“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. ”
1 Peter 5:2-3
In America today, many churches are struggling to effectively disciple and grow their churches. In fact, church attendance has been declining dramatically since the 1960’s (Tobin Grant, Religion News Service, January, 2014). One of the main reasons seems to be our changing culture in America. It used to be that virtually everyone went to church. It was part of our American culture. People went to church in many cases because it was what most Americans did on Sunday mornings. Pastors did not have to work that hard in getting people to come or remain in church. But that is not true anymore. Population shifts, immigration, and secularization in America have resulted in a different culture today.
But is it just about the changing American population and culture? Is that why people are no longer attending or leaving the church? In some cases yes, but we believe that in many cases it’s because the way the gospel is communicated or the way the church is being run either angers people or causes them to find no value in attending the church. This does not speak to the issue of the message of salvation but rather to the need for good leadership and management.
So we contend that an even more important reason for declining church attendance is that pastors have not been trained in Biblical leadership and management principles. They therefore lack the knowledge to effectively lead and manage their churches in today’s more secularized American culture. Most seminaries and Bible Schools prepare pastors for preaching, teaching, and evangelizing, but their curriculums often do not include any significant training on basic leadership or management skills. What they do include is perhaps one class on church administration. But that is not nearly enough. Consequently, many pastors are not equipped to keep church members from leaving or making their church more attractive to potential members. It does not matter how great the gospel message is if pastoral leaders are ineffective in their communication of what that means or if how they are running the church drives people away.
Because churches are organizations with people and other resources, they must be led and managed effectively to be successful. As a matter of fact, most pastors will spend the vast majority of their time leading people and managing the resources of the church, not preaching or teaching. An effective sermon can easily be undone by poor leadership and management of church activities, people, resources and processes. So it is important that they have some level of knowledge about Biblical leadership and management so that they don’t create an atmosphere in the church where the gospel is not received or becomes secondary to how the church is run.
In the secular world, businesses and other organizations know that leadership is the essential ingredient to being an effective organization. That’s why they spend time and money training their employees and developing leaders from within their organizations to prepare them for positions of leadership in the future. They know that without properly trained leaders their organization will struggle to grow and be effective in what they do. Large organizations typically have some form of in-house training, but most organizations send their employees to outside training firms to get trained in what they need to be effective leaders. They desire to see their employees grow in their skill sets so that they become more valuable as employees and can help the organization grow and succeed. Churches must recognize that they need to train and develop its leaders as well if they are to survive and thrive in today’s world.
Our ministry has been training pastors and church leaders outside the USA since 2001 on basic leadership and management skills. We have seen the benefits that this type of training can bring to pastors and churches, and how it helps them to be more effective in their ministry. We also see the need here in America, but we are not the only ones to recognize this need. Perhaps the most established pastoral leadership training taking place in America today is called the Leadership Summit organized by Pastor Bill Hybels of Willowcreek Church in Barrington, IL. There are also major pastoral leadership training initiatives by John Maxwell and his EQUIP ministry.
It is essential to the survival and growth of the Church in America that pastors are given a basic understanding of key leadership and management principles from a Biblical perspective. This will enable them to be more effective in leading and managing the church they have been called or appointed by God to lead. When Biblical leadership and management principles are applied with guidance from, and reliance upon, the Holy Spirit, we believe it will produce “fruit for the Kingdom.” (Colossians 1:10)
The need for church leadership and management training in America has never been greater. If every pastor will endeavor to grow in their leadership and management abilities, we believe the Church can stop the decline in church attendance and reverse it so that the Kingdom of God can grow once again in our nation.