A church leader has many roles and responsibilities; apart from a person who guides other people, how do you know what church leadership competencies to seek? As a church leader, you provide strong advice for both people and church policies. The following church leadership competencies will help you be better equipped with the knowledge necessary to lead well.
If you're a church leader, remember you cannot do everything. Still, if you wish to be effective in ministry, it will require your attention to developing a skill set that will move you in the right direction with the right source of confidence, having the right objectives, and the right means of getting there. This will help you develop a skill set that will allow you to break through any obstacles which keep you from leading effectively.
Are you a church leader? Your congregation has entrusted you to lead them in the direction of God. Here's what you should take away from this article – we broke it down for you.
Table of Contents
- Strong Leadership is Necessary
- 6 Basic Church Leadership Competencies
- 5 Church Leadership Competencies God Ordained
- Download the Complete Church Leadership eBook
Strong Leadership is Necessary
No matter what faith you belong to, your church needs strong leadership. Without a competent leader, your church will be like a ship without a rudder, drifting wherever the waves direct it.
However, strong leadership needs a proper definition. You'll likely come away with different answers no matter whom you ask. For your church to succeed, you'll need to evaluate current and potential leaders against church leadership competencies.
If you're struggling to define essential leadership skills or what makes a successful church leader, look no further. This guide will describe and explain 11 core competencies your leader needs.
6 Basic Church Leadership Competencies
Regardless of what background you come from or what faith you adhere to, there are essential qualities that any leader should have. Without these qualities, your church will struggle and flounder. Keep reading to learn more about these competencies and what they look like!
1. Servant Leader
In recent decades, the term "servant leader" has been popularized by Christian faiths, though Robert Greenleaf coined it. The concept itself is timeless, however. It prioritizes a synergistic relationship between the leader and their community at its core.
Other leadership models focus on controlling activities, ordaining future policies, and defining the way forward. CEOs and members of the executive branch of the government typically use these "power-centric" models. Their focus is not primarily on service to their community (though it is a part of their job) but on controlling the country's or business's direction and setting agendas.
Servant leaders do not lead for the sake of power or achievement. Their goal is to serve others and uplift their congregation. Their pride in accomplishments is seeing others grow and achieve success.
What Does Servant Leadership Look Like?
Instead of being a "leader first," servant-leaders focus on the growth and well-being of their communities. Their goal is not to achieve power or greatness or legacy to their name but to provide a service to their community. They pour out their effort on others, seeking to uplift them.
In the framework of a church, a servant-leader devotes their time to uplifting, caring, and providing teaching to their members. Their goal is not to pull everyone along behind them but to lift everyone around them. Servant leadership is about pouring your strengths and love into others.
People like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. are prime examples of servant leadership. They sought to improve the lives of others in their community, often at their own expense. The Bible points to Jesus as the prime example of servant leadership, setting aside His desires to serve His disciples and community.
Humility ranks high on the list of church leadership competencies. Proud and arrogant leaders are challenging to work with and hard to approach. They may rely on their position as a crutch or have anger issues.
Humble leaders, on the other hand, are meek and open. While they may not revel in confrontation, they do not run away from it. They're open to fair criticism and do not boast about their achievements or position.
What Does Humble Leadership Look Like?
Humble leaders consistently treat everyone equally, and they do not change that treatment based on someone's position or status. They respect everyone regardless of their station in life.
They also understand their weaknesses and surround themselves with individuals who have complementary skills. They do not hide or avoid working on themselves but invite accountability and openness.
Leaders who embody humility foster an environment of trust and help empower those under them. They're the first to take accountability for mistakes and work hard to make everyone feel welcome.
Church leaders in a teaching position do not present themselves as better than the congregation. Instead, they point to models of humility within the faith. They show their weaknesses without self-deprecation, modeling the path of recognition and improvement.
Approachability goes hand in hand with humility. Those in positions of power should not be unreachable or "cold" to those around them. To be approachable means to invite feedback and meet conflict head-on.
Those who are approachable do not make those around them feel uncomfortable. They are easy to converse with and encourage those around them. They do not criticize or blow off individuals who seek them out.
What Does Approachable Leadership Look Like?
Deborah Riegel, a communications expert, says approachability is a critical leadership quality.
"If your direct reports, superiors, and colleagues don’t want to approach you, you’re likely to miss out on access to timely information, lose personal and professional credibility (not to mention likeability), and ultimately be seen as the kind of professional people don’t want to be like," she said.
Influential leaders invite connections and create relationships with those around them, whether they're considered subordinates or superiors. They treat everyone's voice as important, which fosters an approachable environment.
Approachable leaders put themselves in the shoes of those around them, reaching out to validate concerns. Being personable opens the door for others to have no stress when communicating with you.
