Teleios Surveys Pastors About Church Leadership

Teleios, Inc., in cooperation with the Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) DMin department conducted a church based leadership survey to examine leadership structure, training and quality within churches.

223 pastors were surveyed. The highest percent of respondents were located in the southern portion of the United States (46%) and served primarily non-denominational churches (55%) almost always meeting in their own free-standing facility (84%).

Most respondents were senior pastors (67%) who had served their church for 11-20 years (30%); the most common degree was the ThM (70%) from DTS. Average weekly church attendance was between 200-500 (25%); however, some pastors reported attendance of more than a thousand (18%).

The most frequent form of church government was elder-led (43%; congregants electing elders), but pure elder-led (28%; elders appointing new elders) and congregational forms (24%) also were common. The average number of elders was 7, but a wide range existed among the churches.

Important findings:

  • The churches in this study generally employed an independent and local elder-rule form of government. Additionally, they utilized a small group structure to meet the leadership, spiritual and social needs of the church.
  • The job description of the small group leaders appear similar to those of elders, but these leaders often do not have the fully-orbed characteristics of elders.
  • A deacon structure is used less often (68%), and deacons receive more limited spiritual responsibilities, even less than small group leaders.
  • Training is derived from a variety of sources including, directly from the Bible, extra-biblical resources and from the material developed from the church staff.
  • The greatest complaint among pastors for all three lay leadership groups (elders, deacons and small group leaders) is the lack of leadership skills and biblical knowledge.
  • Summary: Elders are used by the vast majority of conservative evangelical churches, and tend to accept tasks delegated to them by Scripture. Pastoral leaders seem to consider their elder boards integral to the spiritual and administrative functions of their respective churches.

In summary, pastoral leaders seem to consider their elder boards integral to the spiritual and administrative function of their respective churches. More results are here.

About Teleios Research: Teleios, Inc., seeks to demonstrate the truth scripture and of the Christian faith through the scientific method by providing evidence for the positive results of a Biblically-based lifestyle. Prior studies conducted by Teleios Research have shown that the practice of the Christian faith (praise, prayer, fellowship, service and Bible study), and security of salvation increases well-being while reducing levels of guilt. A fuller description of findings can be found on the website

MacIlvaine WR, Stewart WC, Barfoot DS. A biblical theology and pastor survey on local church leadership. J Ministry Theology 2016;3:125-143.