Gap between aspiration and actually developing new leaders

Current church leaders would like to give more attention to developing leaders

Many leaders may want to give priority to the identification, formation, training and support of new leaders, as it is crucial to the viability and future of their church. But amidst the many and various demands on current ministry leaders, how much attention is given by them to tasks associated with developing the leadership of others?

Our research reveals a significant gap between the attention given by senior local church leaders to leadership development and the attention that they think they should give to it.

In the 2021 NCLS Leader Survey, senior leaders in local churches (congregations and parishes) were presented with a list of nine specific roles and were asked to indicate up to three roles that they thought were the main roles they carried out:

  • Conduct worship or administer the sacraments
  • Teach people about the Christian faith
  • Train people for ministry and mission
  • Convert others to the faith
  • Administer the work of the local church
  • Visit, counsel and help people
  • Develop a vision and goals for the future
  • Offer prayer/be a spiritual role model
  • Involvement in wider community groups or social issues

“Train people for ministry and mission” was selected by 25% of senior local church leaders, which ranked sixth out of the nine roles.

Leaders were then asked to indicate which roles from the same list they thought should be their main roles.

This time, training people for ministry and mission was selected by 48% of leaders (second only to teaching people about Christian faith), which included some 28% of leaders who weren’t actually doing this as a main role (see figure below). That is, the majority of leaders who thought that this should be one of their main roles were not actually doing this in practice.

This discrepancy is concerning. Insufficient resourcing for administration and other areas of ministry that are seemingly more pressing might be resulting in leaders being unable to dedicate more time to training and developing others. Expectations from the wider congregation or other stakeholders on what senior leaders should be doing might also be a reason for the discrepancy.

Just 10% of senior local leaders in Catholic parishes trained people for ministry and mission, compared with 19% of Mainstream Protestants, 43% of Pentecostals and 29% of Other Protestants. The discrepancy between what leaders did and what they thought they should do was greatest among “Other Protestant” leaders (31%) and least among Pentecostals (23%).



For more results on the development of emerging leaders and how this relates to denomination and church vitality, see our free report: Development of emerging leaders in Australian local churches.

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