Last week I talked about the 5 Characteristics of Bad Church Leaders . This week, I want to flip the script and focus on good church leade...

Last week I talked about the 5 Characteristics of Bad Church Leaders. This week, I want to flip the script and focus on good church leaders. And in my experience, there are a whole lot of good ones out there!

But before I do, allow me to make something clear. Church leadership is no different to any other kind of leadership. There are principles and patterns of good leaders that are true no matter what profession or context you are in. And we all know a good leader when we see one. Becoming a good church leader then, is not simply about focusing on church growth. You can have a very successful church and still be a failing leader. Leadership then, needs to be seen as an all-encompassing experience. It is something that is true of you no matter what context you are in. I believe this is why Paul made a healthy family life one of the qualifications for a church elder. You can't lead the church if you can't lead your family. In other words, if you are not a leader in every setting that you find yourself in, then you simply are not a leader.

With that said, here are 5 characteristics of good church leaders - and they apply in and out of church.

1. The Servant

True leaders are servants not task-masters. This kind of leadership is exemplified most in Jesus' own words when he said,
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant… (Matthew 20:25-26).
The best kinds of leaders are those who approach leadership from the angle of "how can I best serve these people in order to build them up?" You wont always get everything right, make perfect decisions or express yourself flawlessly, but you will never fail at empowering others. Servant leaders are driven by the principle of servanthood in everything they do.

2. The Agendaless

This one is tied to number one. Leaders who are servants are leaders who are free of personal agendas. Instead of coming to a church with a pre-conceived idea of what they want to do, they sit down with the leaders and ask "what has God been doing here?" and "how can I serve your church and help you guys do what you do better?" Agenda-driven leaders tend to be manipulative, play lots of political games and align themselves with certain church members who agree with them. In best case scenarios, the church hangs on until they leave. In worst case scenarios they leave a legacy of division.

The agenda-less leader, however, leaves a tribe of empowered people who are equipped to make a difference for God's kingdom long after he or she has gone.

3. The Story-Driven

Good leaders have a story. They know why they lead. They know what they are called to do. And they know how to do it. A simple, clear story guides their decisions, their calendar and their activity level. They are not simply busy, they are productive because everything they do is tied to their vision.

Throughout my life I have known pastor after pastor who runs around all year like a chicken with its head cut off. They do this, that and the other. But when the year ends, they can't intelligently tell you what they have accomplished in the framework of a story. They might tout off a list of activities they got done, but there is a world of difference between living by a to-do list and living by a story.

4. The Transparent

The transparent leader is the leader who is confident in her why. She is a servant, driven by a story but free of selfish agendas. So when she comes into a church to lead, she can be open with her team. Everyone knows where this leader stands, what her story is and what she wants to accomplish. And the key is communication. She's not off doing her own thing most of the year without any input from her team. She communicates clearly and with consistency.

This is hard to do when you are not a servant. But if you are, its pretty much natural.

5. The Builder

When I was in my early twenties I spent 4.5 years in the Army. One year, I was assigned to a task I didn't want to do so I went to the sergeant in charge of the mission and gave her a ton of excuses for why I wasn't the guy for the job. Without debating me she immediately got on the phone and contacted my platoon sergeant. She didn't want me on her team.

Thankfully, she wasn't able to get rid of me. And I say "thankfully" because what followed was one of the best leadership lessons I ever learned. She called me aside and told me she didn't want me on the mission because I was full of excuses. But, she couldn't actually get rid of me. So she looked me in the eye and said "Leaders don't make excuses. Leaders build." And with that she gave me my assignment and said nothing else.

I never forgot that and to this day, it remains one of my driving principles. So when something at church doesn't work, rather than blame someone else or make an excuse I ask myself, "how can I build something awesome out of this?" And this is something all good leaders do. Rather than blame and excuse - they take control and build something with what they have. So rather than blame your church members for lack of involvement, discover why and get creative. Implement, experiment and measure. Find ways to increase the involvement! Build an "involved" culture. Rather than accuse church members of lacking in commitment because less and less show up for Sabbath School, think, plan and strategize. Find ways to increase attendance. Build a "committed" culture.

Is it easy? Not a chance. But if you are the leader, you either sit in a corner, point fingers and wine. Or you refuse to make excuses and get to building.

So there you have it! Have any others? Share them in the comments below.


Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

We have all been in a church where the pastor, elder or perhaps even the entire leadership team was - for lack of a better word - horrible...

We have all been in a church where the pastor, elder or perhaps even the entire leadership team was - for lack of a better word - horrible.

