An excellent church needs strong leadership and a dedicated congregation. Every single member of the church needs to understand the roles and responsibilities of the church’s leaders.
Different types of church leaders help your church-run, and all are equally important. When you define and understand the roles and responsibilities of each leader, your church will thrive. And a thriving church will grow from the congregation all the way up to your church board and worship team.
You may know from my bio or the previous articles that I have worked in churches as small as fifty members up to a megachurch of over four thousand. I’ve also worked in nearly every role I’m about to mention.
Let my experience help you develop a leadership guide for your own church.
Here’s what I’ll cover:
- Types Of Church Leadership Roles
- The Importance Of Church Leadership
- How To Grow Your Church’s Leadership Team
Types Of Church Leadership Roles
You’re of course familiar with church leadership roles like the minister, pastor, bishop, and priest. But in addition to these titles, every religious organization needs a church board and an administration team to run the daily operations, ensure legal compliance, and make sure that the worship team is always communicating the church’s message. Your congregation notices when your church leadership team is on the same page.
Before continuing, let’s clarify a few terms.
- Church Leader: The head pastor/bishop/priest. This is the person who leads the church.
- Church Leadership: The rest of the team that follows the lead of the church leader. Sometimes, the leadership will be split into teams, like the worship team, or the youth team.
Maintaining and growing a successful church is a team effort. From the spiritual leader who preaches to the congregation to the treasurer and secretary, all successful churches must have strong leadership. The three main types of church leadership roles are ministry roles, church administration roles, and church board roles.
As your church grows, you’ll need to increase the staff. Open job opportunities in your church can also help you increase the size of your congregation, so be sure to communicate all job openings to your community.
Church leadership roles have evolved over the years. In the early church, for instance, some of the leadership was left to whoever owned the building that people worshipped in. But nowadays, the roles are much more complex.
The title of your church leaders can vary by religion and denomination. For instance, a Baptist church is led by a minister, and a Catholic church’s leader is called a priest.
The pastor is a key role in the church. Here are a few duties that every good pastor must fulfill:
- Lead a regular worship service
- Serve at church events such as weddings, baptisms, and funerals
- Offer personal ministry to church members
- Communicate the church’s message to the community through words and actions
Your church’s pastor is likely the face of your church. Each church member recognizes the pastor as a spiritual leader. So your pastor must embody the church’s message and philosophy to effectively serve your congregation.
A good church leader takes their duties seriously and basically acts as a brand ambassador for the church.
While the minister is sometimes used interchangeably with the pastor, in some churches the roles are separate in a few ways. For instance, in the megachurch I worked in, we had many different ministries. We had one minister who was head of the hospital ministry, another who was head of the food pantry, and another who was head of the prison ministry.
The ministers never preached in the church as the pastors did, but they did preach in their respective areas and often led prayer meetings and other church functions.
Deacons fill many roles in the actual running of the church service. First, they can act as ushers. Later, they will collect and usually count the offering with the church treasurer. Finally, they will stand at the altar and pray with people at the end of service when the pastor is calling for prayer or for people who need salvation.
Historically, the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written to a deacon of a church that the Apostle Paul founded.
In just about all Christian leadership, the “spokesperson” of the church is referred to as the lay leader. This person communicates directly with the congregation on a regular basis.
The lay leader works with the church board. Every church has a lay leader in charge of ministry but serves underneath the senior pastor. These leaders communicate the church’s message to the congregation.
Your worship leader is often the face of your church as much as the head pastor. So their attitude, demeanor, and dedication are important. They should caringly and enthusiastically lead worship services, be available to rehearse at any time, and minister the worship team’s needs.
The worship leader should not only have some musical talent themselves, but they must be able to see the potential in others so that your music program can grow.
Church Administration Roles
Church administration is how the lights stay on and the restrooms stay clean. It isn’t always pretty, but the administration is what makes the world go round.
The first contact with your church will sometimes be the person who picks up the phone or responds to the email. A good receptionist is organized, friendly, and understands the roles of every other person working at the church so that a person in need can be sent to the proper ministry within the church.
Maintenance is probably the least spiritually demanding role, but without them, your building becomes a mess. Whether or not you agree that cleanliness is next to godliness, a messy building can send the wrong message to your congregation.
IT, or Information Technology, departments are becoming more and more necessary as time goes on. Someone needs to be in charge of the church’s computers and website. While a smaller church might be able to get away with having someone volunteer for this position, larger churches will need to pay at least one person, if not more.
As your church grows, you will attract more people who enjoy being disruptive. Not only that, but safety in the parking lot becomes a growing concern as well. Hiring a security firm to handle crowd control and to protect from disruptive influences becomes a necessary investment as you grow into the higher hundreds and possibly thousands of church members.
Any church can benefit from having a good relationship with a tax lawyer who can help you navigate through the maze of laws surrounding your church’s tax status on both the state and local levels. Much like IT, the larger your church grows, the more likely you will have to hire your own lawyer or put one on retainer.
Church Board Roles
The board consists of members of the congregation who handle the church’s finances, organize events, and keep the church compliant with denominational regulations and state and federal laws. The board is a crucial part of the church administration and leadership.
The church board must consist of at least 4 people, by law if it is a 501(c)(3) corporation in the U.S., so the structure will look very similar to any other corporation. You can have many more than 4 board members if you want, so consider it the minimum.
