Making a Great Leader
When we consider elders in the church and other leaders, we can read from the Scriptures what qualities to look for in a leader. For instance, in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 we find the qualities that make an elder (bishop, pastor, presbyter). But now what? What do I mean by this? Well, when one humbles himself before God and obeys the Gospel and becomes a Christian, Paul and Peter describe them as coming out of the water as a baby (Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 2:2). But, if that is true of Christians, is that not also true of leaders in the church? An leader worth his or her salt knows that qualities are just a starting point for leadership.
Leadership is hard and often ugly. It has its growing pains, and church leadership is no exception. In the church, elders who are appointed to office oftentimes leave because they did not realize all the difficulties that are involved or they presumed that once they are in that role that it is smooth sailing from there. But hardly. There are countless elders who have thrown in the towel. Why? Could it be that they gave it all they could? Or, could it be that they were not continually equipped for the ministry of elders or the ministry of deacons? I believe that church leaders should be looking for ways they can develop as a leader and as a follower of Christ. That means that it will take more than just reading the Bible because staying stagnant is easy. But, great church leaders don’t choose what is easy; they choose what is best for the church. So, consider if you will, a small list of characteristics above and beyond the qualities found in the Bible.
It begins by knowing that the very best church leaders are life long learners. Leaders should always possess an insatiable curiosity. This is because they do not know everything and are constantly and consistently seeking ways to improve themselves and the qualities that got them into the role of an elder. These leaders are looking at what other church leaders are doing and seeing if there are better ways of handling things or solving problems or if the church is equipped to the best of their knowledge. But, those who believe they do not need help from others or that they need no additional knowledge need to reexamine themselves and why they are leaders.
Great leaders are wonderful listeners. They can hear a pin drop and what I mean is that there is nothing that will empower and encourage others you serve with than to know that you listen to them. Great leaders are not just a body in the room. They are more than just being present. They are involved.
Along similar lines of listening is being a leader who has a mentor. No great leader came to know what he knows without someone helping him or her along the way. And, in the church, it is essential, in my humble opinion, to have a mentor. Preachers are constantly seeking advice from those who are older. Why not elders? Do they think there is no need? Do they think they are better than others? Do they think that just because each congregation is autonomous that no one could share ideas? If so, then how did each letter of the New Testament float around to each congregation? Maybe the Roman Christians should have kept their letter to themselves? You see, the best leaders understand that there is much to learn from leaders who have gone before them. If you don’t have a mentor, ask yourself, “Who is someone that is where I want to be in 10-20 years?” and ask them to coffee (I go to Starbucks). Pick their brain and ask them how they got where they are. Ask your mentor to meet with you on a regular basis. That might mean on a monthly basis or a few times a year.
But, even more beyond these qualities is that the best leaders live on the solution-side of life. Why do we always look at things as a problem to overcome? Must leaders always see themselves as a victim? Must we shift the blame, pass the bucket or can we just find the solution?? Having a solution mentality is realizing that you are a peacemaker and that life is full of hardships and challenges, but that it’s our responsibility to ask the question, “How can I make this better?” And, when there is an issue, nothing is better when one sees a wise and humble eldership seek for a solution. This is vital to an eldership.
Another great characteristic of a leader in the church is to not be a “know it all.” You can and you may be, but you are wrong. That may sting! But, who is perfect that is reading this? Not me and certainly not you. Only Christ is perfect and only He is sinless. So, remember that great leaders don’t have all the answers, and they know that. They are humble and willing to admit when they are wrong or when they need help. And in fact, a great eldership consists of great elders who make each other’s weaknesses strong.
I hope you can see that there is so much more than just qualities of an elder or a deacon or preacher or any other leader in and out of the church. Everyone has their ups and downs, their challenges and roadblocks, but great leaders approach each one and the things they face with truth and grace. Great leaders know when to say yes and when to say no. Great leaders know when they are about to burnout and how to slow down so they can continue to fight the good fight of faith. And, they have people in their life who tell them when they are out of balance and help them focus on what is important. May we all learn from these few characteristics.