These are the kinds of leaders that negatively impact the vibe and culture of the church to the point that attendance begins to dwindle and the vibrancy of the community of faith withers and fades. When confronted with the results of their poor leadership I have heard some of them say things like "It's only the weak ones who have left. The ones still here are strong in faith and that's what we want" or "Some people just can't handle the truth!"


The worst part is rather than admit their faults, these terrible leaders baptize them in Christian cliche's in order to excuse them. So today, I want to "unbaptize" 5 common characteristics of a bad church leader with the hopes that we, as leaders, can grow.

1. The Boss

There is a gargantuan difference between being a leader and being a boss.

Bosses don't care about their people. They have a job to do and they will twist arms and pull teeth until they get the job done. Sadly, many churches have leadership teams full of bosses. They attempt to excuse their control with things like:

  • I gave control over to others once and they messed it up/ didn't come through so now I do it all myself.
  • I know whats best for the church.
  • If I let others take control they will not be as faithful as I am.

They may not say these things but that's what they think. These types of "leaders" often micromanage things, are extremely stubborn in their views, resistant to change of any sort, get angry when they are challenged and display various levels of arrogance. This makes it very difficult to approach them openly.

Don't be like this.

2. The Footless 

Leaders need to be able to think and act on their feet. But more so, they need to be able to think and act quickly in a way that will benefit the people.

Bad leaders are indecisive and its often for one simple reason: They have competing agendas in their own head. Should they benefit themselves? Should they benefit someone who they want to impress? Should they benefit the people? These multiple competing agendas in their head makes it hard for them to think on their feet. They lack clarity of thought, often have no vision to guide their decisions and when they finally do, it's generally for self-benefit of some sort.

People under these kinds of leaders quickly lose respect for them and once respect for the leader is gone, passion for the mission begins to wane as well.

3. The Visionless.

Directly related to the previous point is the leader who lacks vision.

When a leader lacks vision it shows. They are here, there and everywhere. They are not communicating a clear and compelling message. And they are not taking their people along on a journey toward a goal. These kinds of leaders often busy themselves with maintaining the status-quo and are incapable of motivating and equipping their church for mission.

4. The Voiceless

This is a big one. It doesn't really matter how cool you, your ideas and your skills are. If you don't communicate you don't lead.

Springing things on your church board, elders team or church members at large at the last minute is a fast way to irritate people. It makes them feel as though all that matters is your decision. By not keeping people in the loop and updating them continually, allowing them to be part of the conversation, you send the message that the only thing that matters is you. When you finally fill them in, they feel patronized.

5. The Blamer

I see this one all the time.

  • The church members are not supportive!
  • The church members are not committed!
  • The church members are not spiritual!
These points are usually raised in discussions over low Sabbath School, prayer meeting or Business meeting attendance, lack of church-wide support of missional projects or people showing up later and later to church. The problem is always the same. Its "them". And what can we do about it? Nothing. So we keep on dragging along or we hope that someday, somehow the church will just wake up.

Allow me to step on your toes today leaders: As a leader you do not have the luxury of ever, ever blaming anybody other than yourself. 

You don't like that idea? Then don't be a leader.

Seriously, leadership is hard. It's painful. It's lonely. And it can keep you awake at times. Leaders don't have the luxury of passing blame. Is it true that church members are unsupportive, uncommitted and unspiritual? Maybe. But that's only a tiny part of the story. Instead of passing blame ask yourself,

  • How many of these members do I personally know and love?
  • How many of them have I had over to my house?
  • How many have I visited in their own home?
  • How many of them have I been there for in their hard times?
  • How many of them have I had open conversations with regarding the issues we face as a church?
  • How many of them have I sat down and listened to and then implemented their ideas?
  • How many of them have I invested myself in empowering and equipping for ministry? Or am I too busy running everything myself that I don't even notice the weaknesses in my own leadership?
  • Do the church members here believe I care about them deeply? If not, how can I change that?
  • How often do I seek to improve my own leadership skills through reading books, attending leadership training and asking my own church for honest feedback on my leadership?
I can go on and on, but by now I think you get the point. Church leaders often pass blame onto people and in my experience, they don't even know who those people are. We have a word for that. Its called "judgmental". Don't do it. It doesn't lead anywhere good. Instead, find how you can lead them from where they are to where you know God wants them to be. It will require you to grow as a leader because you can't lead someone unless you are capable of inspiring (not requiring), motivating, equipping and investing in people. It's a long and self-less journey, yes. But its awesome when you start to see the results.

So there you have it, 5 characteristics of bad church leaders. There are more, but I will stop there for now. How many of these do you see in yourself? What can you do to change and become a better leader? Comment below!


Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. He also blogs weekly at pomopastor.com