Many types of church leaders are needed in order to fulfill God's purposes. The concept of levels or types of church leaders has been around for some time. What follows is a modification of J. Robert Clinton's description of the five types of leaders needed by the church today. It is important to remember that dividing all church leaders into five types is artificial and there is no clear break between two types. Often leaders function on the line between two types. Also, please remember that in God’s sight all five types of leaders are equally important. We may give greater honour to certain types of leaders, but God does not!
Type A Leaders
Examples: Sunday School workers, small group leaders, leaders of church ministries.
Support: They support themselves and serves as volunteer church workers.
Who they serve and influence: primarily the members of the local church in which they serve. In many cases they may also serve as leaders in the community.
Training: informal & nonformal. Most churches have no programs to train such workers, but expect such leaders to develop their leadership abilities on their own.
Type B Leaders
Examples: pastors of small churches, church planters, part-time evangelists, pastors of a circuit of churches.
Support: They at least partially support themselves, though they often get part of their personal support from their ministry.
Who they serve and influence: primarily the members of the local church. They often oversee a few Type A leaders. They may have some influence in the local community, especially in smaller communities, though that often is because of their skill as leaders and not because of their church position.
Training: mostly informal and nonformal, though sometimes they may have received a little formal training through a Bible school program.
Type C Leaders
Examples: Pastors of large churches, pastoral staff of large churches, and similar persons who do full-time ministry. They are usually ordained and are seen as professionals.
Support: They are paid for the Christian ministry they do and this provides the primary source of their income.
Who they serve and influence: These leaders directly work with Type A and sometimes Type B leaders, whose work they oversee. In larger churches, they may not have direct contact with most church members.
Training: usually formal post-secondary (Bible school and/or seminary).
Type D Leaders
Examples: district or national administrators, national evangelists, and various leaders whose influence extends beyond that of a local church or community.
Support: They are usually full-time and receive pay for what they do, though often in Africa that may largely come from a large church out of which they operate.
Who they serve and influence: In most cases, in their position as a Type D leader, they do not interact with local church members, but with other leaders, and primarily with type B and C leaders.
Training: Usually Type D leaders gained their position because they performed well as Type C leaders. In almost all cases, they received no training to prepare them for these new responsibilities as a type D leader and they often struggle because performing at this level is very different from ministering in a local church.
Type E Leaders
Examples: Leaders whose influence extends outside of the nation and may extend around the world. This would include international evangelists, heads of international organizations, well-known Christian writers, theologians, etc.
Support: These leaders are full-time and are supported by the organizations with which they work.
Who they serve and influence: Believers and churches around the world. Again, they only rarely deal directly with local church members. In most cases they work only with Type C and D leaders.
Training: Most leaders on this level receive very little training for their international leadership. Again, they have to “train themselves.”
It should be obvious that the church does not need as many Type B leaders as it needs Type A, nor does it need as many Type D leaders as it does Type C. Clinton feels that the most desirable path for the development of any leader is to start at the bottom as a Type A leader and over time work his or her way up through Type B to Type C, etc. In most cases, leaders at one level interact with and supervise leaders at the level just below them. If they have not spent time serving as a leader at that level, it becomes difficult for them to relate to that level of leadership. Many valuable lessons are learned at each level and skipping those lessons may cause a deficiency in a person's leadership ability at a higher level.
Most leaders have a God-given capacity to become a leader at a certain level. Their ability to reach that level will be determined by training, the leadership opportunities that come their way, and by their personal desire and openness to God's working in their lives. It is very important to understand that it is God who determines a person's capacity for leadership. Every level or position of leadership is equally important in God's sight. A higher level of leadership is not necessarily better. It is wrong for a person to covet or desire a type of leadership for which God did not equip him. For someone to be placed in a place of leadership or strive for a level of leadership above their capacity will create problems for them and for those they are expected to lead. The goal of leadership training should be to help every leader fully achieve his or her God-given potential.
Most formal education programs, including the typical Bible college program, are designed to train people to function as Type C leaders. But many times those who graduate from such an institution have not previously served as Type A and Type B leaders. This creates problems for them if they expect to step into a Type C leadership position. They may have the knowledge necessary to function at that level, but they lack the experience and skills.
Clinton sees important transitions occurring as a leader moves from Type B to Type C and again from Type C to Type D.
The Shift from Type B to Type C: Type A and B leaders spend most of their ministry time working directly with church members and are primarily involved in everyday kinds of ministry experiences. They at least partially support themselves, so they do not have to derive all their personal financial support from those that receive their ministry. All of this changes when a person moves to becoming a Type C leader. Type C leaders oversee larger churches, and it becomes impossible for them to have the same kind of relationships with five hundred church members that a leader with only fifty church members can have. Instead, Type C leaders often relate primarily to Type A leaders, who in turn relate to the members of the church. In the process, Type C leaders begin relating to church members through large public gatherings (Sunday morning church services) as opposed to small, more intimate groups.
As their church grows, sometimes a Type B leader may hinder the growth of his church because they do not recognize the need to train Type A leaders and shift primary responsibility for care of church members to them. Without an adequate number of Type A leaders, the pastor will fail to minister to all the needs of the members of his church, and some may leave because they feel nobody cares for them.
Another problem experienced by many leaders facing the shift between Type B and Type C is that they may hesitate to give up their part-time job and trust God to fully support their needs through the church they lead. Clinton refers to this as the “logistics barrier.” A growing church of two hundred members needs a full-time pastor. If that pastor continues to work on the side, he will not be available when he is needed and the growth of the church will suffer. But if the pastor shifts to being supported full-time, the expectations of church members increase. Followers expect more from full-time paid professional church workers than they do from part-time pastors.
The Shift from Type C to Type D: Clinton calls this shift the “strategic barrier,” by which he means that the leader needs to shift from doing ministry directly in the local church to doing ministry indirectly in the local church through others. This barrier is hard to cross for two reasons. First, previous formal training did nothing to prepare the leader to serve as a Type D leader and the person is unprepared for the change. This shows when, for instance, a new district official tries to treat church pastors like he treated church leaders in his church and finds they do not approve of this!
Concerning the other reason he writes:
There is [also] the psychological barrier. Type C ministry involves doing ministry—that is, exercising gifts directly with many people. Type D ministry involves a switch from primarily doing ministry to enabling others to do the ministry. There is much reward in seeing results when one is doing ministry. One does not receive those same kinds of rewards when helping others do ministry. (Clinton, The Mentor Handbook p.1-26)
Type D leaders largely give up ministry in a local church in favour of developing other leaders. To become a successful Type D leader, the leader must accept and believe that, “more time spent with fewer people equals both a greater and a more lasting impact for God.” (Clinton, The Mentor Handbook, page 1-26)
Clinton, J. Robert. Leadership Emergence Theory. Altadena, CA: Barnabas Resources, 1989.
________. Leadership Training Models. Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1984.
Clinton, J. Robert and Richard W. Clinton. The Mentor Handbook. Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1991.