The Distinction Between Leadership and Ministry - Part II

#businessforgood series

Here's part two on The Distinction Between Leadership and Ministry - excerpts from "The Empowered Church" by Dr. Ian Jagelman.

Frank had been the senior pastor of his church for nine years. He had taken over the church when it had about fifty members and over the next six years it had grown to close to three hundred members. Growth had stopped. Frank had studied church growth principles, was aware of a '200 barrier', and had sought to do all the right things to avoid it. But despite all his efforts, growth had ceased, even though there was a strong feeling of life in the church and a continual flow of new people coming into the church.

At this point Frank asked  if I would visit the church and see if I could put my finger on the problem. I met with Frank' s staff and key leaders. They were united behind Frank and seemed and seemed to have a clear sense of unity and purpose. They loved the church and believed in Frank's capacity to lead the church to further growth.

There was a slight space problem in the main sanctuary, but there was still room for growth. I sensed that the problem lay elsewhere, and so I began to focus on Frank's leadership style and his understanding of leadership principles.

The first thing I asked Frank to do was take out a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page. I then asked him to write in the left-hand column the things in his role that he enjoyed the most or felt most competent in, or that seemed to bear good fruit. On te right-hand side of the page I asked him to write the tasks he enjoyed the least, or those he felt least competent in, or those that seemed to be a waste of time or seemed to bear little fruit, or those that created most stress. I don't have a copy of what he wrote, but it was something like this:

I asked Frank to use the two headings 'Leadership' and 'Ministry' and decide which heading better fitted one column than the other. He chose t put 'Ministry' over the left column and 'Leadership' over the right.

This opened the way for us to begin to explore the real reason why the church had stopped growing. It took time for our discussions to bear fruit. To use the jargon of modern management, a paradigm shift was necessary. I could point the way, but Frank had to fundamentally change his belief systems  before he could change the way he led the church, and this took time.

Three years later, the church is now 450 strong and growing steadily.

Understanding Frank's problem

In a nutshell, Frank's situation was that he had built a good church on the strength of his and his wife's ministry gifts, so that, effectively, they were the only leaders in the church. Many others were called leaders of various departments, but all the power for decision making remained with Frank.

Frank had delegated ministry but not leadership. All significant ministry coordinators (I can't call tem leaders) reported directly to Frank. Nothing happened in the church without his endorsement. In fact, little was initiated in the church other than by Frank.

Leadership teams

The most significant development in our church, when we broke through the 200 barrier, was not the formation of ministry teams (we already had them) but the formation of leadership teams. Let me illustrate this in the area of music and worship.

What is the role of the music director and what should she or he possess? Perhaps surprisingly, she or he need not be the most gifted musician; in fact, that may well be an hindrance rather than a help. If the role is simply one of rostering o singers and musicians, he or she is merely a leader of ministers rather than a leader of leaders. What the role requires is for the person t be the leader of a leadership team.

The music director should have little contact with the musicians, singers, song writers, drama people or sound personnel. Each of these groups will need leaders, who in turn should relate to the overall music director. It takes time to build such a team. Vision, direction and initiative should come from the leadership team, not just from the music director. in fact, without such a team, the music director will have little energy left for innovative ideas and will probably rely on the ideas developed by the senior pastor.

Burnout: The cost of getting it wrong

Without leadership teams, ministry teams drain all the energy of the senior pastor, and burnout occurs.

This is also true of people such as Sunday school directors. Why is it that many churches seem to have a constant turnover of burnt-out Sunday school directors? The answer is that they frequently spend so much time teaching classes, because of a lack of teachers, that their ministry load undermines their leadership function. They never get the chance to build a leadership team and rarely have anyone trained to take over when they leave. The same can be said for choir masters and music directors.

Although busyness seems to be the problem, the lack of leadership skills is the real, and hidden, problem. People with developed leadership skills will train other leaders while fulfilling their ministry responsibilities, because they know the personal consequences of failing to do so. But many church leaders have received little or no leadership training, with burnout the eventual consequence.

Illustrating the seriousness of this situation, results from a survey I conducted on foundational training revealed that, among pastors of various denominations:

  • 93% believed they received excellent or adequate training in theology
  • 61% believed they received excellent or adequate training in pastoral duties
  • 44% believed they received excellent or adequate training in leadership

Stay tuned for part III of this series, where Dr Ian Jagelman outlines developing leadership skills and structures.



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Ian Jagelman is principal lecturer of leadership studies at Alphacrucis College in Sydney, and Director of The Jagelman Institute - an organisation focussing on equipping leaders, enabling organisations and enriching believers (



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