Ten Things Every Christian Leader Must Do

Ten Things Every Christian Leader Must Do

As our church gears up for a new class for our Leadership Development Program (100 people for a year-long investment), I am reminded how seldom the actual practice of leadership is discussed. People are challenged to lead and are sometimes given leadership principles, but the activities of leadership are often overlooked; that is, what someone who is functioning as a leader actually does.  

Here are 10 things every leader must do:

1. Cast a compelling vision

To cast a compelling vision is to see all that could and should be and then paint a picture that is clear enough for others to get there. If you are asking people to take a hill, then where is the hill, and why is it worth taking? That is the vision that must be cast.

2. Draw people in

A leader specializes in the “art of the ask,” which is identifying someone and envisioning what they can become – spotting their talents and abilities – and then asking them to put their life into play for the cause of Christ. It’s been said that one of the keys to any organization is to get people in the right seat on the bus. A leader is the one who gets them on the bus to begin with.

3. Establish and uphold values

Establishing and upholding values is the heart of what a leader does. It’s relatively easy to establish them; upholding them is work. A leader is the one who says, “This is who we are” and “This is who we aren’t,” and then makes sure those values are championed, defended, and modeled, beginning with their own life. A leader’s credibility is based on whether they do what we say we will do.

4. Bring everything into alignment

There is often a huge divide between what is said and what is done. Leaders bring those two together. From budgets and buildings to services and ministries, leaders bring everything into alignment with the mission, vision, and values of the church. This is having what you do line up with what you say you’re trying to do. It’s ensuring that the smallest of decisions are informed by the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish—from events to activities, people to resources.

5. Delegate

Most people think of delegation as doing what only you can do and then delegating the rest. This is not wrong, but it is more of a personal time-management principle than an actual task of leadership. When it comes to delegating as a task of leadership, it’s letting others play in the game; and when you do, giving them not only the responsibility but also the authority to act.  

6. Influence

When a leader influences others, they do three things: motivate, inspire, and encourage. To motivate is to light a fire under people. To inspire is to call them out to be more than they are. And don’t confuse the two. For example, you can be motivated by money, but it would be difficult to be inspired by it. Finally, you encourage people, which means you offer recognition, praise, and hope.  

7. Learn

It’s an old adage but a true one: “He who reads, leads.” I prefer to change the order a bit: “He who leads reads.” Not everyone who reads will automatically lead, much less possess the leadership gift. But everyone who is a leader and has the spiritual gift of leadership must take on the task of being a lifelong learner.

8. Balance community, cause, and corporation

I have an entire chapter on this in my book What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary. In Philippians, Paul calls Epaphroditus his brother (community), his coworker (corporation), and his fellow soldier (cause). This one man was all three to Paul, and people are often all three to you. Knowing how to focus on each one, not to mention how to balance them against each other, is one of the most decisive tasks you will ever engage in as a leader.

9. Develop other leaders

It takes a leader to develop a leader. This means that the identification and development of the leadership gift in your church falls on your shoulders. To act as a leader means replicating yourself as a leader.

10. Stand in the gap

To intercede with God on behalf of the people you lead is not only a leader’s responsibility but also a leader’s great obligation. If a parent is not praying for their child, who do they think is? If you are not praying for the church you lead, who do you think will?

Every person in a position of leadership should reflect on these 10 tasks and ask a simple question:

I’m in leadership,

... but am I leading?

James Emery White


James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker), order from Amazon.

If you are interested in implementing a Leadership Development Program at your church, you can find this resource at Church & Culture.

Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Well Photo

Publish Date: June 10, 2024 

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on X, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.