Ministry Resources

People, Tasks, and Goals: What It Takes To Be A Leader

What makes a strong leader? This lesson series takes a deep dive into the characteristics and attributes of Biblical leaders to try and find an answer. Series written by Billie Davis

Leaders Plan and Organize

“I was disappointed with the results of our visitation project last week,” William declared as he faced the group. He was also disappointed because only six of his committee members were present. This morning, during Sunday school time, he had asked them to remain for a few minutes after morning worship to discuss the project. But several had other plans or, for one reason or another, did not stay. He could understand. Everyone has personal problems, he thought. I must be aware of their needs, too, and not be too demanding.

“Since the pastor put me in charge of this visitation ministry, I feel a great responsibility,” he explained to the group. “We should all get behind our pastor and help him reach this community with the gospel. I want all of you to show your dedication to the Lord and work harder throughout the coming week. We must have the church building filled for the revival meetings starting soon.”

“What did we decide about transportation?” John asked. “I believe you mentioned that we might find a way to help those who live too far away to walk. I visited a mother with several children who might come to church, but they have no means of transportation.”

“Yes,” admitted William,” we were thinking about that. I’ll see what I can work out. Does anyone else have a question?

“There are two young people in my Bible class who would like to go with me on visitation,” said Mary, “Do you think it’s all right for me to take both of them?”

“Yes,” answered William, “it will be good experience for them.”

“That’s what I thought,” Mary replied, “but I asked the pastor, and he said it was better to take just one at a time.”

“Well, I don’t know, maybe in that case . . .”

David – A Competent Leader

Before we discuss David’s place in God’s plan for leading His people, let’s go back to our story of William. We left him in a most embarrassing position, didn’t we? He had been trapped in a place where he must either disagree with his pastor or reconsider his own opinion in the presence of those he wanted to lead and inspire. What would you do? William allowed the subject to be forgotten as another question was asked.

“What about the literature? I need some more. I asked the Sunday school secretary if she had ordered extra copies for our visitation project, and she said that wasn’t her responsibility.”

“Another thing,” Jim interrupted, “there were three of us in the same neighborhood last week, and I doubt if anyone visited in the Northtown area. I’ve heard there are several new families up there who should be invited to attend our church.”

“That’s a good suggestion,” William smiled his approval and spoke enthusiastically, “Now let’s get out there and cover the territory! Let’s all work hard! We can have this church filled next Sunday!”

“Amen! Amen!” said the members of the committee.

This brief description of a committee meeting brings to our attention several important leadership principles. How many of them can you name? What good leadership qualities do you recognize in William? Do you think he represents a sincere Christian in his attitude? Is he willing to accept a leadership position and yet be subject to the leadership of another? Does he seem enthusiastic? Does he have a goal or purpose in mind which he is working to accomplish? Is he considerate in his attitude toward the other workers?

Why are these good qualities not sufficient to make him an effective leader? What is needed to bring success to the committee in this illustration? We will find answers to these and other questions in the account of David’s life and work.

Up to this point in our course the emphasis has been upon people—people who lead and people who follow. Now, in Unit Two, we will turn our attention more fully to the tasks— the “jobs” and techniques involved in leadership. Our biblical example, David, did not lack any of the qualities usually associated with leadership. But most remarkable was the efficient and consistent way in which he put together his assets and resources to bring about extraordinary results.

The Bible acquaints us with David as a total man: shepherd, soldier, poet, lover, father, and king. Brave, guilty, repentant, forgiven, and triumphant, he reveals to us the variety and complexity of human experience. This indicates the marvelous depth of God’s planning. David was provided with the background and elements necessary for the tasks ahead. Physical development, courage, and self-reliance came as he cared for the sheep and protected them from danger. As he walked alone with the flocks he learned to think for himself, use initiative and imagination, and express his feelings and ideas in powerful, inspiring words.

We know that he began life in a lowly position. His call to leadership came as the prophet Samuel selected him, at God’s direction, and let him know, in a simple, almost secret way, that he was to be the king (1 Samuel 16:13). And “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” Then he went back to the sheep, with the marvel locked in his heart. Later, in the household of King Saul, his position was one of humility and servitude.

It seems a contrast to this humility to hear David say boldly that he would go and fight the giant Goliath, when everyone else was afraid. It did not sound humble to state firmly, “I can accomplish that task.” His elder brother scorned David, saying, “You are conceited!” (see 1 Samuel 17:28–32).

