There are three prevailing thoughts about leadership development that I’ve been noticing in churches across the country.
First, churches are complaining that their leadership bench has become pretty thin. If God gave them a new opportunity they’re not sure they’ve got the leadership depth to say yes. I get this, I’ve also observed that the leadership bench in the American Church is becoming pretty thin. It really concerns me.
Second, churches are scouring the landscape for an off-the-shelf solution like a class or some curriculum that they can use to magically build a deeper leadership bench at their church. This one is frustrating for me. Yes, there are leadership principles that can be learned and content that can support leadership development but, when are churches going to wake up and learn that leadership development doesn’t happen in a classroom?
Finally, I’m seeing more and more churches hire young, inexperienced, and untrained staff members who attend and love their church but have no bible training or ministry experience. Then they basically throw them to the wolves and hope they’re going to somehow magically work out.
I think it’s time for churches to take a different approach to leadership development.
You can’t play a good game with a bad attitude. It’s a true statement when I encourage my 10-year-old son with those words before a practice or game and it’s a true statement in church leadership. Your attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference and when it comes to leadership development in the church it can be the difference between you developing a deep bench or starving your church of good leadership. You’ll always find what you’re looking for and if you’re looking for deficiencies you’ll find them. A critical spirit is a guaranteed way to discourage and put a lid on growth in others. Leadership development is optimistic by its very nature, because you’re helping someone become something that they’ve never been before, and while blind belief won’t make them become a leader they’ll never become a leader if you don’t believe they will.
You’ve probably read about social experiments that have been done to test the correlation between expectations and performance. In one such study teachers were told that a group of students they had in their classroom had tested incredibly high at the beginning of the year. However, these teachers were duped. These students weren’t gifted, but the fact that the teachers believed they were influenced the way the teachers viewed and behaved towards the group of students. When tested at the end of the year the students that the teachers believed were gifted actually outperformed the rest of the class. Sometimes people behave the way you treat them. If you want to build leaders, then start treating them like leaders. Encourage them through your words, actions, attitude, and approach to become what they’re not.
The thing about leadership is you can’t learn it in a classroom. Leadership development is an immersive, hands on learning experience. To get better at it you’ve got to get reps. The first ministry leadership opportunity I ever had scared me to death. As a freshman in college my pastor asked me to teach a Jr. High Sunday School Class. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and took a risk on a young guy. It paid off, and the next opportunity came along, and the next. That’s leadership development. You throw a young promising leader in the deep end of the pool and see if they can swim. If they don’t make it, you jump in, make sure they don’t drown, coach them up and give them another shot. If they do make it, you coach them up and throw them into a bigger pool.
So, what do you do after you give a young promising leader an opportunity to have some responsibility? You coach them up. Coaching involves turning on the game tape and reviewing how things went. Great coaches reinforce what went well and redirect what didn’t. They start with reinforcement because they know that’s how consistent culture is built. What gets noticed and celebrated gets repeated. Then when it comes to parts of the project that didn’t go as well good coaches assume the best intent and redirect what went wrong.
Posted in Leadership