Almost invariably, in churches with a board structure, the CEO position is filled by the head pastor. This person is the leader of the corporation and helps steer it. The CEO takes the things that the board votes on and makes them happen. That is why the head pastor, as the spiritual leader, is usually the one to hold this position.
The president of any board ensures that the board meetings happen according to the bylaws of the church and is generally in charge of what gets onto the agenda of each meeting. Sometimes, the president is also called the chairman. Other times, the chairman of the board is an honorary title. There is no hard and fast rule to it.
The board secretary handles any paperwork generated by the board and ensures that the board documents are properly and legally stored in case of an audit or investigation. This person usually is charged with handling the documents regarding any ordinations your church dispenses as well as baptisms, marriages, or other ceremonies.
The treasurer deals with money and must be present when offerings are counted. They are the ones who write the checks to pay the church’s bills. While this is the position most able to be exploited, the church bylaws can be written, or amended if they already exist, to say that the treasurer can only serve a certain amount of time, or to include a co-treasurer position on the board.
The aboveboard positions are only the ones required by law if you are trying to gain non-profit status in the U.S. Most likely, you will need more board members as your church grows. The other members don’t need specific titles, as not every board member in secular corporations has a title. Just remember to add each through your bylaws so you define their powers and responsibilities legally.
Wrapping Up The Roles
The church board and church administration staff work together to keep the church running behind the scenes, similar to how a board of directors and an administrative team help keep a company running.
Your entire church governance team, the combination of spiritual, administrative, and board leaders, needs to work together for a church to succeed. The overall objectives and leadership styles need to mesh so they can appropriately serve the congregation and ensure smooth worship services. So when you consider who will fill each leadership role in your church, make sure that they’re a good fit.
Every member of the church board—including administrators and spiritual leaders—is representative of the church.
The Importance Of Church Leadership
Church leadership is crucial to every church, whether it’s a national organization or a smaller local church. And for your church to succeed, it’s important to outline the responsibilities for church roles.
For instance, in my megachurch experience, we put on a Passion Play with a cast and crew of over 500 people that took place on a stage that spanned just over 200 feet. The stage was divided into sections, and each person’s script told them which section to be in at which time. The play ran so smoothly that I still marvel at it sometimes.
The moral is to define your roles and responsibilities and everything just works, even when a live camel stops to do nature’s business in the middle of the market scene.
Just like running a business, a strong church needs great leaders and employees to run smoothly. Each church staff member has duties and responsibilities that they need to fulfill. And whether a particular staff member communicates directly with the congregation or works behind the scenes, every church leadership role is important.
How To Grow Your Church’s Leadership Team
Church growth happens when your leadership team successfully spreads your church’s message to the community and your church leadership team works together. And just like a growing business, a growing church sometimes needs to increase its staff to accommodate the increased demand.
So how do you grow your team? How do you provide strong leadership development to sustain your growth, and what do your leaders need to be successful?
Developing Leaders Within Your Church
If you’re searching for new church leadership, it’s sometimes best to start within your church. Perhaps there’s an enthusiastic deacon who would like to expand their responsibilities. As an existing church member, they already understand and appreciate your church structure, message, mission, and goals.
Developing a potential leader will take some time. They’ll need to learn what church leadership entails and how their daily responsibilities will change. But with some training and guidance, the right leaders can help your church grow.
Growing With Your Community
The key to successful church growth is planning. If you’re not prepared to experience some growing pains, you’ll have a bumpy road ahead. But if you consider what church staff you’ll need to hire and how to support your church leadership, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Adding to your team means creating roles that you didn’t previously need. For instance, you might need one dedicated staff member to coordinate weddings and another staff member that only focuses on youth ministry. You can make their lives easier with resources like a congregation database or specialized accounting software to keep track of costs.
Growing your church is exciting. It means that you’re able to serve more of the community than you were before. Just be sure to plan for your growth so that you can keep achieving your church’s goals without missing a beat.
Finding And Developing Church Leaders
Leadership development is challenging. You must make sure that all new additions to your church body agree with the church’s goals and message. Here are a few ways to find and develop new leaders:
- Write a concise mission statement that defines why your church exists.
- Create a job description for each church staff member that clearly outlines their roles and responsibilities.
- Look within your existing congregation for applicants, since they already understand and agree with your church’s objectives.
In addition, you might want to ask your head pastor or minister (unless that’s you) to interview your top candidates before hiring anyone. Your existing leaders need to support your new staff, so it’s important that they agree with your hiring decision.
Qualities Of Successful Church Leaders
A church leader’s needs can be divided into two categories: what talents and characteristics they must possess and what they need from the church to succeed.
Successful church leaders are charismatic and enthusiastic about the church. They are excited to spread the church’s message to the congregation and the larger community. They must be good communicators and establish themselves as trustworthy advisors that church members can rely on.
In addition to those inherent attributes, successful church leaders also need help from the church itself. The church board must support its leaders, particularly new additions to your church leadership team.
The team members need encouragement and the board’s support so that the congregation will accept them. And if your church leader is particularly forward-thinking, they might need financial or strategic resources to make positive changes to the church and the surrounding community.
Serve Your Congregation With Strong Church Leadership
Church leaders come in many forms. From the worship leader to the church board, every member of the leadership team plays an important role in the success of your church and the spiritual journey of your congregation. Strong leaders need care and teaching to grow.
As the head pastor, it is your responsibility to help them grow and become the best they can be. I recommend going to conferences or retreats to help your entire leadership team.