by Lois McKinney
Contemporary missiologists are transforming long-felt concerns for church growth and leadership training into systematic plans for action.
Contemporary missiologists are transforming long-felt concerns for church growth and leadership training into systematic plans for action. The diffusion of innovations such as extension models for theological education (Winter, 1969) and quantitative methods for studying church growth (McGavran, 1970) have made rapid (and seemingly lasting) impacts on evangelical missions. Foggy anti-intellectualism in certain mission circles is giving way to a willingness – and perhaps even an eagerness – to employ disciplined methodologies in the missionary task. In this climate of growing professional maturity, efforts to explore contributions of the behavioral sciences to evangelical missions seem to be both timely and relevant.
The thoughts that follow here represent a modest effort in the. direction of such explorations. Principles of education planning are applied to the task of assessing the church’s leadership needs. Four important assumptions undergird the discussion:
(1) Trained leaders are essential to the growth of the church; (2) effective training for leaders must be systematically planned and executed; (3) plans for leadership training are determined by (a) the kinds (or categories) of leaders churches need and (b) the number of leaders churches need; and (4) plans for leadership training must be based on accurate appraisals of present leadership needs, and realistic projections of future leadership needs.
The first task the educational planner faces, then, is to ask and answer four basic questions: (1) What kinds of leaders do churches need? (2) How many leaders do churches need? (3) What kinds of leaders will churches need ten years from now? and (4) How many leaders will churches need ten years from now?
WHAT KINDS OF LEADERS DO CHURCHES NEED?
Studies of leadership needs 1 are likely to identify the following categories of leaders:
Level 1: Leaders within Congregations. These are the persons who exercise teaching, preaching, administrative and evangelistic functions within local congregations. In most cases, these leaders receive only basic schooling plus on-the-job training for church leadership roles. They are not paid for their services to the church. Examples of "leaders within congregations" include Sunday school teachers, open-air evangelists and church treasurers.
Level 2: Leaders of Small Congregations. Leaders in this category include those who hold a small congregation together, or share in the direction of a large congregation. In some urban middle class (or upper class) ministries, these workers may be paid. Most often, particularly in rural and/ or lower class sectors, they will be unpaid. Their formal schooling will probably include a basic education plus some secondary-level training for the ministry.
Level 3: Leaders of Large Congregations, or of Clusters of Small Congregations. These leaders will usually be paid by the national church. They often function as circuit-riding ministers to scattered groups of believers. In some cases, particularly in urban areas, they may lead one large congregation rather than several small ones. The social expectations of many cultures, combined with the demands of the ministry, require relatively high (secondary or university) levels of academic preparation for these leaders.
Level 4: Regional, National and International Administrators. These are the persons who tie churches together. They are the regional (or national, or international) secretaries, mission administrators, etc., who help congregations to unite in their outreach and fellowship. In many areas of the world, these leaders -will hold university or graduate degrees. They will be paid from national or foreign funds.
Level 5: Educator-Scholars. This final category of leaders includes specialists who exercise their influence upon the church as they carry on scholarly research, disseminate knowledge and develop educational programs.2 They will usually hold graduate degrees. They will be paid from national or foreign funds.
HOW MANY LEADERS DO CHURCHES NEED?
When questions regarding categories of leaders have been settled, the stage is set for answering the quantitative questions regarding the number of leaders which churches need.
How many leaders at Level 1 [leaders within congregations] are needed? Certain members of a congregation have God-given responsibilities for leading other Christians in developing their spiritual gifts. The Sunday school teacher shows others how to study the Bible; the church treasurer drives home the responsibilities of stewardship; and the leader of an evangelistic team encourages the hesitant new believer to share his faith in Christ.
How many leaders does a congregation need? A realistic ratio might be one leader for every five members of the church. In other words, a congregation with 50 members would probably need at least 10 leaders. Thirty congregations (averaging 50 members each) would need 300 leaders!
How many leaders at Level 2 [leaders of small congregations] does the church need? The answer to this question would be determined by such factors as the geographical spread of congregations and the ability of churches to support their leaders. A useful rule of thumb might be to provide one Level 3 leader for every 250 members. In other words, our hypothetical association of 30 churches averaging 50 members each (a total membership of 1500) would require six leaders at Level 3 who serve as itinerant ministers. This kind of ratio would mean that each Level 3 leader would be responsible for approximately five small congregations, or one large congregation.3
How many leaders at Levels 4 and 5 [administrators and educator-scholars] are needed? The needs at this level are infinitesimal compared to the staggering needs at Levels 1, 2 and 3; therefore effective educational programs will put far more emphasis on lower-level training than on the preparation of the intellectually and administratively elite. This does not mean that the needs of the handful of persons whom God has singled out for specialized roles can be ignored. The church must identify its top-level leaders, and arrange appropriate- often highly individualized- training opportunities for them.
HOW MANY AND WHAT KINDS OF LEADERS WILL THE CHURCH NEED TEN YEARS FROM NOW?
Realistic educational planning must provide not only for the present leadership needs of the church, but also for the leadership needs the church is likely to be facing ten years from now. These projections will grow out of plans for church growth. If an association of churches intends to double its membership over a ten year period, leadership needs will also double. These increases in leadership needs are staggering at the lower levels. At Level 1 for example, doubling a church’s membership from 1500 to 3000 members would mean doubling leadership needs from 300 to 600! At higher levels, the needs are less formidable. At Level 3 doubling the church’s membership from 1500 to 3000 would’ mean doubling the need for leaders from six to twelve.
Projections of leadership needs must take socio-cultural trends into account. Rising educational aspirations, for example, will probably require a qualitative upgrading of the educational level of the ministry over the next decade.
Assessing leadership needs is an essential first step to educational planning. Only when the size and the nature of an educational task is understood can effective educational programs be designed, implemented and evaluated. A careful analysis of the church’s leadership needs will enable a wise investment of personnel and financial resources in educational ministries. The kind of analysis proposed here will provide an empirical base for evaluating the effectiveness of our educational programs in producing the categories and numbers of leaders that churches need. Revised plans for action growing out of such evaluations should enable concerns for church membership and church leadership to be merged into a common effort to build up the church of Jesus Christ.
1. The categories of leadership described here have been adapted from earlier work by McGavran. For the purposes of this article, McGavran’s Level I (unpaid leaders within local congregations who serve and maintain the church) and Level 2 (unpaid leaders within local congregations who reach out through witnessing and evangelism) have been combined. The "educator-scholar" level (Level 5) has been added by the present author because of its relevance to the concerns of theological education.
2. The training of church leaders occurs at all leadership levels as more mature leaders prepare less mature leaders for the work of the ministry. The educator-scholar applies his expertise to the development of these multi-level educational activities.
3. The decision to provide itinerant (Level 3) leaders would also be based on considerations such as (1) the degree of recognition the resident (Level 2) leader enjoys through ordination or its functional equivalent; (2) the ability of the small congregation to pay its own Level 2 leaders; and (3) the ability of the resident leader to function without outside counsel and assistance. Itinerant (Level 3) leaders of several congregations would be most appropriate in situations where resident (Level 2) leaders are not recognized (or ordained), are not paid, and cannot function without outside help.
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