If you and your church are going to develop leaders, you must deliver knowledge, provide experiences, and offer coaching. As people receive truth from godly leaders they trust and respect while they are in a serving posture, development is likely to occur.
Knowledge includes information, but it is much more than knowing facts or being able to understand and sign off on a doctrinal statement. To know a friend or spouse is to know much more than their favorite color or restaurant; it is to recognize their moods, to know how to encourage, and to be skilled in relating to them. To know something is to understand it well, to be skilled in it. So when a church delivers knowledge to leaders they are developing, the church is delivering knowledge to more than just the mind.
When the apostle Peter preached the sermon that launched the church in Jerusalem, those listening were impacted in head, heart, and hands. All three domains were involved.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” When they heard this [head], they came under deep conviction [heart] and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?” [hands] (Acts 2:36–37)
To deliver knowledge to the minds of leaders you are seeking to develop, you must know what you believe they must know. In other words, you must have an established sphere of knowledge that you want to pass on to those you are developing. Some questions to consider are: What do leaders need to know? What competencies do they need to develop?
We wanted to answer these questions, so we gathered with ministry leaders who are passionate about and committed to developing others. We sought to develop a simple set of competencies that transcend ministry context and ministry role—a set of competencies that we believe leaders must learn. From our time in the Scripture and our combined experiences learning from effective leaders, we distilled the competencies to the following six:
- Discipleship: theological and spiritual development
- Vision: preferred future
- Strategy: plan or method for the preferred future
- Collaboration: ability to work with others
- People development: contributing to the growth of others
- Stewardship: overseeing resources within one’s care
As we apply knowledge, we must apply knowledge to the hearts of those we are developing. Heads filled with information without hearts transformed by the grace of God is a horrific combination in the realm of leadership development. As King Saul continued ruling, surely his head was filled with more and more knowledge of how to direct people and administer his kingdom. But his heart wandered more and more from the One who ultimately made him king.
As Saul’s leadership and responsibility increased, the cracks in his character became more visible and pronounced. His heart could not handle others developing and growing. He was filled with jealousy as songs were sung, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). His heart could not handle victory, either. After defeating the Amalekites, in pride Saul disobeyed the Lord’s command and instead built a monument to himself (1 Sam. 15:12). Both pain and victory exposed Saul’s character. Pride, jealousy, and fits of anger raged within his heart. Saul’s ability to lead outpaced his character. His skills were greater than his integrity. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king (1 Sam. 15:11). Greater responsibility tends to reveal one’s character. We must deliver knowledge to the hearts of those being developed, not just the heads.
As leaders are developed in their thinking and in their affections, they must also be equipped with knowledge to serve. They must be taught how to lead, how to serve. Zeal for leading, without knowledge of how to lead is not good (Prov. 19:2). Zeal without knowledge is dangerous because we can be deeply and sincerely passionate and completely misguided. As competencies are taught, wise leaders connect these competencies to actions.
- Provide Experiences
Each week ministry leaders feel the weight of responsibility to disciple people in the church while also owning the responsibility of “pulling off church” that week. The kids’ ministry, student program, weekend services, and mission activity won’t happen without the help of others, without volunteers engaged in the ministry. Sometimes these two responsibilities are viewed as polarizing opposites, as if ministry leaders are confronted with the choice to either (a) disciple someone, or (b) invite a person to serve. The dichotomy is unnecessary and unhelpful as people can and should be developed through ministry experiences.
Church leaders must confidently invite people to serve, knowing that the opportunities to serve provide moments where development occurs. Churches must emphasize that all of God’s people are ministers and have the opportunity to influence and impact others through the ministry of the Church.
Some questions to consider are:
Is it easy for someone to find a serving opportunity at our church? Is there a culture of inviting, where current leaders are encouraged to invite others to serve alongside them?
- Offer Coaching
In his book Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin makes the strong case that the top performers in any field have engaged in “deliberate practice” for sustained seasons of their lives. The practice is “designed to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help,” and “the practice activity provides feedback on a continual basis.” Those who hone their craft have been fortunate to have people throughout their lives provide real-time feedback. Coaching from someone we trust and respect deeply impacts our development.
Ministry experiences present many teachable moments, and when those moments are shepherded by a godly leader, development increases. A godly leader applying the truth of God to the heart must converge with the teachable posture that serving provides. Development and discipleship are relational, not merely informational. Without the truth applied to hearts, all a church produces is people who accomplish tasks.
As Jesus cared for the hearts of His disciples when they excitedly returned from ministering, so, too, a church must care for the hearts and not just the actions. As Jesus reminded the disciples that they were forgiven sons first, so, too, must church leaders remind those being developed of their fundamental identity. If leaders are not constantly reminding people of Jesus and His grace, development will degenerate into altruistic legalism—attempts to justify oneself through deeds that are applauded and boost one’s self-image.
Remind people that they are serving because He has first served us, not because we are attempting to earn His love or pay Him back for His love. There is nothing to be paid back as the debt has been paid in full. If you lead a team in the hospitality ministry, remind them that Christ first welcomed us. If you lead a team in the worship ministry, remind them of the joy of celebrating who He is and what He has done for us through Christ. If you lead a team in the kids’ ministry, remind them God’s Kingdom is ultimately for children, for those of us who trust Him as our Father.
Some questions to consider are:
Do we have conversations with those serving in our church about their experiences and about what the Lord is teaching them? Are we constantly reminding people of the “why” beneath the serving?
Leaders are responsible for future leaders. Development is part of discipleship. To develop other leaders, deliver knowledge, provide experiences, and offer coaching.
This is an excerpt from Eric Geiger & Kevin Peck’s newest book Designed to Lead. Pick it up here.
Eric Geiger is a Vice President at Lifeway, leading the Resources Division. He has authored several books including most recently: Designed to Lead.