CP 97: How To Discern If You Need Leaders Or Helpers

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: People Problems, Chapter 97: How to discern if you need leaders or helpers


I think it was John Maxwell that said, “Everything rises or falls on leadership.” The group I was a part of (The Vineyard), drilled into us the need to ‘raise up leaders.’ Some experts have even told pastors that your church will only grow as large as your base of leaders. I’m not sure that’s always true, but it might be close enough.

Often pastors want to talk to me about leadership development. And if they don’t bring up the subject, eventually I will ask them, “What are you doing to raise up new leaders?” But first I want to know how many active adults (adults, not adults and children) they have in their church, why? Because…

The smaller the church, the less the pastor needs leaders and the more the pastor needs helpers.

Now let there be no mistake about it, leaders will come from your team of helpers. Of those who are helping you, someone will stand out and catch your attention. Chances are, this could be a future leader.

The smaller your church, the more likely it will be that you have more, sometimes way more, helpers than you have leaders. You see, if you are searching for leaders, you are probably looking for a degree of maturity and commitment to Jesus and the church. You may, or may not have such a person. But if you are looking for helpers, the bar is a little lower, and you will have more to choose from. Besides, it’s better to wait until you have the right kind of person to call a leader, than it is to put someone in leadership prematurely and later regret it.

Once you call someone a ‘leader’ everything changes. Calling someone a leader changes their relationship with you and your relationship with them. Calling someone a leader changes the way your church thinks of the person. And, sorry to say this, sometimes people change, and not always for the better, once you start calling them a leader. For example, they might think this (calling them a leader) means more than you intended it to mean. I suggest that you hold off calling anyone a leader until you’ve had enough time to know if they are ‘leading’ in the way you want a leader to lead.

Do you need leaders or do you only need helpers?

Here are some steps you might find helpful:

  1. If you think you need a leader, what is it specifically that they need to lead?
  2. What concrete reasons do you have for thinking they would be a good leader of (fill in the blank)?
  3. Do you need to call them a leader or could you call them something else?

Who are your helpers?

  1. Who among your helpers stands out the most?
  2. Who among your helpers comes in at second place?
  3. Pray over these people and ask the Father to show you if he regards them as potential leaders.
  4. Begin to pour your time into them.
  5. At some point, but only if you think you have a future leader on your hands, let them know that you think they have potential.

Almost all leaders started out as helpers. Know who your helpers are, and you will eventually know who some of your future leaders will be.


99 more ideas are waiting for you here.