What kind of leaders help churches grow?

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The presence of leaders (both lay and ordained) who can innovate, envision and motivate people was one of the common factors for church growth identified in The Church of England’s research, ‘From Anecdote to Evidence’, says Executive Director of PMC Dr Stephen Harrison

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The presence of leaders (both lay and ordained) who can innovate, envision and motivate people was one of the common factors for church growth identified in The Church of England’s research, ‘From Anecdote to Evidence’, which is discussed here.

While leaders need many different gifts to help a church to grow and while leadership can be shared between many people, the research showed that some gifts are particularly important for helping to drive growth in numbers.

The leadership qualities that were found to be significant in relation to growth included:

Motivating: being able to encourage, energise, equip and empower people and teams to deliver a vision.

Envisioning: being able to see the big picture, and to develop a vision with people, bringing others with them and enabling those others to be part of that vision.

Innovating: being able to come up with and try new things without fear of failure, take risks and have a go.

Leading ‘off the map’

These qualities are particularly important for where the church in Australia is right now. We are, what might be termed, ‘conceptually stuck’. The way we have done things in the past no longer seems to be working and we are struggling to find new ways to be church.

“Conceptually stuck systems cannot become unstuck simply by trying harder. For a fundamental reorientation to occur that spirit of adventure which enables new perceptions beyond the control of our thinking processes must happen first” — Ed Friedman

Another way to think about this is to consider the metaphor of being ‘off the map’. When you know where you are, maps are pretty helpful. If you have a leader who is adept at reading the map you will get to where you need to be. But what happens when you find yourself in a place that is ‘off the map’. This is where the church is in Australian society right now and leaders who can read maps are of little use. We need leaders who can survive off the map, who can motivate people in the wilderness and who can see a future in a land that has become alien.

Team leadership

But leadership shouldn’t be about one person, ideally it is a team sport and this means gathering together the people who have the gifts to get the job done.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

(1 Corinthians 12:4-7 New Revised Standard Version — NRSV)

If you are looking for some great resources to explore leadership in your church, visit the From Evidence to Action website.

Resource links include a Bible study and a leadership development program.

There are also some great questions to help you think about leaders and leadership in your church, including:

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