Strong leaders must be empathetic. While most individuals are capable of deep sympathy or understanding and commiserating with someone's feelings, not all can be empathetic. Empathy requires an additional step: understanding why someone feels the way they do.
Whether it be managing conflict, teaching the faith, or serving their congregation, leaders need to foster empathy. Without empathy, leaders become closed and hard to approach. A lack of an empathetic spirit leads to pride and a controlling leadership style.
Empathy enables good leaders to resolve conflict, assist members, and better lead the congregation. Those who model an empathetic spirit create meaningful teams and curate effective leadership for group work to succeed.
What Does Empathetic Leadership Look Like?
Empathetic leaders have mastered the art of listening. It isn't enough to "hear" what someone has to say, but they must truly understand what it is the speaker feels and thinks as they speak. Empathy also means you listen in a non-judgmental fashion and leave any assumptions behind.
Empathetic leadership is a cornerstone of church leadership competencies because, without empathy, a leader cannot properly lead the congregation. Empathetic leaders replace immediate advice with curiosity, digging deeper to understand the core of any problem or statement.
Leaders with this trait put trust first and focus on the emotional state of others. They work to further genuine, heartfelt interactions to foster community and safe communication. These types of leaders learn and know their organizations and congregation.
Effective church leaders are also accountable. They work to communicate their goals and desires, laying out plans and working to achieve them. They accept responsibility when things go wrong and ensure that all members are part of any success.
As with all essential leadership skills, accountability is not a "one-and-done" thing. Continual growth is the goal of anyone who pursues this trait. Leaders must be accountable to others within their organization.
Whether it’s mistaken, openness about their past, or inviting insight into current affairs, accountability provides a net of trust and community involvement. Leaders without this trait often bristle at oversight or questions about operations.
What Does Accountable Leadership Look Like?
An accountable leader is open to questions and invites feedback. They always look outside themselves and refuse the temptation of isolation. Leaders without this trait will be ineffective.
Leaders with this trait do not allow pride to prevent them from asking for help. Accountable leaders understand their weaknesses and surround themselves with a diverse team to provide new insight and skills.
Accountable leadership minimizes mistakes and guides the future. They meet problems head-on and invite collaboration. They work to strengthen relationships with confidence.
Effective church leaders embrace transparency, whether it's about church finances or personal lives. It's a skill that's imperative for any church to succeed. Problems will crop up if a congregation is helmed by someone who does not embrace transparency.
Those who are transparent do what they hope others would do and invite feedback and criticism along the way. They do not seek to hide anything, yet at the same time, they do not overshare. They work to foster good stewardship and invite others to look in on the process.
Being transparent is key to building trust and furthering the organization in the business world. This is true in the church as well, but of greater importance, because the church's goal is to speak the truth in love. Without this trait, it becomes impossible to fulfill that mission.
What Does Transparent Leadership Look Like?
Transparent leaders are open and honest about their lives and their goals. They don't engage in deception or attempt to manipulate situations. They invite oversight and feedback instead of pushing against it.
Transparent leaders aim to keep everything open. Churches that aren't transparent about finances, decision-making, and operations alienate their members and hurt their faith. Leaders with this trait create spaces where conversations are accepted and invited.
Leaders with this skill focus on building trust among other leaders and their congregation. They understand that it isn't just their reputation (or their church's) at stake. They know they represent a higher power and must uphold the standard outlined in their faith.
5 Church Leadership Competencies God Ordained
The focus above has been on skills necessary for any leader, no matter their organization. Individuals with these skills are effective leaders, but they also need faith-based characteristics. Keep reading to learn more about the skills required for faith leaders!
1. Models the Faith
Modeling faith is not a one-time affair, and good leaders know this. Every step of their day-to-day lives is open to scrutiny. As a result, strong leaders focus on modeling faith through stewardship in their homes and personal lives, not just at church.
They cultivate a deep understanding of their faith and work to be a prime example of every tenet, leading the way for their congregation. They're the first to admit their mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
They come alongside those who struggle to lift them, not condemn or judge them. They know that having a role model who sets an example uplift everyone around them. Good leaders work to instill their values in the rest of the leadership team, strengthening the church.
Why This Competency is Critical to the Church
Churches rise and fall based on their leadership. Your team should understand why church leadership competencies are essential during vetting any potential leader.
A leader may uphold every other item in this list, but if they do not model the faith, they are not fit for your church. Do not be fooled by a strong resume of achievements and previous experience.
If your leaders do not model the faith, they are not fit for their position. In Ephesians, Paul is clear that a focus on Christ is paramount for any leader. Without it, their accomplishments are hollow.
Faithful leaders understand the need for transformative development. A failure to grow is stagnation, and church leaders should turn to Christ for growth. Time spent praying and renewing the mind in God's work is vital for growth.
