Ministry Leaders: Do You Recruit People for the Task or Reproduce Leaders for the Mission?

As leaders, we are in the business of replacing ourselves. It would be easy to make the case that if you are not preparing someone else to take your place and/or outpace your abilities, then you are not truly leading people. Often, the desire to stay in the position of leadership comes from a “command and control” attitude. It is the kind of leadership found in The Prince by Machiavelli. It is a leadership that enlists people into your work but never releases them for any other work.

I find one of the base differences to lie in our attitude. It is the difference between recruitment versus reproduction in leadership. So ask yourself this simple question:

Am I recruiting people to do tasks or am I reproducing leaders for the mission?

Within the church, I find too many places are simply recruiting people to fill positions, do tasks, or fill a void. It is even masked in spiritual language. “We need you to step up to this volunteer position.” “Can you fill in for the next few months until we find someone who will take it long term?” “The term of service is just three years.” At times, these are necessary statements to describe positions and give expectations. However, they should be ancillary issues to the real work of reproducing leaders. As with many things, it comes down to your priorities.

In his book Organic Leadership, Neil Cole wrote, “Recruitment is a practice in subtraction – taking people from one ministry to work in another. Reproducing leaders from the harvest and for the harvest is a practice of multiplication. The end results of these two methods are as far apart as the east is from the west.” Leaders must discipline themselves to choose reproduction over recruitment. Otherwise, you will simply steal back and forth from ministries within your church… and others.

Here are five contrasts to use in testing how you are doing in this arena:

  • Recruitment produces more followers. Reproduction produces more leaders.
  • Recruitment provides minimalistic orientation. Reproduction provides substantial training.
  • Recruitment is delegation ending in abandonment. Reproduction leads to commissioning.
  • Recruitment only transfers knowledge. Reproduction is part of a robust disciple making system.
  • Recruitment enlists members. Reproduction creates partners.

Recruitment is often a form of arrogance. It occurs when we back ourselves into the corner that “only I can lead the work” and “only I know how it should be done” and “only I can see where we need to go.” On a daily basis, test yourself to ensure that you are participating in the mission that is larger than yourself and has Christ as its King. When you keep a kingdom perspective, it will be easier to reproduce leaders rather than recruit followers.

Read more from Philip here.

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Philip Nation

Philip Nation

I serve as the pastor at First Baptist Church of Bradenton, Florida and frequently speak at churches and conferences. I earned a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2010-2012, I was the national spokesperson for the Back to Church Sunday campaign from Outreach. Over the years, I’ve served as a pastor, minister of education, and a church planter. In 2016, I published Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out with Moody Publishers. I’ve coauthored two other books: Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. I was also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, I have written the small-group studies Storm Shelter: Psalms of God’s Embrace, Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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