A Paradigm for Developing Leaders

Written by Derick Sherfey, Director of Content Strategy

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least."
-WolfgangVon Goethe

Developing 'sent ones' is hard. My guess is most churches know that identifying, assessing, equipping, releasing, and coaching leaders are essential to being obedient to Jesus' invitation and command to make disciples of all nations. Yet, I've yet to meet a pastor or ministry leader who would claim to have too many leaders to know what to do with. And if we'll slow down from our programmatic frenzy, wearing our busyness as a badge of honor, we will have to admit that much of our swings at developing leaders rarely make it anywhere near the fence of empowered 'sent ones' living on mission in their everyday life. Something has to change. We must find a way to unlock the power of God in the people of God, to see His sons and daughters rise up and lead for the glory of God. Jesus has given us the invitation to lead in his kingdom, and to equip others to do the same. 

I've been reading a book called Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. I've found the following paradigm exceptionally helpful as we seek to build leadership development into the DNA of our new church plant, The Oaks Community Church, in Denver. 

Formulas for Diagnosis

"For leaders to be developed consistently and intentionally, churches must possess
strong conviction to develop leaders,
a healthy culture for leadership development,
and helpful constructs to systemically and intentionally build leaders. 

Constructs without Conviction = Apathy

The reason that may people in churches give blank stares to leadership development initiatives is because an overarching sense of conviction has not been fostered in the church. The reason many churches settle for enlisting people to "fill necessary slots" to pull off programs is there is not a conviction for developing leaders. The pastors, the people, everyone has given up on the grand idea of discipling and deploying leaders. If a shared sense of conviction that God wants to raise up and release leaders in his kingdom through the church is lacking, apathy is sure to follow. If you want to know why churches have given up, look no further than lack of conviction.

Constructs without Culture = Exhaustion

Constructs are doomed to fail without strong conviction and a healthy culture. If a church attempts to execute constructs without a culture of development, the systems will feel exhausting. The church longs for the "leadership pipeline and seeks it through systems; but without a healthy culture those systems are merely seen as another set of things to do, a cumbersome hoop to jump through. And as staff attempts to implement, everyone grows weary. Every time the team aims to fill the leadership pipeline it feels as if they are pushing a boulder up a hill. An unhealthy culture breeds exhaustion. 

Conviction without Constructs = Frustration

At the same time, if a team holds a deep conviction for development but lacks constructs to develop leaders, frustration festers. Constructs are vitally important. Conviction and culture must be the starting point, but if constructs are not provided, then intentional and ongoing leadership development is merely wishful thinking. A vision without a strategy is nothing more than a fun whiteboard moment that rarely results in anything significant. There is nothing more frustrating than an unrealized vision, than a passion without traction. A leader who isn't passionate about developing sent ones will sleep better tonight than the one who is but lacks necessary constructs to actually make progress. A leader with constructs often says, "We keep talking (louder and louder) about developing leaders, but nothing happens."

A way forward

If any of these are missing, the development of healthy sent ones will be stifled. Is one missing in your context? Which ones need more focus and attention? Take some time to take this before the Lord, asking for clarity, wisdom, and endurance. Let's guard against remaining paralyzed in unfaithful disobedience and from charging ahead into this task in our own strength and wisdom. We need the Spirit of God to accomplish the work of God. The good news is there is grace in our failures, strength for the call, and motivation as we look by faith to the day when every tribe and language and people and nation are gathered enjoying the beauty of God in the face of Christ.

And you don't have to go at this alone. Let us know how The Upstream Collective can help.