By Carey Nieuwhof
While we all want to see our mission and organization grow, nothing stunts the growth of a ministry faster than inadequate leadership development.
It’s a mistake almost every young leader makes. I did ... and honestly, as much as our church has grown, I feel like I’m still learning on this one.
If you don’t handle leadership development well, at least three things happen:
Things that start small stay small.
Even if you grow, you keep hitting unnecessary growth barriers.
You miss the potential of the ministry God has given you.As a young leader, I made three critical leadership development mistakes:
1. I tried to do too much by myself.
2. I used recruiting leaders as a substitute for developing leaders.
3. I didn’t articulate expectations clearly enough.Ultimately, you will limit your potential unless you address all three.
Here’s why inadequate leadership development is a problem:
You can only do so much. The capacity of hundreds or thousands of leaders leading is much greater than the capacity of any single person. Yet many leaders are afraid to release leadership to others.
Recruiting but not developing high-capacity leaders creates an artificial growth barrier. If you only recruit and don’t develop the people you recruit, you basically assume they will have to go elsewhere for their growth. The problem with that is that many won’t. If you really want to release the potential of the people in your community and realize the potential of your ministry, don’t just recruit—develop the people you recruit.
Not articulating expectations clearly enough frustrates leaders because they can’t see the goal you want them to achieve. You know what happens when a leader doesn’t clearly articulate expectations? Everybody gets frustrated. You get frustrated because people aren’t hitting an unseen and unarticulated target. They get frustrated because they’re not even clear on what they should be doing. Or, they make up their own rules and are shocked when you tell them they’re missing the mark—a mark which you never bothered to articulate.
So how do you push past that?
Here are three keys to overcoming the tendencies to do it yourself, recruit people but not develop them, and not articulate clear expectations:
1. Train leaders, don’t just teach them.
Teaching people tells them what to do. Training gives them what they need to do it. My natural tendency is to teach, not to train. But I realized I have to grow past that.
Training helps leaders acquire the skills they need to do what you’ve asked them to do. It pushes past providing the knowledge base they need and gives them time to practice, to get better, and drills into specifics like ensuring they have the technical tools and budget they might require to accomplish their mission.
Training sets other leaders up to succeed, whereas teaching alone can leave them floundering.
2. Clarify parameters, in writing.
You want a clearly articulated ministry, vision, strategy and maybe even value set in writing. But you need to go beyond that. You need to create a position description for every volunteer that clearly outlines what to do. You might even want to go further than that and create a ‘win’ for every ministry area.
As a North Point partner church, at Connexus our win for everyone who works on stage or behind the scenes on our Sunday morning adult service is to “create worship experiences that make people want to come back and take a next step.” We then articulate that the win is accomplished when people come back, take a step (like joining Starting Point) and invite others to come with them. It makes it clearer for everyone.
3. Mentor key leaders.
This is where it gets personal. You can’t mentor everyone, and you can’t mentor hundreds at once, but if you commit to mentoring even a handful of leaders at a time, you might end up mentoring hundreds over several decades.
I try to always have a half-dozen people I’m building into personally—from senior staff, to elders, to key volunteers and leaders in the congregation. The point is to help them grow as people as much as leaders—to share life together around a common cause. In the process, you as a leader impart the DNA of your ministry, but you also help them grow as people.
One of the best mentoring leaders I know is Ron Edmondson. Not only does he write a great blog, but he has a small gold mine of free posts on mentoring that you can access here.
If you do these three things increasingly well, it will take the lid off your leadership.