Big Churches Getting Bigger: The Leadership Factor

This is a guest post from Tony Morgan. Read more of his insights at

I've been in the process of writing about how big churches are continuing to get bigger and highlighting some of the reasons why I believe that's happening. In this post, I'd like to talk about the leadership factor.

I'm in the camp that believes leadership is a spiritual gift. Romans 12:8 tells us, "If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously." One of the distinctives of large, growing churches is that they value leadership development. That's not the case in small, declining churches.

In small churches, leaders are controlled. This typically happens through the way churches are structured. Instead of giving pastors and other ministry leaders the freedom to make decisions and make ministry happen, churches will add layers of boards and committees, rules and processes to prevent leaders from doing just about anything on their own. The smaller the church, typically, the more complex the structure.

In growing churches, what I usually find is that leaders have been released to lead. Boundaries are established to create a framework for decisions and actions, but within those boundaries is the freedom for leaders to leverage their spiritual gifts. Unfortunately, many churches are willing to embrace shepherds, teachers and pastors, but they're unwilling to embrace leaders.

Churches who understand the leadership factor share these characteristics:

* They are staff-led and not committee-controlled.
* They empower the senior pastor and the spiritual authority of that position.
* They see leadership as critical not only at the very top of the organization but in every layer of the ministry.
* They know that leadership is a gift, and it must be developed.
* They understand that not everyone is a leader and they're intentional about moving people into ministry that best fits their gifts.
* They embrace both staff and volunteer leaders. Paid staff are not the only people with the leadership gift.
* They recognize leadership isn't just for men over the age of 40.
* They are careful to prioritize the character over the skill of a leader.

The bottom line is that it's impossible to grow a healthy church and have an environment that values control over empowerment.

If you'd like to read more about my thoughts on leadership, check out this series of posts on my theology of leadership.