What is Church Leadership?
Being a church leader is more than presiding over a church meeting. By definition, a leader is a person who others follow. But leadership isn’t just a matter of solid management principles and book smarts. It’s a stewardship responsibility—you’re responsible for the people entrusted to your care.
Church leadership isn’t any different; you’re leading others on their faith journey. As church leaders, you have been tasked to serve other members, volunteers, and the community for Christ through their influence, moral support, and empathy. It’s not just a title. It’s about making a difference in the life of the church and your congregants.
What the Bible Says About Leadership
Learning how to lead a church effectively is something that takes a lifetime of practice and dedication. But it doesn’t come easy. We have to work hard. There are millions of great videos, webinars, books, and blogs about leadership. The Bible is the most helpful leadership resource for current and aspiring church leaders.
So what does the Bible say about leadership? The Bible is full of stories, and wise advice about the kind of leader God calls Christians to be and church leaders’ responsibilities. Some leadership characteristics the Bible describes are:
- Counselors: “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14
- Servant leadership: “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20:26
- Compassion: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14
If those Bible verses weren’t enough, we have the perfect leadership example to follow within the Bible. Jesus Christ showed us the way to lead. In His ministry on Earth, Jesus set an example of what it means to truly care for others, guide them to a better tomorrow, and encourage growth.
Different Church Leadership Roles
Churches, both small and large, need a strong team of leaders, not just an influential senior pastor. In churches that thrive, the senior pastor has a strong team, similar to the structure of a corporation. Grow your church and further your mission by filling pastoral leadership positions with people who share the church’s vision and beliefs is essential.
There are so many opportunities to lead within a church. In general, the leadership roles within the Church have the spiritual gifts of leadership, administration, or pastoring. Let’s explore all the different church leadership roles further!
The primary role of an associate or assistant minister is to support and work in harmony with the senior pastor in leading the church. Supporting the senior pastor may look like managing ministry events, supervising church volunteers, and assisting with church services and ceremonies. And when the senior minister is absent or taking a sabbatical, the associate minister would take the lead.
Executive Minister of Administration
The executive minister of administration assists the senior pastor in providing leadership and overall direction of the church staff, leading all ministry areas to accomplish the church’s mission. This work includes outreach, arts, pastoral care, student and children’s ministries, strategic planning, finance, administration, human resources, and day-to-day operations.
Minister of Education
The minister of education is responsible for, you guessed it, education! These church leaders assist in planning, conducting, and evaluating educational programs within the church. The minister of education also serves as an educational resource and advisor to the other leaders within the church.
Minister of Music and Performing Arts
Ministers of music, ministers of performing arts, and worship pastors are the men and women standing on stage every Sunday leading the worship services at their church. They work closely with other members of church leadership to create themes in the worship, selecting songs and readings that align with the pastor’s sermon. ministers of music may also deliver a sermon or other message, lead the church in prayer, or even provide musical accompaniment during the service.
Minister of Outreach
The minister of outreach leads church growth by spearheading evangelism, working with and under the direction of the lead pastor. This leadership role empowers the church to carry out the Great Commission and equips the congregation to reach out to the local community. The minister of outreach role encompasses all aspects of connecting to the community in a culturally relevant and engaging way—marketing, advertising, special events, and school partnerships.
Effective Church Leader Traits
Regardless of their job title, the most effective church leaders share similar leadership skills. These common characteristics are so simple that you may find them surprising. And that’s great news! It’s easy to identify and adopt each leadership characteristic into your role within the church administration.
A leader with a servant’s heart completely flips the traditional leadership model. The people are elevated to the very top, and the leader is at the bottom, focused on serving the employees above them.
Jesus modeled servant leadership. For church leaders, that is the most important characteristic of their leadership. There is no room for kings and rulers nor selfish and self-serving leaders in the Church.
The essence of servant leadership is described in Philippians 2:3-4:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Spiritual leadership comes down to serving first and leading second. That may be literally washing feet like Jesus. Or it may look like joyfully assisting a staff member when they need help. A church leader with a servant’s heart ultimately focuses on empowering and uplifting their staff, volunteers, and congregation.
Simply put, great leaders talk less and listen more. This is because listening opens the door to many leadership opportunities.
First, you can better understand situations and gather context to make better decisions by listening. Second, listening builds trust and strengthens relationships. When someone you’re leading talks to you, they should end the conversation feeling heard and valued.
