4 Things Holding Your Elder Board and Staff Back From Thriving

When an elder board and staff thrive, the local church thrives. But you and I both know of too many stories and examples of elder boards (or whatever you call your leadership team) and church staffs that are dysfunctional. Why is that?

4 Things Holding Your Elder Board and Staff Back From Thriving
Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

According to Thom Rainer, 200 churches will close this week. That’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking that the local church, for too long, hasn’t been a beacon of light when it comes to thriving leadership teams. Because make no mistake, dysfunctional leadership in a local church is a sure sign that that local church is on its way to the morgue.

If any organization, any group of people should be thriving, it should be the local church and her leadership team.

If you want your elder board and staff to thrive, it takes awareness of what is and courage to make changes when necessary.

4 Things Holding Your Elder Board and Staff Back From Thriving

1. A lack of trust.

Whenever there is a lack of trust inside of a team, that team has major cracks in its foundation. But the thing about trust is that it takes some time to build.

A team built on trust will prove to be a team that can work through difficult challenges time and time again.

Here are some ideas on how to build trust in and among your leadership teams:

  • Have people share their story. Build this into meetings and have one person share their story and encourage those listening to respond.
  • Encourage team members to have each other and their families over for dinner.
  • Get the team together for some fun. Don’t make it all about church all the time.
  • Serve together. Of course, this should automatically happen, but take it a step further and get the elder board and/or the church staff together to serve at a local mission.

@the__crossing staff outing to the Reds today!

A post shared by Brandon Kelley (@bkel89) on

2. A lack of transparency.

If you only want your ideas adopted and you don’t want them challenged by the team, don’t encourage transparency. But if you want to lead a thriving elder board, a thriving church staff, and a thriving local church, invite and encourage people on those teams to openly disagree and to speak their minds.

Transparency within a leadership team is a beautiful thing because it is a natural result of good theology – the Holy Spirit works through all disciples.

Here are some ideas on building transparency in and among your leadership teams:

  • Invite people to speak their minds over and over again.
  • When someone disagrees with you, don’t railroad them. Value it and thank them for it.
  • If someone doesn’t speak their mind in a leadership environment and then holds bitterness about a decision, meet with them individually, and stress to them the value of transparency.
  • Invite people to speak their minds over and over again.
  • And again.
  • And again.
  • And… You get the idea.

3. A lack of direction/clarity.

Whenever you think about your elder board and your church staff, I want to encourage you to think about a picture.

Leadership in the local church often looks like white water rafting. It requires everyone on the raft to play a part and to navigate around the rocks and the deadly waterfalls. But if everyone on that raft doesn’t know where the raft is supposed to go, bad things can happen.

Michael Lukaszewski of Church Fuel says that the lead pastor is the chief clarity officer. I completely agree.

A thriving elder board and staff requires a clear direction to row toward.

Here are some ideas on how to bring clarity and direction to your leadership teams:

  • Define the win.
  • Celebrate the win.
  • Use Will Mancini’s book, God Dreams to develop a clear vision for the future in your next leadership retreat. Or better yet, hire Auxano to help you.
  • Talk about the vision over and over again.
  • And again.
  • And again.
  • But really. Again.

4. An absence of disciple-making.

Want to know how to stay hungry as a leader? Do what Jesus told us all to do: make disciples.

Want to know how to drift toward frustration as a leader? Stop being intentional about making disciples.

When an elder board and/or a church staff isn’t making disciples in small groups and one on one with people, it’s a sign that frustration is coming.

Here are some ideas on how to build a culture of disciple-making in your elder board and staff:

  • Lead from the front. Talk about who you’re discipling and what God is doing in their lives.
  • Simply ask, who are you discipling?
  • Make it an expectation by talking about disciple-making over and over again.
  • Celebrate when it is happening.
  • Recommend tools and resources.
  • Make it an expectation by talking about disciple-making over and over again.
  • And again.
  • And again.


What Would You Add?

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This article contains some affiliate links which means if you purchase a product through one of them, I’ll make a small percentage from it. This doesn’t increase your price at all.

Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Lead Pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, IN. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.


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