David soon proved something that all good leaders know: humility and courage to act are not opposites. Often they go together, as they did on that day when David slew the giant.

Of course, David knew he was not acting in his own strength. The Spirit of the Lord had come upon him in power; therefore, he could speak boldly and confidently. Nevertheless, David did not rely upon enthusiastic words. He referred to actual accomplishments and skills that the Lord had allowed him to acquire. “I killed the lion and the bear,” he declared (see 1 Samuel 17:34–37).

We know that God could have stricken Goliath dead without a stone. God could have sent a stone flying by miracle power, without David or a sling. But when there is need for action to accomplish His purposes, we find that God usually works through people in whom the appropriate abilities have been developed. David had already developed skills. He used confident words to convince others. He used strategy. He used strength and ability. Although he knew the power was from God, he did not act in a careless, unstructured manner. He went about the task as he had learned to do. Notice that he did not casually grab up any little rock. He selected five smooth stones from the stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. There was system and order in his behavior.

Questions for meditation and self-analysis: Read Psalm 144:1. Do you recognize in this passage the fact that David felt competent yet took no personal glory? How did he become competent? What skills and abilities do you have? Has the Lord taught your hands? Has he given skills to your fingers? Do you feel that the abilities you have developed can be used in some special tasks for the Lord’s work?

He Became Their Leader

After his dramatic victory, David had an opportunity to accept honor and praise. He could have been in control of thousands of people immediately. His humility and good sense are shown by the fact that he did not take advantage of personal popularity. He willingly took orders from King Saul. He fit himself into the organizational structure. He obeyed as a soldier and moved up in the ranks according to his skill and conquests. He accepted tasks that were necessary in the nation’s movement toward its common goals.

Many pages of the Old Testament are devoted to accounts of David’s activities. These are historical writings, but they give numerous details of David’s leadership methods. Three of the most important principles related to his success are:

1. He consistently sought God’s will.

2. He was loyal and considerate in dealing with both superiors and followers.

3. He recognized the need for excellence and competence, for which he gave glory to the Lord.

We know that eventually David received the crown that had been promised to him. As king of Judah and all Israel, he was able to subdue the surrounding enemies. This kept him occupied in many battles, which he led with courage and skill.

After he was firmly established in his kingdom, David’s great desire was to build a house for the ark of the covenant—a temple of the Lord—but the Lord revealed that it would not be his privilege to be present during the actual construction of this temple. His part was to supply the plans and the provisions (1 Chronicles 22:1–4). The record of these activities is a unique model for organizational processes and structures.

David Made Extensive Preparations

At this point in the historical record we see that David believed his lighting exploits had a second major focus, that of providing opportunities to amass materials for the temple (1 Chronicles 22:14). As we read the books of Chronicles we are conscious of a thrilling episode in God’s dealing with mankind. The theme is not celebration of formal worship nor miracles, but it is planning, organization, job descriptions, and fund-raising!

David engaged stone cutters and other workmen. He provided stone, iron, bronze, and logs for them to work. He appointed specific supervisors, officials, judges, gatekeepers, and musicians. The assignments were clear. The plans were detailed and were the result of much preliminary work and prayer. David said to his son, Solomon:

May the Lord give you discretion and understanding . . .I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord . . . You have many workers. (1 Chronicles 22:12–15)

He gave Solomon plans for the temple, its buildings, storerooms, inner rooms, and courts. He gave instructions for all the work of serving in the temple and the articles to be used in the service, as “the Spirit had put in his mind” (1 Chronicles 28:11–12).

“All this,” David said, “I have in writing as a result of the Lord’s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan” (1 Chronicles 28:19).

Through years of varied experiences and circumstances, David maintained his firm purpose. He planned with an aim as unerring as that which buried the stone in Goliath’s giant brow. He admitted his failures and repented of his sins. He gave the Lord credit for his skill and recognized that God gave skill to many others. Without resentment, he accepted his role as one leader in the sequence of God’s order.

Then came that climactic time when David decided to challenge the workers and officially commit the responsibility to Solomon. We can imagine the scene as he called that great assembly in Jerusalem. There, he summarized, openly, before the officials and helpers of all ranks, his previous activities and his plans for the future. Nothing was forgotten. Nothing was uncertain. When that meeting was over, the people whom David addressed as “brothers” knew their duties. They knew their relationships to one another. They knew what resources were available and something of the costs and sacrifices involved.

David explained his feelings and actions without boasting but rather in terms of information sharing, then he made a my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver” (1 Chronicles 29:3).

