Leading an Army or Platoon?
February 8, 2015 Vicki Ohlerking

Leading an Army or Platoon?

February 8 2015

by Jeff Leake, Lead Pastor of Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA and Founder of Reach Northeast

When a church gets planted, it goes through several phases of organizational development. Each phase requires the Lead Pastor to adjust their approach and grow as a leader. In fact, the ability to shift gears and change your approach to the organization is a major key in avoiding the plateau-syndrome, where you stay stuck and a certain organizational size.

PHASE ONE: Platoon Commander

The early stage of church planting is all about building a platoon of willing participants to join you in the launch process. Leading a group of 25-50 requires the leader to be high touch, personally available, providing direction to each individual as to where they fit and how they are to function. Just about everything at this stage is hands on and is highly relational.

Launching effectively requires vision and planning skills. But the key component to getting there involves being a ‘lover’ of people who is able to connect with, affirm, direct, challenge, and motivate a small group of people to accomplish a short-term goal – which is the hosting of a Grand Opening Service.

PHASE TWO: Division Commander

If ‘launch day’ is effective and the church is able to retain more than 100 people on week #2, then the Lead Pastor has to start thinking differently. Applying good ‘platoon commander’ skills at this moment will only take the church back toward 50. Most often, the ‘platoon commander’ pastor just adds more personal time and energy to his phase one skills and by sheer effort he keeps the entire church functioning.

This requires hundreds of personal conversations, coaching sessions, and care giving. When your church is the size of a division and you are functioning like you are leading a platoon, you will eventually wear yourself out and the church you lead will plateau in size and function.

Leading a ‘division’ requires that you have 3-12 platoon commanders who are leading with you. Your job shifts from leading one platoon, to leading the platoon commanders as they lead and pastor their people.

To be effective, you must concentrate on time management, project management, and managing the performance of your leaders. Your vision must be clear. Your plan must make sense to all those involved. Everyone must know where they are supposed to be and when. And as victories are won, the Division Commander learns to commend and celebrate the success of his leaders.


Functioning as a good ‘division commander’ can take a church from 150 to about 400. Again, there must be a shift in approach or the organization will plateau. What has to happen? A ‘general’ recruits and trains 3-5 ‘division commanders’ and releases them to lead major segments of the organization forward.

Generals have to limit their activities.
They have to continually see the entire battlefield.
They have to be good at advanced planning – thinking several moves and several months ahead.
They have to be excellent communicators in that they are keeping everyone aware of the next move and compelling vision behind it.
They have to be willing to confront the division commanders and platoon leaders who are failing to do their job effectively.


You can’t lead like a ‘general’ when you are in the ‘platoon’ phase.
You can’t lead like a ‘platoon commander’ when you are trying to break 200.

Every leader needs to recognize their organizational size and the kind of leadership that is necessary to make their organization effective.