The word ‘leadership’ is about an act of guidance and providing direction to others. Church leadership isn’t any different; but along with providing guidance, it’s also about how the leader behaves, communicates, and manages.
Seeing church leaders as servants has not always been the case, but when Paul spoke to Timothy about his role as leader of the church, he mentioned several qualities one would find in a servant leader.
Here servant leadership is defined as leadership that focuses on others, with the desire to serve first and foremost. This form of leadership was coined in the seventies but had ties that began with the bible and the beginning of the church.
As church leaders, you have been tasked with the role of servant to the church and your parishioners. In this article, we intend to provide you with a comprehensive guide on how church leadership works. Here’s what you should be able to take away from it –
- What is Church Leadership?
- What does the Bible Say About Church Leadership?
- Church Leadership Models
- 11 Character Traits of Church Leadership
- Church Fundraising for Leaders
Church leadership is about serving others in accordance with Christ’s interests so that they can see and accomplish God’s purpose for them in the world. A church leader needs qualities that influence and morally support the congregation, the volunteers, and others within the community. Such qualities include moral trustworthiness, social aptitude, empathy, pastoral care, and more.
The Apostle Paul wrote several letters to Timothy defining his role as the leader of the church. In his teachings, Paul focused on the importance of following the word of God and being above reproach. He expected Timothy to stay faithful to the teachings of God regardless of the opposition that was destined to come. Paul’s teachings remain vital for the health of the church.
Teach only God’s word
Following God’s word is vital to church leadership and is not only the first role of a steward leader; it is the most important. At the time of Paul and Timothy, there were several versions of God’s teachings, but Paul believed he held the truth. Paul’s teachings to Timothy were meant to help spread God’s word and determine how the church’s leaders should act and live.
The Bible refers to a leader as one above reproach, like the husband of one wife. He must be sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive. The reason being that if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
This description is hard to live up to, but it is what most people expect of their church leaders. When leaders fail to live up to this expectation, there can be internal strife and a loss of faith in the congregation. This has led to several splits within the church.
Divides within the church are not new. The best-known rift is Martin Luther’s Reformation and split from the Catholic Church. Because of these splits, churches have different models that define their leadership style and expectations. Within each of these models are the expectations and roles of the leaders and their congregation.
Congregationalism is based on the belief that each church should have the power to determine their own future as long as they are led by the teachings of God. Each church following the principle of Congregationalism is independent of the rest. The Puritans were the first Congregationalists and fought for their independence from the Church of England. Today, Quakers, Baptists, and Methodists all follow the model of Congregationalism.
The Presbyterian church started with Martin Luther and the Reformation. The word “Presbyterian” means elder, and thus, churches that follow this model have remained governed by elders. Church leaders in these churches are elected by church officers to lead the congregation.
Presbyterianism has retained the same governing principle that they started with and has a definite hierarchy within the church leadership. This form of leadership is based on Paul appointing pastors to oversee the church. In these early churches, the pastors appointed the elders who then appointed deacons.
Episcopalians continue their connection with the Church of England and are more formal with their leadership. The man with the highest authority in this church is the Pope, followed by Arch Bishops and Bishops. The hierarchy with this leadership model is clearly defined. The best example of this method is the Catholic church. The Roman Catholic Church remains the largest Christian church worldwide.
Leaders who focus too much on their own power and authority will lose it and cause rifts within their church that can never be repaired. Servant leaders have less chance of falling into this leadership trap. That may be why servant leaders are often the best leadership style for the clergy.
Regardless of the church’s leadership method, many church leaders have similar traits that make them servants to their congregation and the Lord. Leaders with these characteristics can bring out the best in their followers and build great success for the church as a whole.
Here are 11 Character Traits for Excellent Church Leadership:
- Servant of God
- Excellent listener
- Follows the big picture
- Stewards others
- Committed to people
- Builds a community
1. Servant of God
Before being a servant to your parishioners, a church leader must be a servant to God. The best example of this type of leader is Jesus Christ, who gave his life for others in the name of the Lord. This is an extreme form of servant leadership that cannot be repeated, but Jesus’s other actions and teachings continue to show how a servant leader must act and treat their followers.
