How to Develop Leaders

How to Develop LeadresWorking constantly with Christian leaders in many different countries allows you to gain insights into the changing trends and shifting needs of those in ministry. Interestingly, many of my current conversations end up around the question “How do we develop leaders?” I have found that it is not helpful to go to the How of developing leaders before visiting the Why our thinking on this subject needs to change. Here is a brief outline of some of my conversations with leaders.

 We start at the wrong place.

Most leadership development strategies begin with Christians who are already committed and involved. But this becomes discouraging when this existing pool of potential leaders is depleted. In most circumstances there are not enough people in this group to man existing ministries, let alone fuel new ministries. If your leadership development strategy doesn’t begin with the newest disciple then you are likely starting in the wrong place.

 We have a limited strategy.

To counter the lack of available leaders, we have focused our energies on praying in new leaders or recruiting leaders from other ministries. But, if you stop to think about this, it’s like having your fruit and vegetables delivered to your home. Someone else did all the hard work of preparation, planting, growing and harvesting so we can conveniently have it delivered for our consumption. Unfortunately, this attitude has created consumers and not producers as well as a lack of leaders. We all want fruit, but Jesus wants us to bear fruit, not just buy it.

 We delegate our responsibilities.

Local ministries are the incubator for developing leaders. Is a ministry really true to the New Testament if it is not producing disciplemaking leaders? Local ministries must stop farming out their most essential role to others and start becoming the intentional leadership development centre God always intended them to be. Existing leaders must begin to see that every person can potentially be involved in an Intentional Leadership Pathway. They must ask themselves of every person they come into contact with, “What is the next important step for this person toward a fuller expression of his or her unique place in the Kingdom of God?” Then they must be prepared to ensure this person moves forward in their development.

 We start too late and end too early.

Each new disciple is a worker…immediately. Starting at the beginning, an Intentional Leadership Pathway is designed to take an individual on a journey of “becoming a disciple and making disciples”. From there they need to move on to a place where they are meaningfully engaged in a ministry reflecting God’s unique gifting and calling on their lives and, for some, this will mean being in leadership roles. For many this will be worked out in a local ministry context but for some, this will mean going further, being a pastor, a church planter or some other kind of fulltime leader. This journey will close the circle of raising up leaders from the harvest for the harvest providing for a much more extensive harvest beyond the shadow of just one ministry. This can’t be a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Today, leadership development must be a continuous, lifelong process rather than a single discrete event. It must be tailored to the needs of the individual and outworked in a local context.

 We have a narrow view of leadership.

One reason why in the past we may have been comfortable with praying in leaders, or appointing leaders without any development work, is because there is an underlying assumption that leaders are born not made and there is nothing we can do about it. Though some people may be born leaders, people are rarely born good leaders. Becoming a good leader is something that must be developed. Ready-made good leaders don’t fall from heaven; they are grown on earth.

 We miss our mandate to develop new leaders.

Let’s start by considering how Jesus invested the three short years he had, to foster a world-wide movement. He prayerfully chose 12 who were “ready” and invested much in their development. He spent quality time with them, changed their DNA and then released them to do ministry. When He left and the Spirit came, they then repeated the process.

We have to start with the premise that the function of current leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers (Ephesians 4:11-16, 2 Timothy 2:2). If this is our starting point then developing future leaders requires an investment of today’s leader’s time.

 We use ineffective training methods.

Over the years most of us have sought out numerous training seminars that have been designed to help us in our ministry. It is not uncommon for existing leaders to have amassed a wealth of information contained in books and training manuals which are now gathering dust on their bookshelves. Some favourites continue to provide some encouragement or stimulus but many have simply not proved useful in the day-to-day issues of ministry. It is apparent that ministry effectiveness does not result from a head full of information that has been taught “just-in-case” it’s needed. In the light of day adults learn specific skills on a “just-in-time” basis and most importantly, they need to have others walk beside them to keep them accountable to apply those skills through behavioural change.

Developing leaders through an intentional Leadership Pathway takes time and effort. Good leaders don’t fall from heaven. Like Jesus, intentionally spend quality time with people who will repeat the process.

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Colin Noyes

Colin Noyes is a Brisbane (Australia) based coach and consultant with extensive experience in the areas of organisational health and growth, change management, leadership development, recruiting/staff development and coaching. Read more

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