From this position of personal involvement, he could challenge the others to follow him in consecration of themselves to the work of the Lord, in service and in giving. Of course, the people responded to his magnificent leadership. They gave themselves and their possessions freely to the Lord.

David prayed and led the people in worship. “Praise the Lord your God,” he encouraged them enthusiastically. And they all praised the Lord (1 Chronicles 29:10–20).

Turn back to the beginning of this lesson and review the example of William and his committee.

Leaders Plan and Coordinate

Planning is Thinking and Writing

Almost every task that is done well is done twice. First, it is done mentally in the minds of those who have leadership roles. This process of thinking through what is to be done is what we call planning.

Everyone plans in more or less unconscious ways. It is one of the essential human qualities to be able to imagine and picture how something is to be before actually doing it. We try to predetermine or work out in advance a course of action, thinking what we would do under various circumstances. Leaders develop the ability to do this more formally and more efficiently than others.

In most studies of leadership functions, the word planning is at the top of the list. Leaders must plan, and the better they are at planning the more likely they are to be successful. So let’s find out just what the process of planning includes.

1. Analysis and forecasting. Leaders observe present conditions carefully and then predict or estimate how matters will proceed in the future.

2. Establishment of purposes and goals. Leaders have clear ideas of the reasons behind their actions. They know the purpose of each task and the desired result or outcome. The desired outcomes are what we call objectives. Every good plan includes stated objectives. We will study this in more detail later.

3. Outline of a specific course of action. In terms of leadership functions, this is called programming. It includes making a list of steps to be taken in order to effect the desired outcomes or achieve the objectives.

4. Scheduling. Making a calendar or time line is an essential part of both goal-setting and programming. Without specific time lines, goals and programs become impotent.

5. Statement of proposed methods and procedures. The plan must be practical and workable. Therefore, leaders must be able to state in advance what methods are appropriate and available for use in each step of the programs they outline.

6. Financial considerations. In studies of leadership functions this is called budgeting. Most plans require that some degree of attention be given to the expense involved and how money is to be raised, allocated, and accounted for. Even leaders who are not responsible for formal budgeting must consider these matters in order to make practical and realistic plans.

7. Personnel considerations. Leaders decide in advance how many people are needed to carry out a program or project and what qualities or skills the people should have. Selecting the right people for particular tasks is an extremely important part of planning.

8. Compliance with policies and standards. Every plan is made within a framework of policy. That is, there are established values and standards that guide every action within an organization. Christian leaders, of course, are guided by scriptural principles and also by the policies of the higher leadership in the church or institution.

Many leaders find it helpful to express the planning process in the form of questions. The answers to these questions reveal the essentials of the plan:

1. Why should this work be done? This leads to thoughtful analysis of the present situation.

2. What is to be accomplished? This leads to the establishment of objectives.

3. How will the work be done? This leads to outlining procedures.

4. When will the work be done? This leads to the time schedule.

5. What is the best way available to do the work? This leads to consideration of specific methods.

6. What will the work be done with? This leads to budgeting and consideration of facilities and materials required.

7. Who will do the work? This leads to personnel selection and making specific assignments according to the skills and gifts of the people available.

8. What standards and guidelines must be observed or set for the workers? This leads to consideration of existing policies and also to setting standards of quality.

Kinds of Plans:

Most leaders use three kinds of plans. These are:

1. General plans for a period of time, such as a calendar of activities for the year and an organizational chart.

2. Plans for specific activities which are repeated periodically, such as procedures for committee meetings and worker training programs.

3. Plans for individual projects, such as a particular conference or special-day program.

We have said that planning is both thinking and writing. The planning, which is a process, usually requires a plan, which is a written document. Competent leaders use a few basic tools for making both long-range and daily, specific plans.

Planning Tool:

1. The “To Do” list. Every leader must keep a list of plans and duties for each day. This may be no more than a sheet of paper or a notepad, or special forms may be purchased or made. Items to be listed on a daily basis include:


Phone calls to be made

Tasks to be done

Phone calls received

Assignments to be made

Materials needed

Letters to write

Financial or expense data

You will find a suggested form for a daily reminder sheet in the appendix.

2. The calendar. Every leader needs two calendars. One is a large pad with space to write for each date. This is for long-range planning. Such a calendar can be made from any writing tablet if prepared ones are not available. The other calendar is a small one to be carried at all times. Important
dates from the large planning calendar should be marked on the small one for quick reference.

