Pastor Mike Slaughter says one of the key factors determining the effectiveness of a congregation is the presence of principled leaders who demonstrate a vital personal faith. And, he says, “if you look across your congregation and can’t identify a core group of principled Christian leaders, then you better start growing them!” Slaughter provides six practical ideas for jumpstarting leadership formation in your church.
One of the key factors determining the effectiveness of a congregation is the presence of principled leaders who demonstrate a vital personal faith. If you look across your congregation and can’t identify a core group of principled Christian leaders, then you better start growing them!
Principled Christian leaders are more than just fans of Jesus; they have made the commitment to follow Jesus in the costly way of the cross. They have moved beyond volunteerism to a lifestyle of servanthood.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t enter his inner circle fully equipped to ignite a movement; they spent three intensive years walking in the dust of the Rabbi Jesus. Discipleship is not an overnight venture; it is an investment of time, energy, and prayer for the long haul. Your congregation will never experience effective mission if a strategy for discipleship is not a top priority.
Here are a few practical ideas for getting started:
- Small groups. If you don’t already have a small group ministry within your church, now is the time to start. Something happens in circles that doesn’t happen in rows. Study of Scripture, prayer, accountability, and care for one another are key components of a vibrant small group community.
- Personal mentoring. If you are a pastor or seasoned church leader, identify those within the congregation whose hearts are strangely warmed and invite them into your own home for deeper discipling and mentoring.
- A clear pathway. Does your church have clearly defined discipleship and leadership paths with easily understood steps and multiple access points? (Some good access points are guest orientation, membership process, classes for deeper spiritual growth, small groups, and service opportunities including some that fall outside traditional ministry roles, such as greeting in worship or serving with children.) How will you make a point of converting the crowd into convicted and active followers of Jesus?
- A coaching ladder. Ensure that you have included in your own circle both those who are ahead of you spiritually and those who are behind. Who is coaching you? Whom are you coaching? Intentionality is important. Who is asking the hard questions?
- Service as a kingdom priority. Use the word servant instead of volunteer. Volunteer is institutional language implying that there is a choice of when, how, and if to serve based on personal convenience. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). Does your church culture proclaim and model service as a Kingdom priority? You get what you expect and what you celebrate as priorities. Call is important, but many folks find their call during service, not before.
- Focus on young persons. How are you helping teens and college-age students in your congregation be alert to the call of God into ministry, whether as a layperson or as someone trained for the vocation? How are you connecting students into programs, internships, and ministry opportunities that will help them explore and grow?
Principled Christian leaders are kingdom difference-makers. These folks are more than just fans of Jesus; they have made the commitment to follow Jesus in the costly way of the cross. They have moved beyond volunteerism to a lifestyle of servanthood. Let’s pull out all the stops, set aside excuses, and invest whatever is required to develop principled Christian leaders.
This material is adapted from Mike Slaughter’s book, with Karen Perry Smith, The Passionate Church: Ignite Your Church and Change the World (Abingdon Press, 2016). Used by permission. The book is available through Cokesbury or Amazon.
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