A post I wrote recently for the EA Slipstream blog
The Critical Need
Evangelical churches are not identifying, training, resourcing and releasing new leaders at anywhere near the numbers that are necessary to stay level in the next generation - let alone to see fresh waves of church planting. It's not that there aren’t bright spots. There are – but nowhere near enough.
We are also losing longer term leaders at an unprecedented rate, and this at exactly the time they should be most capable and energised to bring on the next generation. The average age of leaders is over 50 and rising, meaning that in 10-15 years time we will see mass retirement with not enough people coming through to replace them.
This is a crucial and alarming figure. The window of opportunity we have to change this situation is 10-15 years.
A Critical Tipping Point
One other factor that needs to be considered is the shrinkage in average size of evangelical churches. The average church has reached the point in just the last few years at which it cannot afford average ministry training fees for one person. This is a tipping point of massive proportions. When the average church does not produce leaders, then it is unknowingly facing extinction within a generation. But not only is the average church struggling to train leaders at college, it is now also of a size that means it is unlikely to have internal leadership training skills.
What percentage of your congregation have you sent into full time church leading or church planting in the UK over the last 10 years? If your answer is much more than 1% you are unusual. 1%, however, won’t replace the numbers shortly to be lost. It isn’t even self-sustaining.
A Critical Decision
The development of godly leadership is the single greatest question facing us over the next generation. Your church you can put money, manpower and resources into a host of other important things, but if in 20 years time you have no leaders, all those other ministries will eventually die. Not to take decisions right now to develop leaders in your church is a fatal false economy. We need to start lighting leadership fires in as many people as we possibly can.
God Gives Leaders
Whatever the reasons for leadership decline, it is NOT that God isn’t giving enough leaders to the Church. Jesus said “I will build my church.” The Holy Spirit gives gifts, including leadership, for the building of the Church to maturity to the stature of Christ.
Therefore if leaders aren’t coming through, it has to be that there are systemic or manmade hurdles, or lack of expectation that prevents it. For the sake of the Kingdom and of the next generation, we have to spot what those hurdles are and clear as many out of the way as we can. We need:
- a lot of Christ-glorifying biblical leaders, especially among the young
- leaders who are constantly growing and are consistently thrilled with God and his word
- leaders who are nurtured and sustained over the long haul and who therefore continue to love leading, love the Lord and love the Church
The Mindset of Your Church
I believe that one of the biggest hindrances to the emergence of leaders is when local churches don’t believe they are the primary place it should happen, therefore time and effort are not given to it. There is no expectation, no normal culture, that makes it easy for someone to explore whether God is leading them into a leadership role.
Too often our expectations is that God gives only a few leaders, that it is an elite role, that few should consider leadership in any form and that even fewer can access any training. Does my church regularly train home group leaders, junior preachers, PCC members, elders, deacons or Sunday school teachers? If the answer is “no” then you probably have a culture that is resistant to the emergence of leaders.
You have to ask how you can change this. In 15 years it will be too late. There is no cavalry that will arrive from over the hill to rescue your church by providing the next generation of leaders. You have to be actively involved in the process. As many as possible should be involved in being leader-makers, if we wish to see a snowballing. My prayer is that some might read this post and discover God igniting that passion in you.