When Jesus sought leaders, He looked beyond externals and considered potential more important than pedigree.
Pastors have the great privilege and responsibility to discover and recruit the very best laity leaders (elders, deacons, trustees) for God's church.
Remember, however, many with the most to offer think of themselves as lacking even basic leadership skills. Therefore, we must look beyond the obvious and find those whose potential for building the kingdom is beyond their own comprehension.
While no potential leader may possess every attribute, as you search to recruit the best leaders, ask whether potential elders possess some of the following characteristics.
Mind for God. Many laity mistakenly believe they must be perfect to serve in a leadership role. More important than the impossibility of arriving at perfection is the intent of the person's life. Do they have a desire to know and follow God's will? Do they exhibit an interest in spiritual matters and an inclination to quickly respond to the Holy Spirit's leading?
Heart for souls. Even if they fail to see their own strengths, effective leaders are always looking for the potential in others. Watch for those who are eager to see others come into to a saving relationship and those who are eager to give others the opportunity to grow in grace.
Eye for the future. Leaders must be forward looking. While a sense of God's leading in the past is essential, too many who fancy themselves leaders are more focused on maintaining the past than building the future. They believe the best days of the church past and their goal is to "take us back." Leaders, however, look to the future, discern God's will for tomorrow, and build toward His goals.
Arm for cooperation. Do potential leaders exhibit willingness to cooperate with pastoral leadership along with loyalty to church organization. When church boards make a decision, leaders have the responsibility to support and implement the action regardless of their personal opinion. There is a time for dissent, but once a decision is reached, leaders unite. Fierce independence is devilish.
Hand for work. Church leadership is more than an honorary title. Elders have much greater responsibility than guarding the platform during worship services. Future leaders will demonstrate their potential by active involvement in various church projects and functions. Develop specific job descriptions and recruit those whom you can reasonably expect to fulfill the expectations.
Tongue for the Spirit. Leaders are disqualified for office if they gossip or even if they mistreat the truth. The biblical admonition to speak the truth in love mandates that the love never reveals all that it knows even if it is truthful. Leaders should control their tongues before they attempt to control anything in the church.
Attitude to learn. Teachability is a God-given grace. Beware anyone so impressed with their own opinions that they are incapable of learning from someone else. I would rather recruit a leader who asks the right questions than one with all the answers.
Head for business. Wisdom is in far too short supply. Leaders should exhibit sound decision-making skills in their personal and business life. Avoid those who make rash choices or who rush to judgment.
Focus for heaven. What is the ultimate goal of your leaders? While their business sense needs to be firmly rooted in reality, their vision must extend to eternal values and the blessed hope!
Feet for going. Leaders need to actively seek opportunities to serve. They should be eager to encourage the believers, strengthen the weak, and seek the lost. One of the most effective elders I ever was privileged to know would constantly ask me, "Pastor, is there someone you need me to visit?"
Trust of the members. Regardless of an individual's willingness to serve, if their fellow members do not affirm their leadership they will not be effective. By close observation you will discover who has earned the trust of your membership. Entrust greater responsibilities to those who have earned greater trust.
Empathy for people. Idea people are tremendous. Technicians are essential. But people persons are indispensable. Leaders must have followers and they must love those whom God has called them to serve. They must not consider themselves superior to those they seek to lead and they must know the value of servant leadership.
Openness to change. Remember, God consistently says, "Behold, I do a new thing." Leaders must do more than maintain the status quo, they must seek new methods and venture boldly toward God's design for finishing His work and hastening Jesus's return.