If you are a pastor or leader in the church, then it likely hasn't been long since you've had BOTH of the following thoughts:
To make up for this Leader Gap (#1) and to cover up our Training Gap (#2), our impulse is often to work harder for longer. But if we want to be faithful to God's calling to "equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:12) and to "entrust [the gospel] to faithful men who will be able to teach others also," (2 Timothy 2:2) we must never be content to hide our insecurities behind hard work. God has called us to more than that, and in His grace He never calls us to anything that He won't equip us for!
So with that in mind, we need to ask:
What levels of leadership exist in our church?
Before we can know what our leaders need in order for them to grow and thrive, we need to be clear on what kind of leadership we're really talking about. This is because leadership is a broad word which can include everything from helping clean the building to serving in kids to leading a small group to preaching on Sunday! While all of these are forms of leadership, we will be helped if we distinguish between the various levels of leadership that exist within our context.
The most fundamental level of leadership is Servant Leadership. This should include all Members who have covenanted to lock arms behind the vision and mission God has given your church. They believe the gospel and are called by God to lead by example as they serve and live in ways that "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior." (Titus 2:10)
The second level of leadership is Strategic Leadership. In every healthy church, as Members join together to serve, the need will arise for godly men and women who are able to organize and mobilize others for the sake of maximizing impact (see Acts 6:1-7). It is important to say here that no one moves from being a Servant Leader to being a Strategic Leader, but rather that Servant Leaders begin serving specifically by strategically using their gifts to help others.
The third level of leadership is Spiritual Leadership. The New Testament church, from its inception, has been "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 2:20) and led by "apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11) as we depend on the Holy Spirit to bring glory to the Father "in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:21) The mission of Jesus was and will always be to save sinners for the glory of God (see 1 Timothy 1:15-17), which is the reason He established His church as His witness in the world (see John 17:18). What this clearly shows is that the church is nothing if it is not a spiritual community, led by Spiritual Leaders who are faithful to Jesus, submitted to His Word, captivated by His gospel, and empowered by His Spirit.
How can I equip leaders at each level for ministry?
Having clarified the levels of leadership that exist within the church, our next step is to determine how to equip them most effectively. The unique set of circumstances that each church finds itself in precludes us from giving a "one-size-fits-all" template for leadership development, no matter now much we may sometimes wish those existed. What we can do, however, is identify what leaders at every level need if they are going to thrive in their leadership roles.
At the risk of overstating the obvious, we cannot tell others that we view them as leaders unless we also give real opportunities to lead something that matters. This must include clarity (as opposed to assuming they will know what is expected of them) and we must be prepared to risk letting them fail if they are ever going to have the opportunity to succeed in any meaningful way.
In addition to genuine leadership opportunities, leaders at every level need to have access to learning opportunities if they are going to continue to develop in their own level of leadership (or develop to the next level). It is our responsibility to provide resources, environments, and tools that are needed for our leaders to never stop learning.
Using the grid above, ask God for clarity as you consider:
1. What leadership roles exist in your church and which level of leadership would you place them under?
2. What learning & leading opportunities are available for leaders at each level?
3. What opportunities is God leading you to implement to equip the saints He's entrusted to you for the work of ministry?