The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to train reliable leaders in the church who will be qualified to teach others (II Tim. 2:2). In reading II Timothy, Paul’s understanding of those “qualified” involves the quality of their Christian character. The development of Christian character is discipleship issue. Thus, Paul is exhorting Timothy about encouraging a healthy leadership team, the church’s nervous system, through discipleship.

Too often, pastors find more hurting or weak disciples, than healthy ones who are able to begin and maintain needed ministries. Instead of wallowing in frustration, the Pastoral Epistles call pastors to develop leaders by addressing the Christian discipleship of staff persons, officers and influencers on a one-on-one basis. 

The first step toward developing a healthy team means identifying where church leaders are as disciples of Christ. Then he or she can seek to nurture them forward in Jesus. Such pastoral spiritual direction involves asking each leader about their prayer life, their use of the Bible, and their understanding of church. 

I will address the issue of developing more healthy leaders and their selection in a future article. Presently, our interest is in developing the leaders we have into a healthy team in 2003.

The NT’s call for pastors to disciple their leaders will likely raise the anxiety level of some pastors and some church leaders. However, this is the model that Jesus gives us in the Gospels. John Frye’s book, Jesus the Pastor, develops this theme well. 

A second step of developing sound team is through the lay leadership or nominating committee intentionally focusing on the discipleship of church officers. “The charge of this committee is to identify, develop, deploy, evaluate, and monitor Christian spiritual leadership for the local congregation.” It is also the responsibility of this committee to develop leaders in areas where the utilization of the gifts of the pastor(s) and staff persons leads to an inappropriate stewardship of time. By the way, how will you and the lay leadership committee work on developing your congregation’s officers into a healthy team in 2003?

A third step for a pastor to encourage a healthy leadership team is through the discipleship of the church staff. One of the most important tasks for a pastor is recruiting and building a paid or voluntary staff into a working team. By developing healthy relationships with the staff, both individually and as a group, a pastor can reach the goal of developing mutual their trust and respect as a team. Through such healthy relationships, the pastor can aim toward equipping both the staff member’s personal life in Christ and their ministry. 

The pastor’s role in nourishing the seeds of healthy teamwork through loving one-on-one personal discipleship of individuals in the congregation’s leadership team includes not only the Lay Leadership Committee and the staff, but also the church officers, and influencers. Such discipleship includes the following related steps: (1) affirming them and listening to them; (2) identifying where people are in their Christian discipleship; (3) seeking to nurture them forward in Christ; (4) observing their view of being a church; (5) seeking to develop them in a biblical understanding of being a church; (6) leading leaders in discovering their spiritual gifts, and; (7) sharing your faith in Jesus Christ and view of the church’s ministry. 

A fourth step involves responding instead of reacting to negative leaders? Dr. Dale Galloway offered the following ideas in his presentation: 1. Try every way to win them over as a friend; 2. Understand your authority as a pastor and use it rightly; 3. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Be responsive but not reactionary. Be kind, but not stupid; 4. Do not go up against them in a public meeting, but deal with them one on one; 5. Isolate the negative and don't give them a platform in front of a group like putting them on a committee; 6. Consider what is best for the church; 7. Lead a church through preaching; 8. Never take anger out on a congregation; 9. Have a big say in the agenda for a meeting by asking for items in advance; 10. Pastor runs the staff meeting; and 11. Never surrender your leadership to negative people.

A fifth step of encouraging a healthy team calls for situational management. Dr. George Hunter, said in a lecture, that like coaches, pastors cannot manage every staff member, officer, influencer or volunteer in churches the same way. Like teachers, pastors will ask questions about what people are looking for and listen well before sharing their insights. Like good parents of a large family, pastors recognize that the leaders and volunteers of a church are all over the map as far as individual maturity level is concerned. Pastors will follow suit by seeking to respond accordingly to where each person is and where they are heading.

A sixth step means involving leaders in a special workshop as needed to help restore healthy teamwork. Sometimes a pastor will enter a church whose leadership has been through a season of extreme difficulty. Such seasons often leads a congregation into corporate bondage both spiritually and emotionally. Corporate bondage inhibits a church from being a healthy body for a hurting world because the church’s nervous system is either burned out or shut-down. 

A seventh step in building sound leaders calls for following Paul’s example of praying for others and relying deeply upon God’s free grace in the discipleship of other leaders.

Dr. Dale Galloway shared the following with us in his lecture on “Great Leaders” at Asbury Theological Seminary. “If you can build healthy relationships with the leaders of your church, then your church can minister to hurting people. This is not possible if you have unhealthy leaders. A pastor needs to build the healthiest relationship with leaders who are full people in Christ.” 

For those who desire more guidance about encouraging a healthy leadership team, I highly recommend reading the following books: Galloway’s Leading with Vision, Hansen’s The Power of Loving Your Church, Maxwell’s Developing the Leaders Around You, Miller’s The Empowered Leader, and. Ogden’s The New Reformation.



                                                      See also 

Balancing Grace and Truth by John M. Crowe

Clergy Appreciation

Clergy Health Research and Reports

Dealing with ‘Trojan Horse’ Transfers.”
by John M. Crowe and Thomas F. Fischer

Evaluation of Ministry 


Healthy and Unhealthy Models of Pastoral Leadership

Healthy Boundaries And Co-Dependent Extremes  
by Thomas F. Fischer

Healthy Pastoral Moves 
by John M. Crowe

Protecting and Investing God's Pearls--The Pastor
 by Thomas F. Fischer

Motivation, Meaning, and Ministry 
by John M. Crowe

Pastor's Husband

Pastor's Wife & Women in Ministry

Pastor-Church Relationships from a Biblical/Systems Perspective. 
by John M. Crowe

Power in Leadership & Martial Arts 
by John M. Crowe

Praying for Clergy and Their Families

Practical Spiritual Self Defense for the congregation
 by John M. Crowe

The Dark Side of The Intimate Pastorate 
by Thomas F. Fischer

The pastor's well-being often reflects a church's health and happinessby
Tony Headley

"Healthy and Unhealthy Models of Pastoral Leadership"
by Dr. Steve Martyn

 The Nervous System​

The contents of this article comes from my book, Church Health For The Twenty-First Century A Biblical Approach.


The nervous system connects the muscles, internal organs and the skin of the human body in terms of action, direction, and coordination. Likewise, within a church system there is a very small but important part of the congregation's inner life. It involves wholesome relationships between the pastor and the leaders which each fulfilling their biblical roles. The NT teaching about church offers guidance to the relationships between those involved in congregational leadership.