You need quality leaders in your church. You’ve likely identified what’s needed–current gaps in your churchwide leadership capacity. Maybe you’ve even completed job descriptions. If that’s where you currently find yourself, know that the most common mistake you can make next is to start a search for the ideal candidates for those roles. And why is that a mistake? Because God has brought people into your sphere of influence who can be developed into the very leaders you need. A little investment on your part can be the catalyst for significant ministry and multiplication.
3 reasons it’s better to develop new leaders
1. Ready-made leaders come with their own set of priorities, goals, and agendas.
Generally speaking, they come from other churches or other ministries that invested in helping develop them. Those churches shaped their values, their priorities, their assumptions–and they will bring all of that with them. While some of it may be aligned with your church, much of it will not be. As a church leader, how do you feel when people say, “My old church did X, Y or Z. We should do it that way here too.” If you want to keep having that conversation over and over again, recruit ready-made leaders from other churches. But if you invest some time in developing and shaping the people God has given you, you will end up with leaders who are aligned with your values, priorities, goals, and agendas. And you get to help shape their loyalty and assumptions.
2. Homegrown leaders bring intimate knowledge of the community.
If you invest in people who are already a part of your community, they have already spent time absorbing the DNA of that community. They’ve heard the sermons, they know the people, they understand the history. Leaders with that kind of inside knowledge bring far more value than people from the outside.
3. When you invest in developing people, you are pursuing the Great Commission.
You are reaching people, teaching people, and sending people. You are fostering cradle-to-the-grave ministry for a whole generation… and equipping that generation to reach the next and the next and the next. In this way, you are a part of something much greater than any one church. You are investing in a pay it-forward development model that results in exponential ministry for the wider Kingdom of God.
So here’s how to do it…
5 steps to leadership development
1.Identify potential leaders
They don’t have to have any specific skills yet. These are simply people in your congregation. Look for people who are faithful: they show up and they do what they say they are going to do. People who are humble and want to learn, and are living as disciples of Jesus. They may not have a long track record and they may not know a lot of theology, but they are living in obedience to what they know so far. These are the people you want to invest in developing.
2. Determine strengths and areas for development
First of all, you don’t determine this–they do. Start with who God has made them to be. Identify their gifts. What are they good at? Where is God calling them to grow? Always begin with their strengths and celebrate those. Then use those strengths to help them wade into areas they are less sure of. Beginning with strengths and moving into new areas of growth builds confidence and encourages growth.
3. Come alongside them to grow necessary skills
If you are helping someone develop their teaching skills, spend time talking with them about what’s important in teaching. Give them a window to see how you approach teaching. Give them a small assignment: maybe providing a five-minute overview of a topic for a small group to then discuss. Meet with them afterwards to help debrief that experience.Then incrementally provide more challenges that stretch them.
Nothing discourages new potential leaders so much as being forgotten about. Don’t follow the pattern of a Deist God who sets things in motion and then walks away. Follow the pattern of an incarnate God who comes to live among us and walks beside us. Be sure to consistently check in, encourage, celebrate, and provide new opportunities for people to practice the skills you are teaching them.
5. Multiply your investment
When you are investing in developing leaders, don’t stop right before you get to the most important part: those leaders can readily be employed to help develop other leaders. This is the step that requires the least amount of work on your part, yet provides the biggest return on your investment: develop leaders who go on to develop other leaders. Encourage every leader you work with to also work with an apprentice of some kind. An easy way to start this conversation is to ask them, “Who are you going to share what you are learning with?”
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