November 27, 2022

Engaging Followers

Featured image for “Engaging Followers”

One of the greatest rewards of leadership is investing in and raising up the next generation of leaders in the church. Part of that includes taking inventory of the gifts, styles and engagement levels of the people in your congregation who could potentially become strong leaders.

On this Whiteboard Wednesday, John Messer breaks down the four main types of “followers” (regular members of your congregations) and the unique approaches for building each up as emerging leaders in your church.

The Leader-Follower Matrix

The Kelley Leader-Follower Matrix diagram.

Depending on followers’ levels of engagement and critical thinking abilities, they can be grouped into four main types. With strong discernment, humility and a willingness to listen, we as leaders can help people in the church move along these spectrums to become fully engaged co-leaders in our communities.

  • If someone is disengaged in the mission, vision and values of the church and non-critical in thinking about those things, we call them passive followers.
  • If they are non-critical thinkers but engaged they’re conformist followers.
  • If they’re disengaged critical thinkers, they’re alienated followers.
  • And if they’re independent critical thinkers and engaged in the mission, vision and values of the church, they’re exemplary followers.

As a leader, the ability to engage passive, conformist and alienated followers to help them become exemplary followers is key. Because when you find exemplary followers – you find emerging leaders.

Developing Followers into Emerging Leaders

Passive followers: Those in this category might be disengaged because they simply don’t know the mission, vision and values of your church – or they don’t agree with them but have never been given a voice to disagree. They might not feel as though they have the opportunity or the place to voice dissent. Guiding a passive follower toward leadership means helping them find their voice and develop a deeper understanding of the church’s mission, vision and values.

Conformist followers: these engaged followers also need to be able to find their voices in order to raise questions in the church and think critically about their opinions. We need to engage them in conversation as we show them that leadership is not a top down position – but a circular action that includes their perspective. It’s a process that engages them and welcomes their opinions. Encouraging conformists to ask questions is one of the best ways to draw out their potential as leaders.

Alienated followers: this group consists of people who are disengaged from the existing leaders of the church. This could be because they don’t agree or align with the mission or values of the church – but more likely it’s because of strained relationships with leaders. As a leader, it’s your job to find out if they have been hurt, wounded or alienated because of something said or done within the church. This humble willingness to listen takes guts. Find opportunities to listen to and understand what happened to alienate them. Then, work with them to find the best solution to  re-engage them in the community.

Most importantly, if leaders are willing to engage with people in the congregation right where they are with a willingness to acknowledge pain and past wrongs – we can help passive, conformist and alienated followers become exemplary followers. And when we’ve done that, we have greatly expanded the leadership pool of our churches and organizations.

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