come across these individuals, they are overburdened and cannot see how they could ever retire.

As church leaders, these are the people who are perhaps in greatest need for our intervention. The cost to their health mentally and physically should concern us.  We should find ways in releasing the burden from their shoulders and sharing it around.

I sat in a stewards meeting and a person expressed their sense of being overburdened.  One by one the other stewards in the room simply declared, “I’ll do that Julie,” to each of the jobs she was trying to give up.

As I sat there and watched this act of grace unfold I found it deeply moving and inspiring to watch collaborative leadership at work, freeing burdens of others and empowering a broader leadership.

As I conclude I would like to refer to the MBA of ministry book, it also highlights the need for a collaborative ministry but also makes the argument that there is one other leadership style on the spectrum between authoritarian and laissez-faire.

That style is known as the shepherd, the shepherd that nurtures, leads, and inspires his sheep. I wonder what kind of leader might you be? Make God bless you in your leadership wherever you find yourself in church and outside of a church.

Link to the research Leading Together in Growing Methodist Churches’ webpage can be found here

Posts in this series:

Church Growth: Hospitality 

Church growth: Inclusively

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  1. Pingback: Growing Your Church: Responsively | God Life Church

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