Raising up future leaders from inside the four walls of the church.
There is a farm league in major league sports where athletes can hone their skills in a safe environment before they are called up to compete. Yet there is a tendency in the church to call someone up into leadership even if they are untrained because the church needs to fill the position.
With decreasing weekly church attendance, church leadership has to be more intentional in developing the leaders for the future—through three keys to creating a leadership pipeline.
1. Develop Leaders
Leadership can not be limited to a certain age or gender but developing a cross-section of leaders from all ages and genders. Inside the local church, there is the untapped potential of those sitting in the pew to lead a future class. Far too long, power within the local church has been controlled by a select few, and when those leaders either move on or pass away, there is no bench for someone to take their place.
As the church adapts to the changing culture, the church leadership must better disciple a new generation of leaders. Mentoring is a crucial component of developing future leaders. Mentoring does not have to be structured, but it does have to be intentional where a current leader begins to create a new generation of leadership by taking them under their wing and showing them how to lead.
I am convinced that leaders are not born as much as they are developed over time through strategic development. The intentional investment made through personal relationships, opportunities to serve, and consistent feedback helps the future leader develop the skillsets necessary to succeed in service to the kingdom.
2. Develop Learners
Leaders need to develop learners willing to listen, learn, and lean into conversations to glean the most from them. While leaders can be fashioned over time, it takes the generous heart of the one called into leadership to be a lifelong learner. It is incredible how leaders took their knowledge for granted and forgot to pass it on. For a church to be triumphant, it needs leaders who develop learners with a heart towards service. Serving is not about a person or position but others.
When you evaluate the ministry of Christ, you see that he developed leaders over time and not just by osmosis. He focused on finding individuals who were willing to die to rise in the Savior. The church needs those types of leaders who want to learn from others more senior in the position than them and to be able to admit when they do not understand something or why it is being done.
Learners who are willing to adapt to the changing culture and context of the local church community will be leaders who learn over time; they do not have to have all the answers. With a willing heart and an eye towards obeying God, the church can develop generational leaders who will embrace the church’s change season and strengthen her.
3. Develop Life Lessons
As a leader begins to get their feet wet, they need to fail and be protected. When young leaders make a mistake, they are often chastised and chased from their position of authority. Instead of running off a new leader, embrace them by helping them understand where they went wrong and how best to have handled that situation. Senior leaders in the church have an opportunity to provide direction, protection, and a safe space to experiment as they grow into the leader that Christ has called them to be. Peter is one such leader who failed but failed in a way that Jesus was able to use his failings as a teaching tool to fail forward.
Like Christ before, senior leaders need to love their mentees with a devotion to make them better. Through long-term investment and understanding, the church’s spiritual health will rise along with the leadership.
The church needs a leadership pipeline that develops leaders, learners and life lessons that enable the church to raise future leaders from inside the four walls of the church.