The Great Leadership Shortage in Churches: Five Ways to Address It

One of the most common challenges we hear from church leaders, particularly pastors, is the need for more leaders in the church. The vacuum seems the greatest among elders, deacons, and teachers.

Many churches lost not only members in this post-pandemic world, but they also lost leaders as well. Of course, it is likely that these departures were not really leaders if their commitment to the church was so tenuous. 

The caveat for any solutions to fill leadership voids is that it does not happen overnight. But we are working with a number of church leaders who are beginning to see success in finding the right kinds of leaders. Here are five of the most common approaches: 

1. Every pastor should be mentoring two or three people at all times. Look at the pattern of Jesus. He called twelve men to follow him. Among the twelve, Peter, James, and John seemed to hold a closer relationship with Jesus. Though he preached to the masses, he prepared the New Testament church yet to come by mentoring a few. He taught them. He showed them. He had dialogue with them. He spent time with them. 

2. Pray for God to provide leaders. Perhaps you expect prayer to be a routine solution. There is a reason for that. God commands us to pray, and he shows us the effectiveness of prayer. Answer this question honestly: Are you praying on a regular basis for God to provide leaders for your church? God does indeed answer prayers. He can show you prospective leaders to mentor in your church. And he can send mature Christians to your church. 

3. Ask all of your leaders and mentees to mentor others. If you have two leaders you are mentoring, ask them to find two people to mentor when your time with them comes to an end. At that point, you will have two mentees, and the two leaders will have two mentees each. You have thus moved from one leader (you) to three leaders who are each mentoring two others. If you lost count there, that means you have nine persons who are either leaders or who are being mentored to be leaders. 

4. Evangelism should be closely tied to mentoring. If our churches are evangelistically lethargic, you should not expect new leaders. Many of your future leaders will be among the new Christians who will need discipling and mentoring. They can eventually become some of your most devoted leaders.

5. Don’t fill a leadership void with unqualified leaders. It is better to have a vacancy than to fill a leadership position with an unqualified person. You can get new leaders in your church, but you must be both intentional and strategic. Be patient. Wait on God. But patience and waiting are not synonymous with doing nothing. Keep mentoring, Keep praying. And expect God to take care of all of your church’s needs. 

I know many of you are doing a great job of raising up leaders. For the good of the Kingdom, share with our readers what is taking place in your church. What are you doing to get leaders in your church? 

Let me hear from you.

Posted on August 28, 2023

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Tony Laycock says on

    I have been trying to find away to become a Pastor and at some point start a Church.

    However it seems Church Leaders I talk to are against a Felon being a Pastor and I can’t change what I did in my early 20s.

    Any Advice?

    • Don Washek says on

      If the Lord has called you to preach and to pastor, start a small group in your home and grow from there. It will likely require you to be bivocational, but most pastors today find themselves having to do the same. Much prayer and effort will be required of you and your congregation, you in particular.
      This involves no overhead as you are starting.

  • Tracy Danielson says on

    This site never ceases to entertain me. I use it to prove that the Christian Church is in a huge downhill slide.

    Here is the explanation: There is a lack of leadership because the actual pastors have such low standards that of course, everyone under them gets steadily worse.

    It all begins with the defense that there is no such thing as the “perfect” church, and the unwillingness to hold members accountable. Christian values are erased. All lifestyles accepted. Parishioners shack up, youth leaders get addicted to porn, the majority are self medicating and no one is held accountable. People used to complain about cliques but they don’t anymore because there is no such thing as a perfect church.

    I could teach y’all a thing or two but you’d have to shed some pride.

  • I have found a lot of success in starting from a ‘them-focused’ search for leadership. We often try to fill the voids we see (which is fine!), but we don’t survey the strengths we already have in the congregation. So I make a habit of regularly connecting with volunteers that are demonstrating a servants heart, initiative, etc, and then begin the conversation with them about what they’re passionate about. Then give them opportunities to serve in that capacity. You may even start getting new ministries that you hadn’t considered before!

  • The need for more leaders in the church is real but when leadership is self-perpetuating and based on internal politics, opinions, and thoughts, the problem will not be solved. Just use committees and let more people serve. Why should I have to pass 5 litmus tests in order to serve? This is why it is easier to volunteer at any charity than in a church. When you start reducing the eligibility list by marital status, parental status, gender, partisan politics, religious opinion, etc. you will have no one left on the list. If you do find someone, there will inevitably be group think, and we all know that can sink any organisation faster than covid could spread.

    • Ann Otwell says on

      Good remunders…especially about mentoring….
      Where can I find a good guide for the qualifications our church leaders, especially children’s leaders should have ? Thank you