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Many churches struggle with how they can have a more effective ministry to their communities.
At pastor gatherings and workshops, I will be asked by more than one pastor how their churches can get out of their ruts and begin to engage their communities.

In some cases, they already know the answer but are asking how they can get their congregations on board for the changes that need to be made. Others really don’t know what needs to be different.

In his excellent book, “The Fly in the Ointment: Why Denominations Aren’t Helping Their Congregations and How They Can,” J. Russell Crabtree lists six characteristics of effective organizations, which are applicable to local churches:

1. They recruit, develop and retain effective leaders.

2. They are externally focused.

3. They are tactically nimble.

4. They engage the whole person.

5. They are relentless learners.

6. They use best practices.

Sadly, I’ve been in churches where none of these things is being done. Such churches should not be surprised that little ministry is occurring in their churches. They are doing nothing to intentionally become an effective ministry.

These churches are often made up of some very nice folks who hope each week for a breakthrough that never comes. Such advances seldom come when the church is not ready to handle it.

Churches that are not defined by these six characteristics are not going to be ready to handle the kind of breakthrough they desire.

While all items on the list are essential, everything rises and falls on leadership.

Nothing good can happen in an organization if it does not have effective leaders. For churches, this includes both pastoral and lay leadership.

In many of the small churches I visit, they are doing nothing to develop leaders. Often they have the same lay leadership they have had for years—decades in some cases.

Little is done to offer these folks training and even less thought is given to recruiting and developing future leaders.

For a church to enjoy an effective ministry over many years, it must have future leaders filling its pipeline in various stages of development.

When I share this, some will object and say their church doesn’t have any future leaders to develop.

That is a symptom of a lack of evangelism. If a church is fulfilling the Great Commission, there should be potential leaders coming to Christ and involved in the discipleship ministry of your church.

When I first began my pastoral ministry, our church constitution called for six deacons with two rotating off each year, yet there were only four deacons who had served for years because they didn’t have anyone to take their place.

It took two or three years, but we began to have new leaders come into the church. Within a couple more years, we had six deacons and were able to rotate them on and off the board each year.

All it took was doing effective outreach and leadership development. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened because we were intentional about recruiting, developing and retaining effective leaders.

Great leaders will attract other great leaders. Poor leaders will attract followers. Which do you think brings the greatest benefit to the church?

As you develop leaders in your church, they will attract other leaders. When this cycle is working well, any organization will benefit. The key is being intentional about leadership development.

Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Bivocational Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.

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