Strong leaders seek God's guidance in their decisions and lives, turning to Him for strength. They do not hide from their weaknesses but instead focus on self-development to improve. Instead of turning inward and taking a "lone wolf" approach, they rely on others.
Those who do not acknowledge their weaknesses or mistakes cannot improve. To begin working on a problem, you must first admit that there is one in the first place. Individuals who cannot do this may be blinded by pride or unwilling to be accountable.
Why This Competency is Critical to the Church
Leaders who do not focus on improving their own lives are disqualified from church leadership. God calls us to improve through truth and grace. Leaders who cannot work on this critical point should not be leading a flock.
Effective church leaders understand that this skill goes hand in hand with modeling the faith. They lead by example by showing others how to acknowledge weak areas and improve through faith and grace. They come alongside others in humility and kindness to outline the way forward.
Self-development does not occur in a vacuum. Members of the community come together to strengthen and encourage each other. Strong leaders model this behavior and show the way forward for the congregation.
A church will flounder if growth is absent. Without a leader focused on personal development, the congregation will lack direction and example.
3. Able to Teach
Good faith leaders must be able to teach the word of God If they expect to have any impact on the congregation. Though they do not need to be the best public speaker ever to walk the earth, they must be able to communicate effectively.
At a minimum, this requires any potential leader to know the tenets of the faith at a deep level. They must be able to identify and explain why they matter and what importance they have to the church. If they do not have a basic grasp of doctrine, they will not be able to teach.
Leaders who can teach can parse the Word and explain doctrine in a topical or expository fashion. They can make their teaching relevant and applicable without confusing the congregation. If they accidentally make a mistake, they are sure to correct it so that inaccurate teaching does not propagate.
Why This Competency is Critical to the Church
Whether it's an associate pastor or the senior pastor, teaching is one of the primary duties. Anyone who desires this role needs to be able to instruct the congregation in the ways of the faith. If they cannot do so, they are not worthy of the position.
Poor teaching harms the whole church. Members do not receive the instruction they need, and it damages the reputation of both the church and the faith. A successful church leader can teach the word accurately and remain faithful to God.
Churches with solid teaching attract new members, strengthen the congregation, and remain faithful to God. It is vital to find a leader who can successfully teach the word of God.
4. Equipping Others
Part of being a servant leader is equipping others. This trait also ties in with great church leadership competencies. Good church leaders take great interest in equipping those around them, whether they're part of the leadership team or not.
A good leader engages with the flock, seeking to equip them with the traits and skills of the faith. They desire to see their congregation grow in Christ's likeness and work hard to interact with them outside of the pulpit.
A poor leader only focuses on preaching, expecting the congregation to equip themselves with their studies and listening to sermons. Churches that operate like this experience stagnation and frustrated members.
Why This Competency is Critical to the Church
According to Ephesians, God gave of His love spiritual gifts to the leaders among us so they could equip their flocks for the sake of the ministry. The goal of this equipping is to build the body in the image of Christ.
Leaders with this trait know that the responsibility of their flock is on their shoulders. They don't take such a role lightly and seek to fulfill their duty to God by pouring their hearts into those around them.
For church members to grow, they need more than solid teaching. They need leaders who take the time to assist them in their walk of faith, helping them grow closer to Christ. The goal is for the body to grow together, celebrate successes, and work on their weaknesses together.
5. Embodies the Spirit of Love
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied that it was to love God with all your heart. He also said that the second greatest was to love your neighbor as yourself. Any individual seeking the office of a leader needs to embody the same spirit of love that Christ did.
This does not mean that a leader must physically die (as Jesus did) to serve their congregation. It means they need to die for themselves, setting aside their wants and desires in favor of their community. They must seek to show the same love to everyone around them that Jesus did.
The best definition of love comes from 1 Corinthians 13, outlining love as a verb through multiple actions. Love is not static or ineffective but is active through an individual's actions.
Love is a cornerstone of church leadership competencies because any action (especially in the church) undertaken without love, as the apostle Paul said, gains nothing. Any person hopeful of obtaining the position of a leader must exemplify a love like Christ's every day.
Why This Competency is Critical to the Church
Love is perhaps the single most significant factor for any undertaking done by individuals of faith. Churches exist to spread and share His love with everyone. As a result, anyone who seeks the role of leader in the church should have a love for everyone at the core of their being.
Love underpins service, seeking to support and come alongside others. It is the reason for empathy, servant leadership, the desire to grow as a person, and more. These qualities, the absence of love, are futile within the church.
Effective church leaders model Christ, living out his love daily. Whether in service to the church or their own families, love underpins it. Every choice they make, every action they perform is made in service to others out of love mirroring Christ's.
For a leader to fulfill God's calling and serve the church, they must fully embody a spirit of love. They must satisfy the verb forms of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 and act daily on them. Without love, everything else that would qualify an individual for church leadership is empty.
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