5 Characteristics of Good Church Leaders

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.
5 Characteristics of Good Church Leaders 5 Characteristics of Good Church Leaders Reviewed by Pastor Marcos on October 22, 2017 Rating: 5

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