Leadership development is a hot topic among church leaders today, but it seems that no matter how hard we try, churches are still looking for great ways to develop leaders. We have all experienced what John Maxwell meant when he said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Leadership is vital for the health of the church.
So, how do we implement a leadership pipeline, when we can’t find leaders to begin with? How can you start building leaders when you don't have any?
I want to share five keys to implementing a leadership pipeline in your church that will be pumping out leaders for years to come.
#1 – Focus on Building a Culture
This may sound counterintuitive, but concentrate on building a leadership development culture before building leaders. If you focus on building leaders first, it’s all you’ll ever be doing. You will never be able to raise up enough leaders fast enough to sustain growth.
Leadership development isn’t the sole responsibility of one person, it should be spread out among others. By building a leadership development culture, you spread out the responsibility for leadership development throughout everyone in the church.
So say over the next year you make it a priority to train up 4-6 leaders. After the year is over, ask those 4-6 to make it a priority to train up another 4-6 leaders each. By the end of year two, you should have at least 20 new leaders within your church. By the end of year three, you could have over 100 new leaders within your church. How big of an impact would that make in your church?
That’s the beauty of a leadership development culture. You’re not just adding leaders, you’re multiplying leaders.
You’re not just raising up leaders, you’re raising up leaders who can produce other leaders. When you develop this type of culture, you’ll never have a leadership shortage.
#2 – Model Leadership Development
“Good leaders have always considered coaching and development as part of their role, but when push comes to shove in a busy world, it’s often what goes first. Leaders, therefore, must find ways to maintain the discipline and commitment to developing leaders even when other demands seem more pressing.” – Noel Tichy
If you’re the senior leader in your organization, I know your time is scarce. You’re preparing sermons, you're counseling, you're visiting the sick. I could go on and on. Needless to say, your plate is full, but you need to know something. You will set the tone for leadership development in your church. If you’re not making it a priority to develop leaders, neither will anyone else in your organization.
The vision for leadership development has to come from you. You’re the voice of change in your organization. You need to celebrate leadership development. What gets celebrated gets replicated.
But saying how important leadership development is isn’t enough. You need to set the example for others to follow. You need to always be investing in yourself and you need to have a small group of people you are personally developing.
If you’re not willing to make leadership development a priority in your own life, don’t expect others in your church to make it a priority. It just won’t happen.
#3 – Eliminate the Excuses
As you begin the process of developing a culture of leadership development, be prepared for the excuses. Here are a few that you might hear:
- I don’t have time – If you have high-level leaders, they’re busy just like you are. You have to communicate the importance for making time to develop leaders. Small investments over time will pay huge dividends for your church.
- I don’t know how – No problem, you’re going to show them how. Let them know over the next 6-12 months you will be taking them through a program to develop them as leaders that they can then use that to develop others.
- We already have enough leaders – You can never have enough leaders in a growing church. Maybe you have enough leaders in the parking ministry, but the guest services ministry is struggling to find leaders. Maybe you have enough leaders for now, but what about two years from now.
Keep in mind, if you’re making excuses, others in your organization will follow suit.
#4 – Make Leadership Development Relational
The old saying is true, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Leadership development has to be relational.
Leadership development isn’t just taught. More often than not, it’s something that’s caught.
If you don’t have a healthy relationship with those you're trying to develop, they will never buy into what you’re teaching. You have to care about the person more than the process. If you can get this right, it has huge benefits.
Teams that have healthy relationships have better communication. They work better together. There’s less stress on the team and leader. People are more free to operate in their gifts and passions. And the team cares for the members within it.
Before you develop leadership, take the time to develop the relationship.
#5 – Develop with the Future in Mind
One of the biggest mistakes church leaders make is putting plans and processes in place that meet needs now, but won’t sustain them for the future.
As leaders, we should always be planning for the future. We should ask ourselves questions like;
- What would our church look like if it doubled in size in the next year?
- What services would we need to add?
- How many more volunteers would we need?
- What staff positions would we need to add?
- Are the systems and processes we currently have in place able to handle that kind of growth?
We should always develop for vision and not for need. Develop for where you want your church to go, not for where it is. If you’re always planning for what’s ahead, you should never find yourself getting behind.
Travis Stephens is a husband, father, and executive pastor of a small town church that grew large. He has a passion for helping small town churches and pastors. So most of what he writes about focuses on helping churches and ministry leaders take steps to grow themselves and the churches they serve. Learn more at http://travisstephens.me
So What's Next?
You're supposed to develop leaders in your church, but where do you even start?
We believe leadership starts with ourselves. Before you can lead others, you have to lead yourself well.
So we created a FREE resourced called the One-Page Leadership Development Plan. This simple plan will help you move forward as a leader over the next 12 months in addition to how you lead others.
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