There are a lot of methods churches are using today to reach people and bring them into the church — cool lights, haze machines during worship, a coffee shop in the lobby, shorter service times, and creative stage props. All these are fine to do, but they will eventually become ineffective if the church isn’t continuously expanding their base of leaders.
Let me share an example Pastor Wayne Cordeiro gives that illustrates this point well. Imagine that I hold out a 1-square-foot piece of cardboard, and I slowly empty a bucket of white sand onto it. The sand will accumulate, and as it does, a pyramid of sand will form.
Then I pour another bucket of sand onto it. The amount of sand will increase until the cardboard can hold no more. So what will happen to the excess sand if I keep pouring? It will overflow the edges and cascade onto the floor. The cardboard base can only hold so much. And if I keep pouring, it will eventually collapse.
So what do you have to do to hold more sand? The answer is simple: Expand the base.
If your leadership base is not growing, not just numerically, but developing their leadership skills, then the church will only grow to the capacity of its leader base. Unfortunately, churches make the mistake of placing faithful fans of the church in leadership roles who are not properly skilled and equipped.
Over the years, I have discovered one important quality that I look for when determining to place someone in a position of leadership — are they a problem solver?
For some people, problems are like kryptonite to Superman. They are paralyzed with indecision and become overwhelmed by the burden of finding solutions. When faced with a problem, most people look for someone else to solve it. However, leaders thrive on finding problems and solving them!
This reminds me of the story of David in 1 Samuel 17 when the army of Israel was paralyzed with fear because of a problem named Goliath. Goliath tormented and harassed the army of Israel daily for 40 days. The king of Israel didn’t know what to do.
Then suddenly a young shepherd boy named David comes on the scene while stopping by to give his brothers their lunch. David quickly jumps into action, volunteers to fix the problem, and defeats Goliath. David exemplified one of the qualities of a true leader: he took action to solve a problem that was paralyzing the army of Israel.
What problems are holding your ministry back today? Do you have leaders to solve those problems?
Years ago when I first started in ministry, I oversaw pastoral care of a growing multi-campus church. Unexpectedly the executive administrator resigned and weeks later the funeral of one of the greatest NFL running backs of all time, Walter Payton, was to be held at our church. This kind of event would have fallen on the shoulders of the executive administrator. This funeral was not like any previous event the church had done. Celebrities, the governor of Illinois, mayors, sport legends, NFL executives, and hosts of media outlets would soon overrun our church. There were a lot of logistical problems facing us to pull together this funeral, and the most critical one was WHO WAS GOING TO TAKE CHARGE OF COORDINATING THIS FUNERAL.
I volunteered to take the lead of the funeral and learned a lot through the process. It definitely was a “stretching” experience, but it helped me expand my capacity as a leader and discover a lot about myself that I didn’t know. I had to solve a multitude of hurdles we had never encountered before. For the church, this event introduced us to a lot of people because of the media exposure resulting in an influx of visitors to come back over the next several weeks with many deciding to join the church.
Here are some steps I encourage you to take to start expanding your leader base:
• Start having a monthly leadership training meeting. Invite people who have demonstrated a commitment to the church and desire to grow as leaders. This is where you (1) impart vision, (2) encourage, and (3) train your leaders.
• Give opportunities for people to grow as leaders. Assign responsibilities to see how they can handle leading others and how they solve problems.
• Be committed to the continuous process of the three D’s — Discover, Develop, and Distribute. Developing leaders is not a program that has an end date. It is a continuous process of growth and development. God always brings new inspiring leaders to your church, so you need to intentionally and consistently discover them. Commit to develop and train them. And finally distribute the leader for service. You have to release them and let them function as a leader.
• Hold your leaders accountable. Create a system for them to make you aware of progress and problems they are solving.
You should continue using creative ways to bring more people into the church, but be sure to develop and expand your leader base so you can retain the growth that you desire.