by Josh Bryant
In a previous post, we outlined the five ethical questions that any church leader should ask in making decisions. In short, those are:
A leadership pipeline is a customized process by which leaders raise up leaders. Each segment of the pipeline is a pathway that an individual takes from one leadership level to the next. On that pathway, leaders demonstrate proficiency in ministry and leadership competencies by learning, doing and teaching them. Not only does this demonstrate personal proficiency but organizational proficiency as the person raises up their own successor as they move to another level of leadership.
What has this to do with ethics? Church staff should find themselves supervising this pipeline. In doing so, these church leaders will be making decisions that directly impact the behavior of the church. Early in the process the decisions will entail what ministry competencies must be demonstrated at any given level. For the pathway from small group member to small group leader, what skills must a person learn, perform and teach others to do? Those skills are applied to tasks that add up to the behavior of the organization.
In determining what competencies must be demonstrated in a pathway within the pipeline, the five ethics questions are a great place to start. What would bring the most value to God at this level of leadership within the church? How could someone at this stage in the pipeline affect agreements that the church has made? What agreements must the church make with those in the pipeline? Who will be impacted by a person at this stage in the pipeline? How will someone in this stage of the pipeline make decisions that fulfill the mission of the church? How will someone in this stage of the pipeline affect the church’s ability to be a good citizen? Each of these questions is worth asking for every level within the pipeline.
Leaders will make decisions about who to put into the pipeline. The behavior of the church is nothing more than the cumulative behavior of its leaders and members. As such it is important to ask whether a person will make a valuable contribution to the kingdom. Will a person uphold their agreements to the church and the church’s agreements to the world? What influence does this person have and who are the stakeholders in the church affected by this person’s actions? Does this person have a missional mindset such that he or she will advance the church towards fulfilling the Great Commission? Is this person concerned with the reputation of the church and its contribution to our community, state, nation, and world? These two are questions of great importance.
Good supervision of a leadership pipeline not only helps ensure the church acts ethically. It also helps the church properly vet leaders, hold them accountable, and if necessary, move them to a position that better suits their gifts (or at worst remove them from service altogether). This is legally important because the doctrines of negligent hiring, supervision, and retention all apply to volunteers as much as they apply to staff members. The focus of many churches is to simply put the right people on the team and let them do what they do. Little attention is often paid to holding them accountable – to “supervising” their conduct. Without good training and oversight, the church becomes subject to a great many liabilities. The church is its people; how its people act affect the legal standing and security of the church.
Churches must have a system by which leaders are vetted, equipped, and supervised. A leadership pipeline is a great way to do that. Learn more about this on the Law and Church Podcast and from LifeWay Leadership.
Church General Counsel Managing Attorney Josh Bryant, J.D., M.Div., authors most of the posts in this section. From time to time, he will post articles from others in the field of church growth, administration, and operations.