Desperation Leadership

Leadership / February 12, 2011

WARNING FOR EX-KINETIC MEMBERS: I am not thinking of any specific person as I write this post. I am merely composing my honest thoughts based on experience (not to mention the dozens of church planting stories that I’ve heard). So relax. This is not a passive aggressive attempt to trash you.

I believe that the number one challenge facing church planters (and older single women) is desperation.

Desperation isn’t all bad. It definitely creates the hunger and motivation to move forward that is absent in most established churches. But whenever we lead from a place of desperation, we are in danger of making catastrophic decisions that have serious repercussions.

To be honest, the “church planting system” actually forces the planter into a place of desperation: a guy is dropped into a foreign land and given 180 days to recruit staff, raise money and develop a launch team of fifty or more people. Every church planter hopes that an established church would drop a dozen mature believers to into his lap…but that prayer usually turns out to be a pipe dream.

Desperation is the church planter’s daily diet.

With that kind of pressure, who can afford to be picky? After all, we have a nursery to run, a children’s ministry to staff, small groups to lead and people to greet. If we are going to launch a new church, we must have enough people to help run a bare bones Sunday morning program. If you can fog a mirror…you’re in.

Church planters can’t afford to be picky. They are desperate for people.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: decisions made in desperation are typically the wrong decisions.

In the Bubble

To compound matters, once you have finally gathered enough humans to run a church, you instantly lose perspective and are consumed by the “church plant bubble” with a group of people recruited from a place of desperation.

Remember junior high math class and that girl who sat right in front of you? Her shear beauty kept you from concentrating on the task at hand. Without a doubt, she was the hottest girl in the room. So finally, you muster up enough courage to ask her out. (which for a junior high kid means you go to the mall) She says, “yes” and before you know it you are walking hand-in-hand with the hottest girl in math class.

The only problem is that she only had to beat out 10 other girls to be considered “the hottest.” And now you’re mid-date and you realize that she isn’t actually that hot after all. In the bubble of math class, she’s a “10” but in the context of the mall she’s, at best, a “5.”

When you’re a church planter in the bubble, a level 5 leader might actually look like a level 10 leader. And before you know it, you’ve unknowingly (or knowingly) recruited infant Christians and incompetent leaders to manage key ministry postions in the church. When a ministry implodes, you say, “I thought they were level 10 leaders.” And you’ve become another victim of the bubble.

Growing Leaders

Desperation leadership in the context of the bubble is a fatal cocktail.

Here’s the “funny” part: we can’t figure out why our church isn’t growing as fast as expected. You’re bringing it on Sunday morning, but dysfunction is unknowingly happening everywhere else. Desperation leadership has hijacked the dream.

Here are are few ideas for course correction:

1)  Get out of the bubble and take a realistic inventory of who’s leading and be prepared to make a few cuts. (not only in personnel but ministry) Be ready to say, “we will resume this specific ministry when God provides the right person to lead it.” Wait patiently on God and never again lead from a place of desperation.

2) Consistently raise the temperature of your church’s leadership culture. Desperation forces low expectations and bad choices, but the stakes of ministry demand that we raise expectations and choose our leadership wisely.

3) Be faithful with who God has given you. It will take at least 5 years to forge a solid leadership culture in your church. Be patient, it is impossible to grow the forest of leadership overnight. You must cultivate, water, weed and expect God to provide the growth.

Dave Milam
Dave Milam is a pastor, communicator and the founder of One Life Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a a gifted communicator Dave's right brained style of delivery helps his listener connect and remember God's truth in a uniquely visual way. Connect with Dave on Google+

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on February 13, 2011

Definite food for prayer, thought and application even on a smaller ministry level.

on February 13, 2011

this nails the first 5 months of church planting unless you are going back home and have a built in support system. Does the desperation ever leave given the severity of the cause?

on February 13, 2011

I hope the desperation never fades. I just pray to manage it well.

on February 14, 2011

The problem is that this desperation should exist in nearly every church leadership situation. In many (most?) churches the eldership is the eldership because they are the eldership and have been the eldership.

and because they are free to go to meetings, of course.

Too many people like me have been put into leadership to which they are not only not deserving (is anyone? ) but more importantly, not gifted or trained

on February 14, 2011

Fantastic! We have been experiencing this lately. We’re making cuts…that is hard. Thanks for this!

on February 16, 2011

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