Some Advantages and Challenges of Building Your Own Small Church Leadership Team

lego headsI am an unapologetic fan of pastors and churches finding, training and building leadership teams from within our churches, instead of hiring them from the outside.

Yes, there are exceptions to that, especially in larger churches, when there may be a need for ministers with some very specific skillsets. But in a Small Church, building your own team is usually the best way to go. Often, it’s our only option.

I’m also a huge supporter of pastors getting a solid theological training, so this is in no way offered as a substitute for that. In our church, many of the younger people who become leaders either head off to seminary after being called into ministry at our church, or supplement the discipleship they receive with us by going to a local bible school or getting an online degree.

When it comes to hands-on discipleship and academic book learning, the best method is never either/or, but both/and.

There are also many people in our churches who will never be called into full-time ministry, who can be discipled very well and prepared for church leadership within their own church body.

But I’m not naïve. Raising up our own teams has great challenges and risks, too.

Here are some of the advantages and challenges our church has dealt with in almost two decades of building our church leadership team this way.

This is the third and final post of a three-part series. Click here for the first post, Great Small Church Leadership Teams Aren’t Hired, They’re Built, or the second post, How to Find, Train and Build a Great Small Church Leadership Team.


Some Advantages of Building Your Own Church Leadership Team

1. You don’t have to wonder if they’ll like the church or if they’ll understand and agree with the church’s philosophy of ministry

2. Church members already know the leader, and vice versa (Yeah, I know. This could go on the next list, too.)

3. You can train and test them as volunteers first

4. You can see how they do in various roles, then help them match up with a ministry that utilizes their gifts and abilities

5. You’re following the biblical mandate to make disciples 

6. They already have employment outside the church so they can work for free or at minimal pay

7. It lets church members know they really can contribute something to the leadership and ministry of the church

8. It blurs the line between clergy and laity to something a little closer to what I believe is the biblical model


Some Challenges of Building Your Own Church Leadership Team

Hiring from within isn’t always easy. Here are a few bumps we’ve felt along the way:

1. The smaller the church, the smaller the pool of volunteers to draw from

2. It takes a lot more time, training, oversight and emotional investment than bringing in an “expert”

3. Theological training often gets shortchanged if we’re not purposeful about it

4. We have to be careful of nepotism and favoritism

5. When things don’t work out, letting them go is brutally hard on everyone

6. We can lose good people after investing in them, because some will go to another church that is able to pay them to do ministry. (Our church has made the conscious decision to invest in the kingdom of God in this way and celebrate them when they’re called away.)


Is It Worth It?

For me, the final word is that the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

Seeing people come in, make a commitment to Christ, be discipled, then become leaders and disciplers themselves isn’t easy. But the best things never are.


So what do you think? Do you know of any other advantages or challenges you can add?

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(Lego Heads photo from Daniel Novta • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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