The Need for More Homegrown Leaders

Sam Rainer

December 26, 2012

The church needs more homegrown leaders. It’s not a novel plea. In fact, church researchers have called for local equipping of leaders for a long time. In our globalized society, however, it is becoming even more important. Today everyone has access to the same information at the same time. Podcasts, blogs and sermon videos are ubiquitous.

The best teachers and preachers in the world now broadcast messages for free. Anyone can listen and benefit from excellent teaching—simply take your pick from several great leaders. The problem is applying this teaching to a variety of individual contexts. What we need are local leaders who understand unique cultural nuances of small towns, neighborhoods and enclaves of larger metropolitan cities.

Many churches will benefit by training and equipping local, homegrown leaders who have specific, lifelong knowledge of their context. What are some things to consider when empowering these homegrown leaders?

Inside, not outside hires. Church leaders will do better in most cases to train up people from within their congregations rather than hiring from the outside. First, if a person is faithful to a specific local church, then the likelihood of that person being sold on the vision of the church is higher. Second, inside hires have at least a basic understanding of the church culture (on the inside); whereas it’s speculation on an outside hire being a cultural fit. Additionally, an out-of-town hire will have two cultures to learn: the inside church culture and the outside community culture.

The rise of Boomer volunteers. Perhaps you’ve heard the Baby Boomer generation is reaching retirement age. Many of them will want to spend their retirement years serving—what better place than the local church. As they enter this season of their lives, perhaps they could lead a lay-led revolution within churches. If you’re wondering why your “senior” ministry keeps getting smaller and older, and no “fresh faces” are joining, it’s because Boomers don’t want to be lumped in with their parents. In fact, many churches may discover an army of volunteers by starting a new type of Boomer ministry with a leadership focus.

Intentional diversity. We are becoming a majority minority nation, and most communities in our country are changing. They are becoming more diverse. Homogeneous churches could benefit by utilizing the few people in their congregations of differing ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses. Be intentional about learning from them, giving them leadership positions, and equipping them to reach outward.

Homegrown leadership is not new, but all churches should have a plan to equip their own. And developing homegrown leaders is a biblical way to help the church culture reach outward into the culture of the community.

This is an expanded treatment of thoughts originally published at Church Executive. Read more analysis of future trends from me and others here.

7 comments on “The Need for More Homegrown Leaders”

  1. finkelde says:

    You are right! My wife and I are boomers (nearly 60) who have no interest in attending seniors events but when we eventually finish our current consulting ministry we will be looking for a seniors ministry that will have purpose, mission & significance.

  2. Caleb says:

    Sam, I have thought the same for a long time. I’m really not sure why it doesn’t happen so long. I have seen a number of churches where pastors have built the church up over 30 years or more! Yet when they leave, there is no one who is ready to take the reigns. These pastors expect the church body to bring in someone else from outside of the church to lead them. This is extremely difficult to do after a pastor has been there long term. Often it fails with the first guy or simply causes major problems like church splits. On the other hand when the pastor takes responsibility to find and train someone from within his own church who can take his place, the results can be amazing!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good article and I totally agree with intentionality behind training and using leaders from within. I would caution the sentence “Church leaders will do better in most cases to train up people from within their congregations rather than hiring from the outside.” My perception is this is too strongly stated as the most wise decision. It is also of value to consider those outside that are seminary trained and highly regarded from their pastor or church leaders. I say this because I’ve witnessed many church leaders that have followed this philosophy after hearing from a well meaning conference leader or read articles from leaders in a very different context only to be burned by the rift caused when it doesn’t work out. While I value inside training and mentoring for future hires, I caution saying it is the best solution. The best solution is understanding your context, consensus of trusted leaders, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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