Leadership makes or breaks a church. This became even more obvious during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders had to rapidly deal with major changes. I witnessed firsthand how church leaders reacted, and it was evident those with solid leadership skills led the way. Those who dealt with the issues quickly and communicated wisely came out of the pandemic stronger.
Leading a church is not easy, and many times it is painful. In his book Leadership Pain, Samuel R. Chand gives us many great tidbits. Here are two of my favorites:
- “Pain is a part of progress. Anything that grows experiences some pain. If I avoid all pain, I’m avoiding growth.”
- “Growth equals change; change equals loss; loss equals pain; so inevitably, growth equals pain.”
During COVID-19, church leaders experienced change, loss, and pain. Those who remained steadfast in their approach by setting goals and persevering ultimately made it through.
Another favorite quote on leadership is from Dr. J. Robert Clinton: “Never trust a leader who doesn’t walk with a limp.” Leaders must suffer pain as they go through wars in order to progress.
LEADERS WORTH INVESTING INTO
We invest in leadership at The Solomon Foundation. Unlike a conventional bank or even most church extension funds, investing in leadership is the main focus of our underwriting process. Yes, consideration of the financial aspects is very important before we originate a loan to a church, but in our system it is secondary. Would you loan money to an organization that has broken leadership? Would you partner with an organization that has major cash reserves but dysfunctional leadership? Or would you rather invest in a dynamic, faith-filled, grounded, and supported leader? Our success as a church lender revolves around building and supporting strong and godly leaders.
Based on years of experience, I have concluded the two biggest risks in originating church loans involve neither finances nor high-risk rating but, rather, leadership. It all boils down to avoiding moral failure in the pulpit and leadership meltdown.
We teach our team to “go with the goers.” Here are the key criteria we use to evaluate church leadership and recognize and determine which leaders are worth the risk of investing into.
1. We want team players. You cannot win a Super Bowl with a few stars. You need a team. Developing the team is a never-ending process.
2. We want a healthy and biblical eldership. Stronger biblical eldership is paramount to our future. Sadly, many churches today are getting away from this. The church needs to be elder protected to successfully grow.
3. We want to see confident leadership. Confident leaders build trust and integrity in their teams. (And by confident, I do not mean controlling or manipulative.)
4. We want to see organized leadership. Disorganized leadership always results in chaos and problems. A healthy organizational structure allows the body to blossom and grow.
5. We want leadership that evaluates and critiques themselves. It is healthy for Restoration Movement leaders to provide honest feedback and mentoring to one another.
6. We want to see a leadership with realistic goals. We need to see the church’s plan for the future. I have never been a sandbagger when it comes to setting goals. My motto has been, “Shoot for the stars with big, audacious, godly goals.”
7. We want to see servant leaders. Jesus was the greatest servant leader ever. He balanced truth with grace and led by example.
THREE GREAT LEADERS AND WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THEM
The leaders who have changed the course of history were ones who led through major crises and made critical and timely decisions. Three of my favorites are Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and General George Patton.
Abraham Lincoln was perhaps our greatest president. He was a servant leader. Among his greatest strengths were his high level of integrity and his adherence to basic principles. He never compromised his core beliefs. His vision was beyond his times. His stand against slavery was not popular with everyone, but he knew it was right and he never wavered. His leadership during the Civil War carried us through the darkest era of our country’s history. He stood on an island alone, but he was not afraid.
Sir Winston Churchill saw many ups and downs during his time in public service in Great Britain, but he never quit. He was a member of Parliament from 1900 to 1964. Here are two of my favorite quotes from his speeches:
- “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
- “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Churchill navigated Great Britain through World War II, the darkest time in that nation’s history. He worked hard to convince the United States to join the Allied efforts in Europe while, at the same time, working with Russia to bring about peace in Europe. He was a master negotiator.
General George Patton was one of the greatest generals in U.S. history. He was rough around the edges, but he always accomplished his assignments. He was a true soldier at heart who respected and supported his troops. Here are two of his great quotes:
- “Do everything you ask of those you command.”
- “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
The German command feared Patton more than any other enemy field general. Allied leaders actually used Patton as a decoy because the Germans were so afraid of his battlefield skills. Patton stuck his foot in his mouth way too many times, but he often was correct in what he said. His men followed him because they trusted him.
What do these three great leaders have in common?
1. They stood up for what they believed. What would have happened if Abraham Lincoln wavered in his beliefs? He was mocked because people thought he was soft. He was labeled a weak leader many times. But he never considered compromising his principles.
2. They never gave up. What would have happened if Winston Churchill had thrown in the towel? We might be speaking German today.
3. They led by example. General Patton was scolded by his superiors because he spent too much time on the front lines. He wanted his men to know he would fight alongside them.
4. They delegated and developed more leaders. What would have happened if President Lincoln did not appoint Ulysses S. Grant as commanding general of the United States Army? Lincoln knew Grant could lead the North to victory, so he allowed him to perform his duties.
THE LEADERS OF THE FUTURE
We need to develop young leaders to lead our movement for decades and generations to come. Leadership matters! The future is at stake, and we as current leaders are responsible for the future. People with leadership qualities are out there, and it is our responsibility to find them, mentor them, and develop them into future leaders.
At The Solomon Foundation, we do not just invest money through loans to local churches that are desperate to grow. We come alongside them; we connect with them, resource them, and help provide the necessary tools to make their goals a reality. Our entire team cheers for them, prays with them, and serves them tirelessly because their goals are now our goals. Investing in church leaders involves money, but money alone will not ensure exponential growth.