The church generally lacks intentionality in developing leaders within the congregation. The challenges are many (see our blog post about 12 of the most common challenges). For the most part, pastors and ministry leaders do not receive training in this area. Ephesians 4 tells us:
The role of pastors and teachers is to equip the people for works of service…
Yet we find that few churches are actually doing this.
Pastors and teachers possess a mission to see men and women in the church profoundly understand their divine design and be fully equipped for ministry. It is not that church staff don’t desire to do this training, but they really don’t know how to do it. This is where the leadership development pipeline comes in.
The Senior Pastor of my home church shared his vision of seeing hundreds of men with leadership potential be more effective in their ministries. From the beginning, I jumped on the bandwagon and asked for the opportunity to be part of this vision to create a leadership development pipeline.
We have been developing leaders at our church now for several years now. About two hundred individuals have gone through this leadership development pipeline. As a result, the depth and quality of our leaders has increased and the ministries of the church have seen a greater impact.
I conducted an interiew with one of the graduates of the leadership development pipeline at my home church to get his perspective on the process. Be encouraged, reflect, and consider how a leadership development pipeline can serve to develop yourself and leaders serving among you.
Q: Why did you pursue the leadership development pipeline in your church?
A: I guess that can only be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit. God gifted me with a bent towards leadership roles. Participation as a leader came and went throughout my life; however, when the opportunity came up to really engage in developing skills in my church, I felt called to pursue that.
There was an element of the unknown, as I knew God would open up opportunities to exercise new skill sets, yet I didn’t know what form that could end up taking. I figured that even if nothing more ever came of it, I would undoubtedly improve as a leader in my house for my wife and children. To me, that would be enough to call success.
Q: What types of leadership development did you go through? What were some of the core competencies?
A: It started with systematic theology to get a higher level understanding of the Bible and church doctrines, along with studying God’s character and plan for redemption throughout history. We then moved into working on understanding our relationship to God and deepening our relationship with Him. This prepared us for the final portion of our instruction, where we would explore our strengths and gifts to begin to understand our divine design.
Q: That sounds like a lot of material to cover. How long did that take?
A: The leadership development experience took two years. Systematic theology training comprised the first year. We met weekly for nearly two hours and that class ran for over 9 months. The second year was similar, but with slightly less classroom time. During the final months, we worked on a real world project to explore where our gifts fit well, in order to serve within our church or another ministry area.
Q: Is the point to get people into “full-time ministry”?
A: Followers of Christ should already be in “full-time ministry” no matter what they do vocationally. But if you mean vocational ministry or full-time paid staff level ministry, no, that is not the point. This process aims for students to grow in their relationship with Christ and serve Him in the way He designed us to. That’s different for everyone. Some people find vocational ministry to be their calling and others will become effective workplace Christians who serve their church or parachurch organization in their spare time.
Q: That sounds like a huge commitment from the church staff. Were people hired to handle this effort?
A: No. The existing staff took this on with the help of a key lay leader, who does development as his career. And you’re absolutely right — it is a big commitment. And it’s a huge commitment by the students as well. Everyone has to look forward to the vision to remain motivated. If the mission and vision are well articulated, then it should not be a problem.
Q: What has the been the benefit of the leadership development pipeline to your church?
A: We are finding people taking on teaching roles, expanding church ministries, creating new compassion outlets in the community and working with other churches to help them develop leaders. We’ve had a couple hundred leaders go through various stages in the leadership development pipeline.
Consider this: the mission of every church is ultimately to go and make disciples (or at the very least making disciples should be a key part of their mission). Every church has their own unique way of doing this mission. Some become better at it than others, yet all churches have the potential to do it well. As more leaders are available to take on leadership roles, the more effective the church will be in accomplishing its vision.
Our senior staff understands this and realizes that training leaders provides a stronger leadership team. After the initial effort is put into the training, the work load decreases and they can spend more time training more leaders who will perpetuate the effort. Note the words of 2 Timothy:
The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)
That’s the benefit of the leadership development pipeline.
We look forward to sharing more details of the leadership development pipeline and process our church has created. We also look forward to your comments and questions. Feel free to leave them below. Continue to work towards seeing lay people in your church become the energy that propels your ministry forward to impact your community as God intended. He intended the New Testament church to be on missionas disciple making leaders around the world–not just create smarter congregants!
Ron Donnini is the CEO & President of The Malphurs Group and currently serves as an executive pastor. He is a seasoned corporate executive with a history of effective general management experience. Ron resides in Arlington, Texas, with his wife Shawn, where he enjoys golfing, reading and taking in an occasional baseball game.