You don’t want someone guiding others who won’t pay attention to their needs and questions. A good leader is always ready to hear what’s being said.
One crucial leadership skill, although unexpected, is empathy. An empathetic church leader understands the needs of others and is considerate of their feelings and thoughts. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their point of view, but you’re willing to understand and appreciate it.
Church leaders who take the time to share empathy for their staff create an environment where people can thrive. Empathy offers the support teams need to press ahead during challenging seasons and reach their goals. Treating your team with empathy—being aware of their feelings and taking a genuine interest in their development—creates ripples that carry over into their areas of responsibility and work.
Person of Influence
Someone is a leader when they influence others, for good or bad. We’ve seen a steady rise in influencers online with social media, but we promise you don’t have to dance to trending songs on TikTok to be a person of influence. Building influence takes time, consistency, and trust.
As a leader, your influence can inspire change in people’s behavior or attitudes. The influence can come from being an example or with inspirational and persuasive words. However you do it, the ability to influence both staff and congregants is crucial for leaders in the church.
Great leaders unleash the leader within each person, empowering them to grow and contribute to the vision. Empowering leadership is proven to engage staff members. Give your employees the resources and authority they need to do their best, and they’ll do the rest!
What does an empowering church leader look like? Let’s look at the perfect example again, Jesus! His ministry team comprised fishermen, corrupt tax collectors, politicians, and even a thief. He didn’t look for perfection in the men he surrounded himself with. Instead, he sought potential and guided them. He gave them hands-on experience and got them actively involved in ministering.
Being able to delegate effectively ensures leaders get the results their ministry needs. A church leader should be able to motivate people to give the church their very best. This requires more than charisma and a super-friendly demeanor; it requires delegating specific tasks to ensure everything gets done.
Jesus didn’t feed 5000 people by himself; he entrusted it to his disciples. The disciples didn’t think feeding everyone would be possible, but Jesus knew it was his church that would care for his people after he was gone. He knew he didn’t need to do everything all the time. Jesus’ feeding 5000 people with a few fishes and loaves was a miracle. It was also a delegation as a leader of the love and care his ministry requires.
From carrying out daily responsibilities to keeping your people coming back and caring for a large number of congregants, pastoring can be challenging and time-consuming. You can’t do everything alone, so delegating helps lessen your workload. If you do everything by yourself, there’s a chance you will reach spiritual burnout. You need to delegate tasks where you can. Instead of just delegating tasks to staff, you can also rely on automated work with your tech! Church management software empowers leaders to focus on leading and eases the burden of church responsibilities and expectations.
Big Picture Thinker
“Look at the bigger picture.” This simple sentence can help leaders strategically set and achieve goals. A leader’s role is to be a big-picture thinker, bringing creative and strategic ideas to the organization. Having a big-picture perspective can help you prioritize effectively, set better goals, and improve time management. In addition, by painting the bigger picture for your team, you can effectively reach larger goals and achieve them faster.
A successful church leader is experienced and always learning and growing. They’ll likely have a solid foundation with a bachelor’s degree or time in seminary and use their on-the-job experience to broaden their knowledge. They’re constantly reading, learning, discussing with others, and searching for new solutions.
The best leaders learn from the people and experiences around them at every stage of life and take those leadership lessons into whatever role they hold in the future with the goal of serving others.
Leadership is more than telling people what to do; strong leaders rely on people-focused management practices to train and engage their staff. Your new team members likely have more questions than just “where do I sit?” More than ever, leaders need intentional onboarding and management practices to inspire productive team members.
For church leadership, strong management practices affect both staff and volunteers. Whether managing volunteers is a major or minor aspect of your job, it’s a responsibility you need to take seriously. Our church volunteer management software makes it easy for leaders to onboard and train your team with tools in the Schedules feature. When you successfully onboard and train staff and volunteers, potential recruits know that church leaders support and appreciate those willing to serve.
At the end of the day, no ministry leader is perfect (but you already knew that!). Church leaders are stewards, entrusted to wisely use God-given resources for His purposes. That includes the people sitting in your pews and serving on your teams. As a church leader, you deserve the very best of what technology can offer. Your people deserve and expect the very best, too.
Pushpay’s all-in-one church software was designed with leaders like you in mind. Schedule a demo to see firsthand why ChurchStaq is the simplest solution for leaders to know, grow, and keep their people.
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