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4 Stages of Church Leadership Growth

If you’ve led in a church for any length of time, you can probably tell some stories of experiences you’ve had with dysfunctional church boards. Church boards become dysfunctional for a variety of reasons. But more often than not, they become dysfunctional because those involved simply don’t understand their role or what the function of the board is. What is more, those involved with the board fail to understand what the church needs from them as a board at the different stages of growth that the church experiences. Below are the four basic stages that a board goes through as a church experiences growth.

Stage 1: Doers

Early in the life of a church and in smaller churches, the board members are usually up to their elbows doing ministry. They are usually the ones leading ministries right alongside of the pastor. At this stage, the board is leading with the church staff. Church size: 0-250

Stage 2: Approvers

As the church begins to grow and change, so does the role of the board. They move from doing ministry (that’s not to say they’re not involved in ministry, it’s just no longer their primary function) to approving the decisions and direction that the church is taking. Church size: 250-800

Stage 3: Reviewers

Next, the board transitions to no longer approving every decision, but rather trusting the staff that is in day-to-day leadership roles to lead the church. The board is kept informed and made aware of how things are progressing. The decisions that they are involved with at this stage involve higher level directional decisions that have a trickle down affect. Church size: 800-2,500

Stage 4: Counselors

Ultimately, as the church grows into the 1,000s, the Board then moves into a role where they are taking on a 30,000-foot view and act more as wise counsel to the staff that are leading the church. Unable to stay completely informed of the complexities and pace of a large organization, they become the keepers to the gate of the mission and vision, and in so doing they begin to serve as both the brakes and the gas pedal. They are involved in very few actual organizational decisions at this stage, but those decisions they are involved with affect the entire organization. Church size: over 2,500

Often times, churches get stuck and boards become dysfunctional because the board and the staff that relate to the board don’t understand these simple stages and the transitions that need to take place at each stage.