By Todd Adkins
Far too often in our churches, we think it’s the job of the pastor and church staff to develop volunteers and leaders when there’s a gap in ministry. This leads us to focus on leadership placement over leadership development. We settle for warm bodies instead of weekly volunteers. After all, Sunday is coming and we need someone to fill the gaps.
So how do you overcome leadership placement and focus on leadership development? By implementing a leadership pipeline.
In reality, leadership pipeline centers on a business book by Ram Charan, James Noel, and Stephen Drotter. The Leadership Pipeline shows companies how to build their own leaders by understanding the critical passages a leader must navigate, by providing the appropriate development for navigating those passages, and by building the right systems to ensure a full pipeline of leaders, both now and in the future. Unfortunately, this terminology is often misused, misunderstood, and misapplied to many models and diagrams.
Most people hear pipeline and think vertical advancement. However, that’s a pipe dream, not a pipeline. A leadership pipeline does not focus solely on developing top tier leaders. A leadership pipeline provides a framework for developing all your people with core competencies specific to each leadership level and role-based skills unique to each ministry area.
Each passage or bend in the pipeline represents a shift that must occur in how a person spends time and resources. The number one spot where leaders wash out is along these transition points. Far too often, when a person is a good volunteer, we automatically put them over a team. But they aren’t prepared for the next level of leadership responsibility. With a leadership pipeline in place, each volunteer, leader, coach, ministry director, or senior leader knows their next step for development.
When a person begins a role, the first thing we want them to be is a learner. They need to learn the role. As they gain proficiency in the role, they become a leader. Leadership is the next step, but that’s not the only step. We are all called to disciple and develop other people. That’s not just the pastor’s job. That’s not just the ministry director’s job. Development is everyone’s job. When we begin to see people multiplying themselves in their current ministry role, they may be ready to transition to the next level of your leadership pipeline.
Now, most people assume success is all about vertical advancement. The volunteer moving to a leader, to a coach, to directing a ministry, and becoming a pastor and being called into ministry. That’s not the case for most people. Success in a leadership pipeline is a person becoming who God wants them to be and multiplying themselves over and over at that level.
Not everyone will want to be a leader. Not everyone will want that extra responsibility and that’s OK. Many people will serve faithfully in a ministry role for years, maybe even decades. Applaud them for that. But most of all help them understand part of their role is to develop others and be a multiplier in your ministry.
For those who do want to take the next step in leadership, once they have mastered competencies at their current level and multiplied themselves, you know they may be ready for the next step in leadership. Implementing a pipeline removes the guessing game of leadership placement and ensures your church has continuity of leadership when someone steps out of a role or when you need more help. It’s easy, obvious, and strategic for everyone.
For more information on leadership pipeline, check out our Ministry Grid course here.