Rick Warren: Why We Never Vote for Leaders at Saddleback

Rick Warren (Charisma Media archives)

Leadership is an important part of ministry. In fact, most ministries rise and fall on leadership. You can have a ministry that meets a real need in your community. You can give it all the resources it needs to thrive. You can support it financially and prayerfully.

But if you don't have effective leaders, your ministry won't last.

So how do you find the right leaders for your ministries?

6 Reasons Saddleback Doesn't Vote for Leaders

Some churches get leaders by voting for them. We've never done that at Saddleback—and here are six reasons why:

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1.Some people will never get involved if the position needs to be voted on.

Many people who could be leaders in your church won't put themselves through an election. They can't handle the rejection.

2. New ministries need to develop slowly, without the bright lights of public scrutiny.

That's why we start every ministry small. Whenever someone comes up with a ministry idea, they often want to start it with big fanfare. We don't do that. We want to give the ministry a chance to get planted and develop roots before it gets a lot of attention.

3. New members can get involved more quickly when you don't vote on your ministry leaders.

When a new member joins a church, it sometimes takes years before he or she is able to get involved in "the inner circle." After five or six years, if the person proves faithful, they get nominated to a certain ministry, committee or board. Then they get to serve.

We want to eliminate all those hoops. We want to move people into ministry quickly. At Saddleback, a person can join the church and take Class 101 one month, Class 201 the next month, Class 301 the third month and then participate in a SHAPE interview. Within four months, that person can be a lay pastor. Plus, we have roles where people can join one day and start serving the next. These opportunities get members involved in ministry quickly. (Learn more about the CLASS Discipleship Program, here.)

4. It avoids attracting people who are looking for a title. Many people pursue leadership positions in the church to build their prestige. If you turn your ministry positions into a popularity contest, you'll attract some of these people.

When you don't vote on ministry positions, the cream will rise to the top. You get people who are genuinely interested in serving, not necessarily wanting a fancy title.

5. If people fail, it makes removal easier. If you publicly elect your lay ministers and your workers, then those positions become political hot potatoes. If they have a moral failure or they're just unqualified, you must publicly "de-elect" them. None of these leaders will leave by their own initiative. These issues have the potential to cause great division in your church. If you don't elect leaders, then you don't have to vote to remove them either.

6. You can respond more quickly to the Holy Spirit's leading. If a person doesn't need to go through a bunch of red tape to start a ministry, it allows your church to be ready for whatever God wants to do in your ministry. We've started new ministries on the spot after a service at Saddleback because we didn't need to vote on a leader.

For example, one week I preached a message on how we needed to care for one another in the family of God. At the end of the sermon, I asked, "Wouldn't it be great if we had some people who called other members and attendees in the church to see how they're doing?" Then I asked people who were interested if they would see me up front. About eight or nine people showed up that day, and we started a new ministry. If you don't need to wait for a vote, you can be very responsive to what God is doing in your church as you begin new ministries.

You may be asking yourself, "How will we know who our leaders are if we don't vote for them?"

It's simple. You see who people are following. The people who look over their shoulders and don't see anyone following are not leaders. It's like the old quote: "He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk."

You won't need to tell the church who the real leaders are. People naturally want to follow people whom God has gifted with leadership.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest and most influential churches. He is the author of the New York Times' bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. Pastor Rick started The PEACE Plan to show the local church how God works through ordinary people to address the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. You can listen to Daily Hope, Pastor Rick's daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at pastorrick.com. He is also the founder of pastors.com, a global online community created to encourage pastors.

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