Leadership Development Principles for your Church

As ministry leaders, one of our top priorities is to raise up leaders.

Yet, the typical leadership development framework is broken in most churches. Instead of raising up those that have been in a position of learning, modeling, and discipling, we instantly elevate those that have ‘leadership potential’.

However, the way we evaluate leadership potential isn’t biblical. Rather, it more often than not is based on how charismatic someone is. But, that isn’t what a leader is. We know that a true leader is someone that leads by example. Not just someone who is bold enough to ask for a position.

For many churches, proper leadership development seems like a luxury. After all, it’s difficult to raise up leaders when you’re already hurting for new leaders. As painful as it is, it is better to hold off on promoting someone to a leader until they’ve demonstrated that they’re ready to lead. It’s dangerous to promote people into leadership roles before we’ve verified and validated some things in their lives. Simply having the skills, personality, or capacity to lead a team isn’t enough to be a qualified leader in ministry.

This post has been adapted from episode 1 of our podcast. You can listen to the full podcast here, watch the video below, or keep reading for a summary.

When creating a leadership development framework for your church, it should have four simple steps: learn, model, disciple, lead.

  1. Learn
    The first step in your church’s leadership development plan is learning. Someone that comes into your church must be committed to learning, first. The old saying, “leaders are learners” is especially true in ministry. Without a spiritual foundation as a disciple, they’ll never be able to lead from a biblical perspective.For some people, this is going to be a longer process of one-on-one discipleship, where you pour into them. However, for others, you may simply need to validate that they align with your church’s beliefs and are living them out. We’ve created Disciple Labs as an easy way for you to see how someone is doing spiritually.
  2. Model
    The second step is making sure that what someone has learned isn’t just head knowledge. Learning should always produce action. Everything can be boiled down to two questions. The first is simply, are they loving God? And the second is, are they loving people? These two questions, while having many layers, will help you to evaluate if someone is truly modeling what they’ve learned.A leader cannot take others where they’ve never been. In ministry, we lead from experience. While my past struggles may not be exactly what you’re going through, I can apply the principles that I used to get through my struggle to your struggle. The people we minister to don’t need theory, they need an authentic experience with Jesus.
  3. Disciple
    After someone has matured in their faith and have started to model a life surrendered to Christ, the third step is for them to start discipling others. Our primary calling as believers is to make disciples. You don’t need to be a leader to make disciples. However, in order to be a qualified leader, you must already be making disciples.Before you can ever lead the many, you have to be able to lead the one. When someone can demonstrate that they are able to walk alongside someone in relationship, only then are they ready to truly lead.
  4. Lead
    The final step in the process is the culmination of the initial three steps. While this is a system, it’s important to note that not everyone is going to move through it at the same pace. You may have those in your church that are already at step three while others are at steps one and two. Each person is different and must be evaluated as an individual.When you feel someone is ready to lead, ease them into it. Start with small things that they can lead before you officially make them a leader. This will help you to test the waters before promoting them to an official role. A person doesn’t become a leader because of a title, the title simply validates what they’re already doing.

Doers, Equippers, and Multipliers

Your leadership system should be multiplying by nature. There’s a fundamental shift that must be made in the heart and mind of every ministry leader when implementing a leadership development system. While most pastors will say they’re equippers and multipliers, the reality is that most of us are simply doers. We know how to do ministry well and how to check things off of our to-do lists, but we’re not so great at raising up others.

If you’re new to leadership development, you’re going to have to fight the tendency to do everything yourself. In order to be who we’re called to be as ministry leaders, we must become equippers and then multipliers. While a task may take you a few minutes to do yourself, it’s better to spend 30 minutes teaching someone else how to do it. Not only will you be able to see how that person does with a task, you’ll also free yourself up to focus on pouring into those in your ministry. It’s impossible for you to continue to do everything that you’re currently doing while raising up others. You have to give away some of the responsibility.

As you move into being an equipper and a multiplier, you begin to create a cycle of discipleship in your ministry. You’ll have plenty of people who are in the learn, model, and disciple steps that can eventually be raised up into leaders. The shift you make towards leadership development today will empower you to lead your ministry for years.

Start With Mission And Vision

Implementing a leadership development framework from the ground up can be intimidating. It’s one thing to listen to a podcast or read a blog and feel motivated. It’s something entirely different to commit to a shift in the way you do ministry. In order for a ministry shift to be successful, you have to build it on a foundation of mission and vision.

It starts by asking yourself an honest question: “why do I actually want to do this?”

Once you’ve answered that, you can begin to develop the framework around sharing it with your team. Your mission isn’t just a statement that you write on the wall. It’s the DNA of your ministry. Before your team will commit to a leadership development framework, they must buy into your mission first.

Your team is already incredibly busy. They’re volunteers with full-time jobs, kids, and hobbies. Unless they’re bought into your mission, they won’t take kindly to being asked to commit to something more. In fact, it may do more harm than good.

When developing the mission and vision for your church or ministry, it’s important to involve your team early in the process. As a paid staff member, you’re going to approach things differently than a volunteer on your team. Something may not seem like a big deal to you but may be a huge deal for a volunteer with limited time they can commit.

If your people know why you’re passionate about leadership development and know the mission and vision of your ministry, it becomes a lot easier for them to buy into what you’re asking them to do.

Just Do It

Mission and vision statements should turn into something that is actually observable in your team as they align with your development system. After getting your team to buy in, the next step is to just do it. In order to do this, it has to be something that is constantly on our minds. Our mission must become something that our people do because they’ve heard it over and over again.

This requires you to take inventory often to see how progress is being made. You can’t commit to implementing a leadership development process for just a few weeks or a few months. It has to be something that you’re dedicated to seeing established in your ministry. If we try to do this as a simple program that is a quick fix, it will fail.

You must routinely ask yourself and your team questions like, “are we actually doing these things?” and “what changes have we seen in the last few months?” This isn’t so that we can get frustrated if we’re not where we want to be, but rather it’s a way for us to know what’s going on so that we can make the changes necessary for it to succeed.

Scott Magdalein

Scott is the founder of ServeHQ and has over a decade of experience as an Executive Pastor, Worship Pastor, and College Pastor. You can chat with him directly using the widget at the bottom of this page.

Other Posts You May Like

All Growth Begins with Self-Awareness

By Scott Magdalein | June 1, 2017

My first year on the YouVersion Bible App team was exciting and challenging. I joined the team to help with partnerships and community-building. Like any new job, the first year came with a learning curve and the need to pick up new skills. I had never been part of a technology team before, so I…

Is Your Leadership Style Helping or Hurting You?

By Scott Magdalein | July 6, 2017

Your leadership style — how you make decisions, connect with and influence others, delegate, handle conflict, cast vision — is shaped by many factors. Your family history and work experience, along with your personality and internal wiring, impact how you think about and “do” leadership today. Leaders we have worked with, for better or worse,…

A Church Is Only As Healthy As Its Team

By Scott Magdalein | July 21, 2017

When you joined the team at your church, what kind of training did you get in the first weeks? Did you have an HR meeting to cover the health insurance and retirement accounts? Did you cover how to submit an expense report or reserve a room on the master calendar? How about how to handle…