Developing Leaders

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Leaders are different animals. Don’t have leaders if you don’t want to be lead.

Some people lead reluctantly, they are content to be do-ers, but God thrusts them into leadership. Others are born leaders, God has baked leadership into their personality. Still others can be leaders when asked, and can let others lead and be content being contributors.

So how do you develop leaders? What does that mean? What do you mean by a leader?

In ministry in the church there are many roles that we call “leaders” but very few are leaders in an organizational sense. so let’s break that down:

What do organizational leaders do?

1) cast vision or mission (at some level) for the future activities
2) establish goals
3) create plans
4) recruit and develop staff (paid or volunteer)
5) encourage/influence others to invest (mentally/emotionally) in the vision/mission
6) execute plans
7) achieve goals
8) develop other leaders

This is dramatically different from the offices of the church: deacon, elder, pastor. This is dramatically different from the youth group “leader” or small group “leader” roles that are common. This is dramatically different from the Sunday school teacher or leader roles that are common.

Deacons are administrators – ordained by God in the new testament church so that the elders and pastors could focus on the more spiritual aspects of ministry. Elders and Pastors are teachers, shepherds, prophets, counselors, healers and administrators ordained by God in the new testament to serve the church (people) by helping them know and grow and to construct a means of mutual accountability so that ordinary human behavior does not damage the ministry.

I hear you asking, “Don’t these offices play key roles in the leadership of the church?” – yes absolutely – but they are not necessarily inhabited by leaders. In fact while key leaders often occupy these offices, it is not necessary by any means that they do.

The organizational leader often occupies a program or worship director or coordinator role in the church. He or she may or may not occupy a paid position, or any new testament church office.

No I think what most churches want to develop are shepherds or disciplers (shepherds in charge of very small numbers of sheep). In fact, I think that we are all supposed to develop in this direction. So what is the difference between organizational leaders and shepherds.

Shepherds are responsible for keeping the sheep in pastures, well-fed and watered, and out of dangerous situations. Shepherds make sure the strays come back to the herd, and protect the sheep from predators.

Organizational leaders are responsible for making sure that the shepherds are trained, there are enough shepherds to watch over the sheep, that pastures are not over-grazed, that sources of water and food are appropriately used. They may be responsible for wool production as well.

So when most churches talk about leadership development, I think they are talking about raising up new shepherds or in some cases, they are wanting proven shepherds to rise to fill administrative offices. I think that God often gifts these individuals and provides talents and passion in ways that allow them to function as organizational leaders, so it is not so much developing them as assessing whether they have the gifts, talents and passion to lead.

Some organizations talk about leadership pipelines – the pools of people who are passively developing into or being actively developed into leaders. In the church, these usually start as disciplers moving towards shepherds. As disciplers we learn to serve those we are discipling. If we can do this without becoming arrogant or haughty our flock can grow.

I don’t believe that we can afford to promote someone into leadership if they are not directly connected with producing fruit on a personal level. A person with skill at building maintenance can be an effective worker, contributing their time and skill to the Lord’s work – but without a passion for the fruit or ministry, they cannot be trusted to take the facility in to a place of greater utility in producing fruit.

One effective way to build an effective shepherd development process is to use the Paul – Timothy model. Every disciple should have a Paul, a mentor who he has an accountability relationship with, who is his discipler. Every disciple should seek to build discipling relationships with others, his Timothy(s). This method can be amplified, if the Timothy(s) are able to work side by side in ministry with their Paul(s). That would suggest that Timothy and Paul have some common passion in ministry, maybe common or complementary giftedness. If this personal accountability and discipling framework can be baked into volunteer ministries, this becomes less difficult to administer. Each ministry program builds its own network of accountability and discipling, drawing its servants and leaders into a tight community of personal discipleship. Small group leaders are knitted together in supportive mentoring and discipling relationships. Youth workers the same. Parking lot workers, greeters, custodial, worship singers, office staff – the same.

The effectiveness of this can be amplified even further if we jumpstart discipleship with an intensive small group discipleship oriented Bible Study like the Navigators 2:7 program or something similar – so that new believers are quickly immersed in and oriented to scripture, doctrine, and good habits of discipleship.

I think this addresses what many churches focus on when looking to build a leadership pipeline – but my next post will be about a different kind of leader, and how to develop that…

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