If you ask ten church members their definition of what a church leader is, you’ll get ten different definitions. More frustrating is that if you ask ten different church leaders their definition of church leadership, you’ll get ten different answers. So we must begin by defining what we mean by church leadership.
For the purposes of this site, church leadership can be defined as the process of influencing other people to work together to accomplish a desired purpose.
For starters, leadership is a process. Leadership does not just happen without effort. Likewise leaders are not just people in positions of authority, leaders are people who do something. Leadership often involves not just one action but a series of actions revolving around a plan to achieve a purpose.
Leadership is also about influence. Real leaders will rarely use the “big stick” method of leading. Leading by threat will not get far because eventually the people will seek a place where they don’t feel threatened. Likewise this is not the best way to lead a church as Jesus did not lead through threats. Instead of threats, a good leader will find ways to convince people that his way is best and will gently bring them over to his side.
Leadership requires people to work together. Our circle of influence is really pretty small even in the context of the church. A church leader will only have direct influence over a handful of people but each of those people will have influence over another group of people and the leader’s influence will multiply quickly. The goal of wielding this influence is to get everyone to work together for a common purpose or plan.
This brings us to the final point about our definition of church leadership; there must be a goal in mind. In short, a leader isn’t leading if he’s not taking a group of people somewhere. A walk around the block is not leading when everybody knows where they are going and they all end up where they started. A true leader is going to take a group of people somewhere that they couldn’t get to on their own. In the context of the church that may be a successful outreach event, a building project, or a change in the way the church operates.