7 Steps to Developing Leaders in your Church

I encounter few pastors who have any real plan for intentional leadership development.

Most, instead, rely on imported ready-made “leaders.” We say that we value developing leaders, but often times we just are not sure where to begin. Earlier this week I wrote on the biblical precedent for leadership development. What follows in this post is a clear, customizable plan for developing leaders in your church. I know that this plan works because I have implemented it 7 times over a period of 12 years with both men and women. Those who I have taken through this plan have gone on to become ministry leaders, local church elders, missional community leaders, cross cultural missionaries, pastors, and church planters. This plan will require you to put in some work in order to apply it to your context, but will help you create a leadership pipeline for your church and beyond.

Read on for 7 steps to developing leaders in your church.

Developing Leaders in Your Church

1.  Define what a Leader looks like.

Imagine building a house with no idea of what the finished product will look like. This would be unwise if not impossible. This same principle applies to developing leaders. Leadership development begins with a clear and written definition of what a leader actually looks like. Take a few hours, use your mind, and write down what a leader will look like when developed. What should a developed leader know, have experienced, and be shaped in? In answering these questions, consider the following three areas:

  • Content (Head) What kinds of things does a leader need to know? These kinds of things will be likely addressed through reading, teaching, etc.
  • Character (Heart) What kinds of heart issues need to be addressed? No amount of knowledge can shape issues of the heart. You can have a lot of theological knowledge and still be greedy, be a gossip, have hidden sin etc.
  • Competence (Hands) What kinds of things does a leader need to learn to do? For example, I see a developed church leader knowing how to teach, knowing how to have a gospel conversation in a variety of circumstances, etc.

At the end of this step you should have a page or two written out that describes key issues that a leader should be developed in and what kinds of content, character, and competence issues have been addressed.

2. Begin to Create a Process.

Now that you have identified what a developed leader looks like, what kinds of things will you do to develop leaders in these areas? What will you read? What will you do? How will heart issues be addressed? How will you address these things?

3. Identify 6-10 people who you will take through your process.

You’ve defined what a developed leader looks like, and have some ideas on the kinds of things that you will do in order to develop a person. The next step is to select a small group of people who you will invest in. 6-8 is the sweet spot and 10 is max. (I know that Jesus invested in 12 but you aren’t Jesus:) I recommend hand selecting these future leaders the first time that you do this. They don’t have to be perfectly mature or have seminary degrees. They just need to be people who you are wanting to develop as future leaders. Take some time and put together a group that you plan to spend a year investing in.

4. Invite each Person you have Selected into the Process.

Invite each person that you have selected into a year-long process. I normally do this by sending a letter but you could do it face to face as well. However you do this, let each person know that you are wanting to invest in a small group of future leaders and that you have hand selected them to be a part of this group. I also recommend inviting them to an introductory meeting where you will lay out the process and commitment.

5. Meet Monthly with the Group you have Selected.

You now have 6-10 people who you have decided to invest in. I recommend (in most contexts) meeting monthly with this group for 12-15 months. In my experience a three-hour meeting on Sunday afternoons or Monday evenings works well. A weekly commitment is hard for many people but almost anyone can commit to a monthly gathering. Why three hours? There is no sense meeting for only an hour when you are only meeting once per month. Three hours will allow you to really spend time together and grow together. I also recommend meeting in a home rather than in a church building. You can mix in a meal, change houses monthly, etc.

6.  Tips as you move through your Leadership Development Process.

  • At your first meeting, devote 3/4 of your time to each person sharing their story and 1/4 of your time casting vision for the year and communicating expectation.
  • Plan, Schedule, and communicate all of your meeting dates at the first meeting so that every person in the group can calendar in advance.
  • Call for a high commitment. I don’t allow a person to miss more than twice in a 12 month period or 3 times in a 15 month period.
  • Give each person a chance to opt out after the first meeting if they do want to commit to your process. If a person shows up for month 2 it indicates that he has committed to the process.
  • Devote each month to one particular area that you have identified in steps 1 and 2.
  • Require reading and preparation for the monthly meeting.
  • Don’t require too much reading. Believe it or not, Some people haven’t read anything since college. You could easily overwhelm a person with a lot of Seminary level reading.
  • Provide audio books for those who commute. Audible.com has an extensive selection.
  • Require each person to make up any monthly meeting that is missed by meeting with you or another person in the group one on one.
  • Some of my favorite books for content foundation include Grudem’s Biblical Doctrine and Graeme Goldworthy’s According to Plan.
  • Consider having each man Write a Life Plan between months 1 and 2. I suggest having each partner up with another person in the group meeting monthly with each other.

7. Finish the year with a Retreat.

Consider finishing your year with a 2-3 days retreat. Communicate this at the beginning of the process so that each person is able to plan. (I took our groups on whitewater rafting trips.) There is something about being afraid that you will drown that brings people together!

Please feel free to comment or ask questions as you walk through your process!

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Posted by Brian Howard

My focus is to help YOU move forward one step at a time. I write about church excellence, personal productivity, and family leadership. I coach leaders, start churches, and help organizations break growth barriers. My goal is to draw on this experience to help YOU move forward in life, leadership, and productivity.