Equipping Leaders—Practically Speaking
NOTE: I wrote this article as a local church pastor…I’m hoping it is of help to you in your leadership role!
Effective leaders do four things: they cast vision, they create environments, they develop systems, and they equip leaders. Of all these things, equipping leaders has got to be the most difficult! But, over time and with lots of blood and sweat, I've learned a few things I think might be worth your consideration. In my ministry as a pastor, writer, and speaker, I’m most often asked about developing other leaders. How do you grow people to spiritual maturity and maximum Kingdom impact? How can we develop our leadership team to our greatest potential? In my experience, there are 5 specific practices that produce positive benefits:
Life on Life: I know of no other way to sow into a life other than doing life together. Sharing your life with those you lead will involve formal and informal times together. The journey is a combination of parenting, dating, marriage, and team sports! By the way—EVERY time I've had a leadership failure on my teams, it is due (at least in part) to the fact that we didn't stay connected “life on life”
- We go out for coffee with no agenda.
- We spend time in each others' homes
- We share recreational passions (skiing, fishing, hiking, the gym, video games, etc.)
Training: One of the meanings of the Hebrew word for training is “to make narrow.” Specific skill training helps to provide skills and strategic understandings. Since vision is always more “caught” than “taught,” the process of training often provides great vision refining moments.
- Each of our program staff is expected and encouraged to sharpen their own strength based toolkit
- We attend 1-2 key training events a year together where we have an “iron sharpening experience”
Benchmarking: There is great value in exposing your leadership team to greatness. Visiting other churches that are doing a great job in ministry can elevate the thinking of everyone involved. I've become so committed to this practice that each member of our pastoral team is encouraged to visit at least two other churches annually for the purpose of learning their story and benchmarking their ministry practices. Not only are these trips in addition to conferences, but also we provide the funds for the trip to include the spouse and possibly the family.
- We track 10-15 key church websites and learn from their communications and structures
- We always watch churches that are at least twice the size we are…they've been where we have been and they're going where we are going.
Leadership Development: Both Jim Collins and John Maxwell talk about “levels” of leadership. My experience suggests that we must teach people that leadership is a process, NOT an event. Helping people to see their leadership potential unfold over time is part of the process of effective equipping. We are working hard in our own church to provide “first serve” opportunities in every ministry and to cultivate “high capacity” leaders who can effectively lead other leaders.
- Each ministry tries to provide both kinds of service opportunities (first serve and high capacity)
- We are constantly “on the prowl” for emerging and developing leaders; each of our key leaders is pouring their life into others and committed to personal life-long learning
Shared Experiences: Leadership equipping happens best in community. There have been some incredible individual moments of ministry. But the more we do ministry, the more we are committed to doing ministry together—as teams of people with shared vision and passion. So, we are structuring lots of experiences where people can have the shared experience of working together, facing challenges, cultivating vision, and deepening their relationships with Christ and one another. Leadership equipping is not a solo sport!
- We try not to let anything be a "solo” sport. We're constantly trying to connect people in teams.
- Many of our teams are starting to do local outreach projects together as a way to grow forward in ministry.
Effective leaders equip leaders. The fruit of that ministry produces a ripple effect that reaches the shores of heaven. The Apostle Paul was clear about that in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 when he wrote, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” At our church, we say “Changed Lives are Our Business.” We've learned over time that equipping leaders is a core technology that is at the heart of our business!