It was a total team effort reading scripture for the first time as a middle schooler! The youth leader nominated me. The pastor convinced me. The choir director rehearsed the readings with me. The congregation gave me a pat on the back after worship. While this leadership development was informal, it was essential in my journey to becoming the leader I am today.
As congregational leaders, there are many things we must invest our time in but none might reap as much benefit as leadership development. I have witnessed those who have developed as leaders grow in their faith, deepen in their connection with the congregation and community, and move the mission of the church forward.
Here are some ideas to take the step in developing new leaders:
The most effective leaders I encounter lead with their spiritual gifts. When helping to identify one’s spiritual giftedness, look beyond the obvious and refrain from pigeonholing people by their secular jobs. For instance, in a congregation you may have an information technology professional who has no interest in your congregation’s web design, but is a dynamic youth leader. When a leader is identified because of his or her spiritual giftedness, rather than to fill a leadership position vacancy, they will lead from a place of enthusiasm and passion that is often contagious. Explore spiritual giftedness during a new member’s class, by congregational survey, through a spiritual gift inventory, or in a simple conversation. How do you identify the spiritual gifts of your congregation?
When leaders are resourced they feel valued. To resource leaders to grow in both competency and clarity of their position provides them a scope of responsibility, training, funding and/or staff support to lead toward success. Consider hosting a leadership retreat, purchasing the job description and committee leadership guides published by Cokesbury, attending a regional or district Day of Learning, enrolling in the Laity Leadership Academy or the Lay Servant Ministry. In what ways are you resourcing your church’s leadership team?
Many individuals accept leadership roles only to end up feeling burnt out and questioning their own effectiveness all within the first year. I know I have. What made the difference for me was a mentor. Everyone who is starting in a new leadership role needs a mentor who will journey with him or her during at least the first year of leadership. This mentor could be an “expert” in the ministry and walk beside the new leader through the “how to’s” of the position, or the mentor could be a “coach” asking meaningful questions and aiding the new leader in navigating the hurdles or working through new ideas. Who in your congregation would benefit from a mentor or coach?
When was the last time you said to your leaders “thank you”? Thank you can come in many forms. Commission your leadership team in worship at the beginning of the year. Take your Vacation Bible School leaders to a night of bowling. Host a bi-yearly leadership potluck supper. Purchase tickets for your worship team leader to local Christian Concert. Write a simple thank you note. An unexpected thank you goes a long way in leaders knowing that they are instrumental to the mission and ministry. How will you say, “thank you”?
Mission and Vision.
It is essential that leaders have a clear understanding of the mission and vision of the congregation. Without clarity of the mission and vision, ministry may grow, but it risks not aligning with what the church is called to be and do next. Consider inviting leaders to share how they are living out the mission and vision during a ministry moment in worship, a Facebook post, newsletter article, or a team meeting reflection. Are your leaders and the ministry moving the mission forward?
Where to start? Select one or two people who you would like to work with for a season in developing their leadership and learn if they are ready to take this next step.
These are just a few ways that I have used to develop leaders. How about you?