3. A small notebook. The small calendar may be a page of a pad or notebook that can be carried at all times. The good leader is always prepared to make notes concerning the events of the day and to write ideas as they come to mind. The pad is also used for writing names to remember, phone numbers, and addresses.

4. Work planning sheets. Plans for all major projects should be written out in detail. Most leaders design worksheets or forms that are appropriate for their own purposes. Such forms should include space for:

• Date
• Name of leader
• Names of other persons or committee making the plans
• Name of project with description and objectives
• List of specific tasks to be done
• Assignments of people to do each task
• Materials and equipment needed for each task
• Date for completion of each task


Coordination is working the plan. After the plan is finished, your next task is to get all the components together in the most productive way. Coordination is the process of seeing that the right people are in the right place at the right time with the right materials and that they understand how they are to work together to accomplish a task.

Look back at the questions we asked to help you in the planning process. What components or elements are suggested by these questions?

Questions for mediation. Think back over the biblical accounts of David’s leadership role. Was he a good coordinator? Did he consider all the planning components? Regarding his plans for the temple, could you answer each of the questions we suggested?

Problems and Obstacles

Sometimes you hear leaders say, “What’s the use? I had everything planned, and then. . .”

“My workers didn’t follow the instructions.”
“My supervisor changed his mind.”
“My helper was ill.”
“The whole situation was different from what I expected.”

Probably you have had or will have this type of frustrating experience. You make careful plans and see them pushed aside. Then, you may see someone who seems to have no plan at all enjoy great success in a project. Do not be discouraged or allow this to cause you to depreciate the value of planning. Just be aware that planning in itself does not bring certain success. This is one of the reasons some people give for not planning.

There are two other obstacles we should consider. One is that in Christian work someone may accuse a leader of leaning upon his or her own programs rather than upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Certainly, our Bible studies have shown us that the Spirit guides at the planning stage just as surely as at the action stage. Therefore, we must not be greatly affected by people who criticize planning and programs in the church.

Probably the greatest obstacle to good planning is that it takes so much time and hard work. Thinking and writing are two of the most difficult human activities. Try it by testing how much easier it is to stand up and give a testimony than it is to write it in advance. We know that the Lord is able to guide us in writing as surely as in speaking; therefore, it is not logical to say that we are speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit if we do it suddenly in church but are not working by His power if we are writing out plans in advance! This misunderstanding must be overcome before a leader can be most effective. Time and hard work are necessary, along with the guidance of the Spirit.

Following are some suggestions to help you avoid the obstacles and do effective planning:

1. Submit your plans to the guidance of the Spirit. Make them a matter of sincere prayer.

2. Maintain an attitude that all plans are flexible. This is one of the greatest challenges to leadership—to keep plans both specific and flexible.

3. Do not expect all plans to work out. Wise leaders know that the act of planning makes them more capable of reaching their goals, even if the original plan must be abandoned. In most cases, a person who has a plan feels more competent and is able to gain respect and cooperation when a situation changes. Whenever possible, anticipate problems. Think ahead and try to imagine what changes are possible in the situation and what you might do.

4. Plan numerous minor objectives that will help you reach the major objective or goal. For example, if your major objective is to provide meals for a regional conference, minor objectives may be to provide storage space and to collect food items. Plans for reaching a particular minor objective can be kept flexible, and changes can be made without seriously affecting the total plan. We will discuss major and minor objectives in another lesson.

5. Be sure that the plans are understood and accepted by everyone who is responsible for making them work. Remember how David explained his plans and gave the people opportunities to express their personal commitment. Explain to your workers the purpose and importance of every part of your plans. Assure them of your appreciation for their contributions. As David did, have them join you in prayer and praise, submitting the plans to the guidance of the Spirit.

Leaders Organize

We have learned that the concept plan includes both a process of planning and a written document or outline to guide activity. The concept organization also includes two major ideas. One is the process of getting people into relationships for efficient work on a task. The other is the structure, or formal plan, which shows people how they are expected to relate to one another.

Types of Organization

Several types of formal organization are possible. Probably the one with which you are most familiar is the one called direct line organization.

Small churches may not have a secondary leader, and the middle leaders are directly under the pastor.

Military organization is the most extreme example of this type. Its basic characteristics are that the executive leader has the controlling authority and that work is done through a line of secondary and middle leaders. Each person is supervised directly by the person above him or her. The workers are supposed to communicate only through the supervisors and not to go directly to the executive leader.

