By Tim Parsons
As a pastor, I have come to realize that one of the church’s biggest problems (or opportunities, as I like to call them) is leadership development. There are ministries in our churches that need to be led. There are new ministries that need to be started. And, there are leaders in our churches that need to use their spiritual gift of leadership. All of these point to a need that must be recognized by pastors at every church, everywhere.
And, as if those truths aren’t enough to help me realize there’s a need, couple that with the fact that I need to be engaged in the mandate from Ephesians 4:11-12 that says:
11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,
All of these things are probably nothing new for you to consider. It’s a reality in your church, I would guess. The problem that exists, however, is that far too many of us simply don’t know where to start. We recognize the need, but we don’t know where to go beyond that. Because let’s face it, we didn’t have a class in leadership development in seminary.
It would be easy if we could simply identify the leaders in our church and immediately release them to lead in our churches, but it’s not that easy, is it? Leading in a church context is different. And because of that, it’s important that we tailor any training or development we engage in to match up with the peculiarities of the Church as well as our church.
So, I can’t prescribe a specific leadership development plan for you and your church. It’s just too unique. But I can share four essentials I’ve identified that should be a part of your leadership development. And, if you use this as a template, I think you can easily implement a leadership development program that will work for you and your church.
- Knowledge component. This is probably the one you think of first when you consider a leadership development system. In order to lead in your church, there are things the leaders need to know. This can include processes at your church like how to get an announcement in the bulletin or how to start a small group or it can be leadership principles like managing conflict or setting goals, etc. What are those things that the leaders at your church need to know in order to lead successfully?
- Relational component. Because ministry is never done alone, leadership development should be drenched in relational opportunities. Some leadership development needs to happen one-on-one, but most can be done in groups. Also, leaders need to be mentored, and they need to mentor others. The purpose of leadership is to influence others, so it’s important that those you’re developing have regular opportunities to relate to others. What are some ways that leaders need to engage relationally in your church?
- Experiential component. This is where the rubber meets the road. As I’m sure you’ve experienced, classroom training will only go so far to train someone how to do something. Until they get hands on experience, the information that you give them will only stay at the philosophical level and never cross over to the practical level. Leaders want to lead, so it’s important that you provide opportunities for them to get some hands-on leadership experience early and often. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a high level of leadership, however. What are some areas in your church that the leaders you’re developing can step into leadership right away?
- Spiritual component. Maybe it’s me, but it’s far too easy for me to engage in leadership development and focus too much on the practical and theoretical and leave out the spiritual aspect of leadership. All leadership is spiritual. So as you invest in the development of your leaders, don’t forget to invest in their spiritual growth as well. This component also includes teaching your leaders what you believe as a church theologically so they can help those they lead understand it too. In what ways can you consistently and systematically invest in the leaders in your church?
Leadership development can be an overwhelming endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. And, the gap between those who need to be led and the leaders you have in your church isn’t going to grow smaller by accident. It is going to take an intentional process on your part. But I believe that if you will take a small step, it will pay dividends over time. And these four components will help you have a process that will be both effective and lasting.
Tim Parsons serves as executive pastor at First Assembly Community Ministries. His passion is to help people lead better—at work and at home. Tim’s blog on leadership has been recognized as one “Christian leaders should be reading.” You can find him at www.timparsons.me where you can get his free ebook: “Leadership For The Rest Of Us” or connect with him on Twitter: @_TimParsons_.