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7 Ways to Build Teams of Great Leaders (When You Feel Like Your Team Is Lacking)

3. Look Beyond Your Official Structure

Just a point of clarification: The best leaders you have may not be on your board or on your current team.

So this conversation could be an awkward one. I get that. One of the realities of small church life and stuck church life is that leaders don’t always end up in positions of leadership.

In smaller or stagnant churches, board positions and volunteer roles often aren’t always filled by people with the gift of leadership.

Often, they’re filled by people who have simply been around a long time, or by someone who didn’t even really want the job…it’s just nobody else stepped up.

Don’t blame them. It’s admirable in one sense that when nobody else wanted to do it, some good-hearted soul stepped in to fill the void.

But here you are, a decade later and they’re still in the role, unable to handle the future.

You can build some side teams and fill new roles with the leaders you’re finding.

But at some point, you’ll have to have an awkward conversation with your existing leaders about who is best positioned to lead the church moving forward. It can be hard. I actually shot a video in my Breaking 200 Without Breaking You course for church boards to watch where I explain that some of them may need to step aside for the church to thrive in the future. (Seriously, I did. May as well make me the bad guy who tells them this. And besides, the healthy people will understand exactly what we’re talking about.)

You have to build the church of the future in the present, and you do it by finding the best leaders you can find whether they’re officially in leadership or not.

As your church grows and pushes past 500 or 1,000 in attendance (which I know sounds impossible right now…hang on), one of the things that will happen is that leaders will take up positions of leadership.

And when that happens, the church will thrive.

But if you’re not there, start by getting real leaders into as many positions of leadership as possible, even if you need to create some new ones.

4. Resist the Temptation to Buy Leaders

As your church grows, you may have a little money for the first time. The fantasy is that you’ll buy amazing talent from outside your church.

That may be a wise move from time to time, but for the most part, it isn’t.

You will never have enough money to buy a team. Besides, most of your church will always run on volunteers. First, it’s biblical. The job of the staff is to release and empower the gifts of the congregation (volunteers).

And second, no matter how large you may grow, even megachurches have the vast majority of their ministry done by volunteers, not by staff. You will never have enough staff to outperform a highly motivated, gifted core of volunteers.

Occasionally you may be able to hire a great leader from the outside, but 99 percent of your day to day leadership will come from building leaders on the inside.

And that’s the secret.

Great churches don’t buy great leaders, they build them.

Building leaders will always get you far more results than buying them. First, it scales.

And second, outside people take a long time to learn your DNA—your unique way of doing things. And the failure rate for an outside hire is always greater than for people who were raised up from the inside.