I pray that all of your Sunday School leaders are God-called, passionate, Spirit-filled, and effective. I pray that none burn out, fall into sin, or accept an ill-fitting position. Revolutionary Sunday School works to have the right leaders in the right places, and this means at one time or another that our best efforts will demand addressing ineffective leaders.
How can revolutionary Sunday School handle ineffective leaders in the best possible way? I like what Henry Blackaby said in his book, Spiritual Leadership. He shares five basic principles for responding to the ineffective leaders (adapted):
- Pray for the ineffective leader,
- Cultivate your own positive attitude towards the situation,
- Overcome any fear you have of confronting the ineffective leader,
- Discover why the leader is ineffective, and
- Handle the ineffective leader properly and positively.
Why is it that prayer for leaders is so often neglected? The key word is praying for the leader. Don’t just pray for what you should do. Pray for the leader. Expect something positive. Don’t allow your negative attitude to become a self-fulfilling prophecy (to make your expectations come true). Face your fears. Don’t allow ineffectiveness to drag out. Have an open discussion for the good of the leader. Work toward a win-win situation. But how?
One of the best ways to address ineffective leaders it to work to help leaders improve so they don’t become ineffective. What are simple steps for leader improvement? Pray for the leader. Establish open communication with the leader. Watch the leader at work. Encourage and affirm positive work. Call attention to areas needing strengthening and focus. Provide help, mentoring, and training as needed. Two good improvement reflection questions to ask an effective leader are as follows:
- What went well?
- What would you do differently next time?
In addition to the above, what are some strategies for preventing leaders from becoming ineffective? One is to make sure all leaders have been apprenticed to do holistic, balanced, effective work. Another strategy for preventing ineffective leaders is to enlist God-called leaders rather than warm bodies. It is also important for the church to keep her commitments to all enlisted leaders. Other strategies include providing regular leader training, on-the-job training, and specific issue training. Encouragement is always a useful prevention tool. Apprenticing is a great tool in advance of service or of specifc action. Mentoring and coaching are two useful tools for on-the job prevention.
Sometimes, efforts to improve Sunday School leaders or prevent ineffectiveness fail. What are reasons to remove ineffective leaders? Consider this list:
- Moral failure,
- Bad fit,
- Unwillingness to address problems,
- Unresolved sin,
- Unsupportive of pastor/staff,
- Poor or no preparation, and
- Personality conflict.
What is a simple strategy for removing ineffective leaders? Pray. Visit/talk with the leader face-to-face. Encourage the leader and affirm the good things that have been done. Attempt a win-win situation. This may result in the leader quitting or a mutual parting of ways. You may want to offer him or her another place of service. But you will want to find him or her a replacement immediately. In revolutionary Sunday School, replacement should be easy if you have a good apprenticing process in place in your Sunday School. Pray now for your leaders. Enlist well. Communicate. Encourage. Train. Be revolutionary!