Breaking Your Growth Barriers


    Most pastors agree his number one job in the local church is to "grow the church" by making disciples. Church growth takes more than relevant sermon series and strong home groups; it also takes another vital ingredient...growing leaders and leadership. One of the greatest responsibilities of pastors and leaders in the church is reproducing themselves. When leaders stop raising up leaders, a growth barrier is just around the corner. Why? Because your church can only grow as large as your leadership; and as talented as you are, your leadership alone cannot sustain consistent growth. Church growth is synonymous with growing your own leadership and raising up new leaders. 

    This is one of the reasons (not the only reason) most rural churches in America tap out around 80 people. In this scenario, the pastor is typically the only one leading. A decent leader can consistently lead around 80-100 people well. When a church begins pushing past 200 or 300, you'll notice the pastor has grown himself and has raised up other leaders around him (youth pastor, elder, exe pastor, etc). It's a simple principle; whatever you're leading today (the number of people) is based upon your current leadership, which will determine what you are capable of leading tomorrow. If you want to grow your church, grow yourself AND raise up leaders around you and you'll find yourself leading more people tomorrow. 

  While working with different pastors from around the country, there is always two underlined questions that come up when I talk about raising up leaders. 


  • "How do I raise up new people who want to become a leader?"
  • "How do I empower new people who already seem to be a good leader?" 

   These are great questions. For the pastor, raising up new people as leaders can be a little scary. There is always risks involved when allowing new people to lead whom you have never seen their track record (if they even have one). And we can't discount those with no track record, because they are the norm; finding people who are already strong leaders will always be the exception.  If we don't create an onramp for new emerging leaders, we automatically invite growth barriers to our church. Also see my blog on Raising up Leaders from Inside your Church.

   The other side of the coin is plugging in new people who already have leadership traits. This is people who have leadership experience in the church and/or corporate world. They know the language, they're organized, and they understand strategy; and while you're excited to watch them flourish, there's a little knot in you're stomach because you know they lack the DNA of the church. We all know when new people come into the church with extensive leadership backgrounds, they can be a trophy or a tragedy. Experienced leaders, if not shaped and molded to the vision and DNA of your church, can cause division. The question is, how do I shape and form someone who is already a leader without making them feel like I'm micromanaging them? Micromanaging good leaders is one of the quickest ways to lose good leaders. 


   Let me give you two simple concepts that will help you deal with new inexperienced emerging leaders and new people who are already experienced leaders. Every person who leads in your church needs to be on a train track or a road with guard rails. When you and your team are together talking about potential leaders, you should be able to determine quickly if that person is a train track person or a guard rail person. Let me explain. 

The Train Track: New, inexperienced, emerging leaders always need to be placed on the train track. A brand new leader should be treated like a conductor. He or she is in charge of what's behind them; and while they are controlling the speed and the direction, they have a very defined area of movement. The train track allows movement to occur, but only in one direction with little or no opportunities to veer off course and no swerving. New emerging leaders need to be placed in positions where the destination is clear and defined; their responsibilities should consist of leading something from point A to point B on a very well laid out track. Of course, there will always be derailments and train wrecks, which will serve as teaching moments for you to make them a better leader. 

The Guard Rails: New people who have experience in leadership need to be given guard rail positions. Unlike the train track, there is much more room to move, swerve, and even do a U-turn when necessary. However, the guard rails are in place to keep the experienced leader from veering off course, or a better term, from falling into vision drift. Experienced leaders (especially from other churches) oftentimes carry pieces of vision with them from their previous role, and if they're not careful, they'll take a sharp left and get everyone who is following them lost (which is how most church splits occur). Experienced leaders must have room to move; they need permission to make u-turns and even get in the ditch sometime; but there must be guard rails in place to make sure they understand the destination. Unlike the train track, they have more freedom, which means they'll have the option (or temptation) to take a side road. Good guard rails (things like accountability, close relationship, healthy, consistent vision casting, etc) help prevent that and will enable the experienced leader to become vital part of your church and mission. 

If you're ready to grow your church, start by growing your own leadership. Find a good mentoring or coaching relationship and read the right books. Be intentional about raising up leaders. Begin compiling a list of people who you feel have the potential to become leaders in your church and determine where they should start...the train track or the road with guard rails. 

Be sure to check out other resources at The Unstuck Group


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