Jesus is known for his compassion for those who followed him. His treatment of Lazarus and Mary are only two examples of the way Jesus saw himself as a servant first instead of a leader. Another of the more defining moments of Jesus’s servant leadership is when he chose to wash his disciples’ feet. This treatment was historically performed on the most powerful people.
2. Excellent listener
A true servant leader will listen to the needs of their congregation. There is a difference between hearing and listening. A servant leader will take the time to listen and learn what their parishioners need.
A servant leader will feel the pain and fear that overwhelms their followers. In this way, church leaders can be closest to God with their actions.
Empathy is not about offering an instant solution to your people. It’s about being at one with their problems and struggles. It’s only then can you garner their trust and reliance. It makes people not only believe in you but also the church and its mission on the whole.
Healing is a primary role of a servant leader. While no one can heal others the same as Jesus, servant leaders in the church can use their own gifts to connect and help their congregation heal from grief and fear whenever possible. It can be done by imparting the profound knowledge gained from the Holy Bible or with life experiences and a sense of understanding.
Church leaders mustn’t let their own failures and fears get the best of them and affect their relationships with others. Self-awareness can help church leaders manage feelings that can overwhelm actions when faced with difficulty. Jesus was once again a servant leader in this regard. Jesus took the time to fill himself with awareness even when that awareness was the hardest thing he had to face.
No one spoke with as much authority as Jesus could, but instead of commanding that they follow him and believe he was the Son of God, Jesus used his words and actions to persuade the people. As a servant leader, it is crucial to use persuasion over authority to reach your followers.
As a church leader speaks to the people, it is about the tone he adopts. While listening to him, they should feel a sense of relief and find peace in his words. The approach should not be that of authority or command but of guidance and support.
7. Follows the big picture
Can you see the bigger picture? The day-to-day grind and tragedies can at times overwhelm us and make our missions feel impossible. As a servant leader, you must conceptualize and continue to see the bigger picture. By believing and seeing the end, you can share this image with your followers.
It’s the same with people; they feel fatigued by the daily struggles and often lose faith in the future. When a leader listens to them, has an attitude of understanding, and speaks from the perspective of the big picture, they find direction in his words. Such is the duty of a church leader. As a leader, you’re not only managing their present issues but leading them in the right direction.
As a servant leader, you must be able to predict how something will end. When church members put their faith in you, they want to know you have the experience and knowledge to steer them on the right path. As a church leader, you will use your past mistakes to develop better plans to support your congregation.
That’s one of the main reasons why churches often choose elders for the positions of church leaders. They have experience, can speak with assurance, and are able to gain trust from the members.
9. Stewards others
A servant leader will look after and steward others and take responsibility when they make the wrong choice. As a church leader, you must learn to steward your flock and lead by example so others may follow.
When preaching about faith, you must show how your own faith can make a difference in your congregation. Jesus was able to encourage his disciples to have faith when they began to doubt. In Mark 6: 8-11, Jesus was a steward to his followers and taught them to rely on God while sharing his message.
10. Committed to people
Your responsibility as a church leader is to help each member of your congregation reach heaven. Those that falter must be able to depend on you to catch them when necessary. As a servant leader, you must be committed to helping your entire congregation reach their destiny no matter how long it may take.
As people approach you, ensure that you’re available for them. They should feel that you’re committed to the purpose of serving them. Once again, your commitment does not imply you can solve all problems instantly; it only means you’ll listen and guide them in the right way.
11. Builds a community
To fulfill your role as a steward leader, you must create a community within your church. One person can not solve all the problems of a church. Even Jesus needed his disciples. As a steward leader, you must strengthen your church by enabling others to take leadership roles and connect with others in your community. As a church leader, you can help your parishioners develop the same characteristics you have practiced as a servant leader.