Distinction Between ‘Ministry’ and ‘Leadership’

In his book, The Empowered Church, Dr Ian Jagelman wrote how that for many years he read numerous books on Christian leadership that primarily focused on ‘matters of integrity rather than matters of skill’. In other words, the authors he read equated godliness with fruitfulness, arguing that the ‘keys to effectiveness’ in ministry were ‘prayer, fasting and holiness’, as the following diagram illustrates.

The trouble with this view, he wrote, is that many ministers who faithfully pray, fast and pursue holiness in the fear of the Lord are ‘ineffective leaders’.

Rather, he now holds the view that: integrity and ministry skills and leadership skills results in fruitfulness, as diagram 2 illustrates.
Jagelman uses David’s leadership in Psalm 78:72 as an example, where it says he shepherded the people of Israel with ‘integrity of heart’ and ‘with skilful hands he led them’.

Some people who are called leaders have a strong preaching gift and attract followers, ‘but when you look at their ministry team, you see that there are no strong leaders following them’. Jagelman argues, ‘They are ministers but not leaders’. In contrast, he writes how other people who ‘may not possess a dynamic ministry gift but build a large church because other strong leaders, with powerful ministry gifts, find it easy to follow his or her leadership. This person’, he writes, ‘is more than a minister. He or she is a true leader’.

Jagelman offers definitions to distinguish ministry and leadership.
‘Ministry is any activity that serves the needs of people.’ It includes such things as preaching, teaching, counselling, praying, visiting, encouraging and caring.

‘Leadership is any activity that directs, influences or facilitates ministry by others.’ It includes such things as planning, decision-making, leadership (personnel) selection and vision setting.

Based on these definitions, he wrote that people confuse ministry with leadership. He added that ‘many organisational structures within churches exist solely for ministry, providing little scope for leadership’.

Jagelman’s observation is that most leaders in pastoral ministry have strong ministry gifts and skills, and a degree of leadership competence. His encouragement is that ministry leaders need to spend time developing their leadership. This is primarily outworked, he writes, by developing other leaders and leadership teams.

In this sense, a ministry leader who intentionally develops, equips and mobilises others to ministry, is exercising highly effective leadership.

This is one of the foundational reasons we, in World Outreach International, conduct ‘leadership development seminars’ and not just ‘ministry conferences’. We want to develop leaders.


  • Chris Brittain
    Chris Brittain
    18th February 2016

    Great word Bruce I believe this is ‘spot on’
    Great character, personal holiness gives opportunity for others to emulate as this person is good role model but raising up intentionally, recognising, affirming, developing and releasing is another set of skills. probably many of those skills can be improved appreciably for most people with the right input.

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    Ruby Bayasen
    18th February 2016

    This is awesome! We need to distinguish leadership and ministry to effectively fulfill our roles in ministry.

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