Are You Recruiting Church Leaders with Free Steak Knives?

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When it comes to building your church’s leadership teams, do you recruit or do you cultivate?

Every church faces the reality that it might soon need two new elders, three deacons, a new head of the finance committee, and so on. But while some churches scramble to “fill these slots”, others simply continue to cultivate and develop leaders in the congregation, guiding them toward next steps in their leadership journey.

The difference is intentionality.

Admittedly, my own church used to be far more stuck in the “recruiter” mode. At times we were so desperate to fill slots it we joked that we might need to offer a free set of steak knives to sweeten the offer.

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But today we are getting much better at replacing recruitment with cultivation.

These have been our key learnings along the way:

1.   Key leadership roles should never be filled with a “cold call”
If you’ve ever uttered the words in a phone call, “Hey Mary…ever thought about being an elder?” you are doing the church equivalent of selling vacuums door to door.

2.   Identifying leaders should be happening constantly
Another elder and I had coffee this week with a young woman in our church about to graduate from university. My prediction is that she could be on the church board in 5-7 years. Starting this week we put her on an intentional development plan.

3.   Start talking about a specific role by not talking about a specific role
When you’re ready to begin a dialogue which might lead to a specific leadership role, it should start at a much higher level. It should be a continued conversation about the church, that person’s vision, and so on. Discussing a specific role too soon can lead to awkward back-peddling later on.

4.   Allow time for God to do His work
Following an early discussion with a potential candidate, have a follow-up meeting to discuss a specific role. There must be plenty of margin in the process for prayer and consideration.

If you find yourself scrambling to “fill slots”, take the time to introduce greater intentionality to build a culture of leadership cultivation.

It could save you a fortune in steak knives.

How have you developed a culture of cultivation in your church?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. While we have great success in recruiting leaders we are now in a place where we can better grow them up. A few years ago in a new church plant we experienced the blessing of rapid growth and therefore did not have leaders we had developed.

    7 years later we are focusing on developing leaders and raising them up. I am sold out to that this is the best model. We have also discovered that sometimes we are forced to reach beyond our church family to find the right person for the position.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  2. Thanks for the great feedback Thomas.

    Another key in our leadership culture-shift has been in recognizing that we need not (and should not) hoard all of the leaders we develop for ourselves. We.genuinely celebrate the ‘Kingdom win’ when a leader we develop leverages their leadership in the community.

    Developing a board member is obviously wonderful, but it is no less valuable to develop a Christ-centred leader for the local school board.

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