Another type of organization is called line-staff. This type is used in most large modern organizations. It has a chief executive who is advised by a staff of people with special knowledge and abilities. They give advice and direction to the executive, and then he supervises middle leaders, as in the direct line organization.

A third type of organization is called functional. In a business or company this means that an employee may work with several different supervisors, according to the type of work (or function) involved. The leaders are concerned mainly with the tasks rather than the people.

In most Christian work there is a combination of these types. The pastor is the executive leader. He may have secondary leaders, such as assistant pastors. There are middle leaders, such as Sunday school superintendents and music directors. In a direct line organization, for example, a worker such as a choir member would be under the choir director. The choir director would be under the music director and the music director under the assistant pastor. This kind of true line organization is seldom used in churches. Usually, all leaders have direct relationships with the pastor, so the pattern is more like a line staff organization. Then, because church work includes a variety of tasks, the leaders may find themselves relating to the other leaders and workers in functional ways.

The pastor’s relationships in the church organization are indeed complex because of this variety of tasks and functions. The pastor is the spiritual head of the congregation. He is the executive leader in the organizational structure and therefore the supervisor in his relationships to other leaders. Also, he is counselor and teacher to individual members of the flock. In order to maintain an effective organizational operation, the various roles of the pastor must be understood.

As spiritual head, teacher, and counselor, the pastor relates directly to every individual in the congregation. But as the executive leader, or administrator in the organization, he must do much of his work with people through other leaders, to whom he delegates responsibilities and authority.

This combination of relationships can result in very effective church work. On the other hand, it can bring about some problems, especially for middle leaders who feel insecure or are not competent in their positions. Remember what happened to William in our illustration? One of his workers asked his opinion. After he had spoken, she announced that a different answer had been given to her by the pastor. Not only is a situation such as this a personal embarrassment for middle leaders, but it causes them to lose the respect they need in order to get their tasks accomplished.

William did the right thing when he refused to make an issue of the matter, but he could have avoided the situation if he had had a clear understanding with the pastor concerning his duties and relationships. The pastor and the middle leaders should meet frequently to pray together and talk over the work. They should agree to maintain responsibilities for specific parts of the work. Then, if a worker goes to the pastor with a question concerning matters that have been delegated to another leader, the pastor should either advise the worker to go to the leader or invite the leader into the discussion. A leader should never try to handle alone a matter which is the responsibility of the pastor or another leader.

This is wise and efficient organization, and it makes the task easier for all parties. The pastor can trust helpers to carry out their part of the work. The middle leader can maintain his or her effectiveness with the group. The workers feel secure knowing how they fit into the structure and how they should proceed when they have questions.

You and Organization

Most leaders relate to organization in two ways. First, they must understand how they fit into an existing organization. Second, they must know how to establish and maintain organization in their own areas of responsibility. As we have seen, successful leadership depends upon the qualities of the leader and the structure in which he or she works. A good leader may be handicapped by a poor organizational structure. A good organization may be handicapped by poor leadership. It takes both good organization and good leadership to accomplish tasks and reach goals in Christian work.

Therefore, when you assume a position of leadership you will want to be sure you understand the structure. If there is an organizational chart, study it. Ask your superiors to explain the details of your position. Be sure you know what is expected of you. You may get a written job description (a list of your basic minimum duties), but the important part is that you and everyone involved have clear understandings. If you are to supervise others, there should be a meeting where your position is explained to the group.

How to Organize

If you are to start a new organization or begin with one that needs renewal, you have a great responsibility. Here are some suggestions to guide you:

1. Make a task analysis, a list of all the jobs or work items that have been delegated to you or must be done to reach the objectives.

2. Decide how many people or positions will be needed to accomplish the tasks. List the specific tasks for each person or position.

3. Make a chart to show how the positions will relate to each other and to you and other leaders.

4. Appoint people to fill the positions or be responsible for the tasks. (Do not fill positions that may be more or less permanent until you have qualified personnel. It is better to leave positions open and plan to recruit or train new people.)

5. Provide immediate information to all those who will work with you, and plan to see that they have help and training as needed. Try to give everyone the same information at the same time, and allow people to ask questions.

6. Have a definite plan for accountability. That is, each person must know what is expected and what the conditions and limitations are. Use the planning questions: When? Where?

How? Specify how workers are to record and report the results of their work. Set time limits. Explain relevant policies of the organization that may affect the work. Include in the original plan a way to evaluate or measure results so that you and others will have an opportunity to learn from experience and make improvements in the future.

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