Ever felt the weight of your ministry responsibilities was a little more than you expected? Have you wished for more leaders around you to share the responsibilities?
I memorized Galatians 6:9 to encourage myself not to become weary in doing good. I prayed Matthew 9:38 asking Him to send more workers in the harvest field.
I always felt the weight of leadership and wished for more people who were willing, and able, to lead. But I struggled with a good way to develop leaders.
We saw that others feel that way, too, in the results of the 2016 PastorMentor survey. Developing leaders is ranked second behind evangelism and discipleship in new skills that church leaders want in their lives.
Small comfort that we’re all wishing for more leaders, but what can we do about it?
James Kouzes and Barry Posner have been thought leaders in the field of leadership for years. Their newest book, Learning Leadership, is a tool we can use to teach the leaders in our churches to lead better.
Heck, it’s what we need to become better leaders.
This is a leadership book, so it’s up to us to learn leadership in the context of a Biblical worldview and Jesus’ leading, but here are some ways you can use this book to do easy, effective leadership development in your church.
- Learn 5 practices of growing leaders.
- Discover practical steps for using the book as a tool to equip your leaders.
- And get the free download: Learning Leadership Discussion Guide, Part One.
5 Practices of Growing Leaders
1. Believe that you can be a better leader.
Your leadership ability isn’t fixed. Everyone leads, we just don’t do it often enough, or intentionally enough, to become better leaders. Try this daily affirmation: “I can become a better leader than I am today.” Grab a dry erase marker and write it on your bathroom mirror to remind you each morning.
It’s circular reasoning of the best kind: if you don’t believe you can become a better leader you won’t work hard enough to actually become a better leader. On the flip side, when you do believe you can become a better leader, you will keep trying, and you will learn how to lead better.
Wondering what they mean by working at it?
2. The best learners are the best leaders.
Learning is the master skill. If you push yourself to learn something new about leadership every day, you will grow in your leadership ability.
Kouzes and Posner:
“The most meaningful and important way you can take charge of your learning and become your best self is to make learning to be a better leader a daily habit.”
3. Leadership takes practice.
Here’s where these guys differ from some other leadership experts. They believe that leadership is a set of behaviors and actions that everyone can learn. The more you practice these skills, the better you become.
So, what skills would you like to improve?
Do this: write down the leadership skill or behavior you’d like to improve. Then develop a simple plan for how to practice that skill or behavior. Take into account your talents, strengths, and weaknesses; and practice deliberately.
Learning to lead takes time and directed practice, the same as learning a musical instrument or a new sport.
4. Start a leadership journal.
Spend 15 minutes at the end of every day reflecting on your day as a leader. Prayerfully, ask yourself questions about what you planned to do, what you actually did, what you said, what went well, what didn’t go well, and how you would do things differently.
Pray about these things, struggle before the Lord like Jacob, and ask Him how He wants you to lead tomorrow.
5. Find a leadership community.
It’s common sense, and the studies prove, that organizations with a leadership culture raise up better leaders. And more leaders.
But how can you get a leadership culture going in your church?
Kouzes and Posner say there are four characteristics of organizations that are good at developing leaders. Those characteristics are:
- Opportunities for learning.
- Support for risk and failure.
- Models of exemplary leadership.
Not to worry if your organization isn’t marked by these characteristics yet. You can begin to create a culture of leadership development by:
- Finding and connecting with a few people you trust, for leadership support and feedback.
- Organizing opportunities for learning.
- Taking small risks and connecting with others who value risk, failure and trying again.
- And finally, by going to the best leaders you know and asking them to share their learnings, their advice, and their journey to leadership prowess.
Don’t wait for someone else to lead. You. Lead.
Be the learning leader who catalyzes a culture of leadership development in your church.
5 Steps to Get Started Right Away
Leaders take risks. Consider risking this plan of action to build up leadership abilities in your church:
1. Get a copy of the book, Learning Leadership by Kouzes and Posner for each of your leaders.
It will say a lot to your leaders when you buy the book for them.
You will have just proven your commitment to them and to their growth. Do whatever it takes to find it in your budget or from a special donation. You will get a return on your investment.
2. Read the book together as a leadership team.
I’ve heard it said that a good way to develop leaders is to read leadership books together as you do ministry together. It’s a leadership lab: theory and information mixed with skills and mindset.
Work your way through the book, assigning a section at a time to read and discuss together at the next meeting.
If you don’t have a standing meeting with the leaders you want to include, set one up for six or seven sessions. Include staff, key leaders, and rising leaders. They will be honored to be included.
Inside that small group, you are developing a culture that develops leaders.
Every time I worked through a leadership book with my staff, we got better at leading, we thought better of ourselves as leaders, and we made jumps forward in our ministry capabilities.
3. Take advantage of summer.
Surprisingly, summer might be the very best time for leadership development.
Here is the rationale for summer leadership development:
- You’re getting new leaders in place for the fall and you are getting them started off with some great leadership development.
- Most of your small groups are taking a break.
- People can read the book as they sit on the beach or swing in the hammock. Who says summer reading has to be fiction?
- Why wait?
There is something special about being invited to join a summer group for leaders. At Mariner’s Church in Orange County, their Summer Leadership Series has been the coolest place to be. Their team has fun together and they improve their leadership skills together. It sets up the ministry to be stronger in the fall.
4. Get your leaders a leadership journal.
A spiral ring binder is perfect. It’s not too bulky. It’s just like everyone else’s. It’s inexpensive. I’ve never been able to write in showy journals – it feels like my words have to be too profound.
Getting them a journal will help them get started. Getting them a simple journal won’t be intimidating.
Break down the steps into tasks on your to-do list:
- Make a list of current and potential leaders in your church.
- Set the dates for the group to meet. That makes it real. Pick one weeknight for six or seven weeks.
- Decide what to call it. Use “Summer Leadership Series”, like Mariners Church, or something else the Lord brings to mind.
- Invite each leader on your list to join you. Have a personal conversation with each one telling them why you’re doing it and why you want them to be part of it. Don’t worry if they can’t come every week because of vacations, they will still benefit from the reading and the group.
- They probably need an email about it, too, so the details are in writing.
- Order a book and start reading.
- Order more books as leaders say yes.
- Use the Learning Leadership Discussion Guide for your first session.
Blessings on your leaders and their growth!
Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. He mentors pastors who want to lead healthy, growing churches with resources at www.pastormentor.com.
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.
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