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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

11 May '14

Who is best qualified to be an elder or church leader?

Posted by T.J. Addington in church boards, church leadership, leadership boards
I am in a friendly dialogue with a large church regarding the qualifications of those who would serve on the elder board (the leadership board) of the church.

They have traditionally taken the posture that anyone who meets the Biblical qualifications of an elder is eligible to serve on the leadership board. These are the character qualifications spelled out in the New Testament. When I suggested that there are some other issues that need to be considered, the suggestion was made that these are "extra biblical" qualifications. I do not agree with that assessment.

While the Scriptures are clear on the character and spiritual qualifications of church leaders there are in fact other implicit or explicit issues that are laid out in the New Testament. For instance there are six responsibilities that leaders are given in the Scriptures. They are to keep the spiritual temperature of the congregation high, ensure that the congregation is taught well, that they are cared for, protected from the wolves of division, heresy and serious ongoing sin, that people are released into meaningful ministry and led well.

There are many Godly people who by character and spiritual health are qualified to serve as elders but who are not necessarily be qualified to carry out these responsibilities. For instance, there are many conflict avoidant individuals who do not like to confront problematic behaviors. There are people who do not have a leadership bone in their body but simply love others. There are many who cannot think systems which is how you carry out some of these responsibilities in a larger church. There are others who can only drill down to tactics but who cannot think big picture.

My point is that character and spiritual qualifications are fundamental but that there are other characteristics of good leaders that must be taken into account. The very reason that the vast majority of churches in the United States are plateaued or in decline goes to the heart of this issue of leadership. Leadership requires a skill set and not all Godly individuals have the skill set.

If the above are the six key responsibilities of church leaders, what is the personal profile of a good church leader? If we look at the New Testament for its explicit and implicit statements on the matter we see 13 non-negotiable characteristics of an effective church leader.


  1. They exhibit a Godly character and lifestyle
  2. They have a deep passion for Jesus
  3. They exhibit personal humility
  4. They love people
  5. They are life long learners
  6. They agree with God's leadership assignment for church leaders
  7. They are able and willing to grapple with the future
  8. They are team focused
  9. They are a willing leader
  10. They have a positive influence on others
  11. They are purveyors of hope
  12. They have an action bias
  13. They have good emotional intelligence
We are frankly naive to believe that just because someone is Godly means they can lead well. It simply is not true. I encounter many church leaders who are Godly but who cannot lead effectively and it hurts the church. Just look at the state of many churches today and you realize that unless you guard the gate of church leadership you pay a high price! The larger the church the more complex leadership becomes and the more expertise that is required to lead well.

The most powerful group in any church are those who choose who will be in leadership because the quality, skill, wisdom and discernment of leaders will either contribute to church health or to dysfunctional and unhealthy ministry. As one who consults with many churches I see the latter all to often and the former all to seldom. Be smart in leadership selection! You get what you choose. 

The following blog links may also to helpful to you:


Eight kinds of people who should not serve on a church board

Choosing the right leaders in your church: You get what you choose

Rethinking leadership selection for the church

Choosing and preparing new board members

Toxic team and board members