Everything You Need to Know About Developing Leaders is Right Here

This article holds the key to developing leaders.

Got your attention? Good! Now let’s be honest, there is no way that this article holds the key to developing leaders. If it did, I would totally sell that “key” for a hot billion, buy a private island, and tweet about it until my dying day. Now hear me when I say that I completely understand that each one of us wants to be great leaders and we want to develop great leaders. After all, as church leaders, that’s what we’re supposed to do…right?

While we many of us understand the mechanics and techniques of leadership, the reality is that we still struggle to inspire, recruit, and develop those around us into the leaders we dream of becoming ourselves. Now before all of us become depressed at this thought like a poorly written young adult novel, there’s hope, because before we develop great leaders we need one thing…ready for it?


When I became self-aware as a leader the game changed for me as a developer of leaders. I began to understand where I was in my own process and where I needed to go. As the adage goes, “You can’t lead someone to a place that you have never been.” That said, here are a few things that I like to keep in mind as I develop others through becoming aware of my own process. Ask yourself:

  1. What's my hand?
    Am I am closed-handed leader or an open-handed leader?
    A closed-handed leader is one that doesn’t release responsibility to their followers, and when they do, they micromanage the process. This kind of a leader will disempower those they are developing.
    An open-handed leader is one who releases responsibility to their followers. They develop the person they mentor to a place of excellence and then release responsibility to them, thereby taking ownership of the process of the mentee and not micro-managing it.

  2. Do I parent leaders or do I empower leaders?
    Neither of these are wrong, but realizing which you are will help you to understand how to develop your people.
    Parenting leaders: Those that parent their followers as they parent the many, but empower the few that draw themselves close to this type of leader.
    Empowering leaders: Those that empower their followers as they empower the many, but parent few that draw themselves close to this type of leader.

  3. Am I a beekeeper or a watchmaker?
    The difference here is the difference between trust and mistrust, and leaders can smell mistrust from a mile away.
    A beekeeper works with the bees to get the job done and can walk away and trusts that the job gets finished.
    A watchmaker can only make or fix so many watches by himself and trusts no one to get the job done except himself or herself.

What’s written above is merely the starting point as you allow God to work on you so that you may work on others. Regardless of where you find yourself, know that it’s never too late top change and to become the leader God has created you to be and to be the leader the leaders that you’re developing need you to be.

Face It, the Next Generation is Different...and That's a Good Thing

Solomon once said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” While that’s true in most cases, it doesn’t hold up with culture. Sure, there are universal values in every culture to certain extents, but the reality is that too many church leaders use that statement as a way to dodge figuring out how the next generation ticks. If the next generation is the future of the Church, then it deserves the better part of our personal bandwidth to get where they are and engage them.

I get that there are statistics that declare how the next generation is the darkest generation we have ever seen, but I would beg to differ. History has seen previous generations encounter dark times before, and every single generation has seen a small group of leaders rise up and lead the way with the light of Christ. What’s more, the light of Christ has led each generation in every realm of society: from the marketplace to the boardroom and yes, even in the political arena, we see that God’s hand is evident. And even though there are new challenges facing the next generation, I’m here to tell you God is still on His throne and His Church is still on the move.

The late cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, once stated, “Throughout history, most cultures have been dis-figurative, where parents and grandparents help their young to understand the future. A few times it becomes co-figurative, where change happens so fast that society depends on the young to help understand the future. However, I anticipate that a time is coming in history where technology changes so fast that culture, for the first time in human history, will be pre-figurative, where children will have to figure out for themselves what their values will be.”

Little did she know that she was talking about the generation of young people that are currently filling our Kids & Youth Ministries. That said, here are 3 key perspectives that we must take if we are to win this generation to Christ and develop them into the future leaders this world needs:

  1. The next generation wants a timeless Word, not a trendy Word. In the midst of a superficial (and artificial) world, the next generation isn’t as concerned with what’s “hip” when it comes to church as much as it’s concerned with what’s “holy.” Why? Because holiness is the authentic expression of God in all He does in this world and the next generation wants what’s real. The next generation is looking for something to which they can anchor their hearts; which is why liturgy is making a comeback with Millennials.  It’s authentic. Our objective should not be, "How can we make the Word appealing,” but rather, “How can we emphasize the values that the Word initiates into the lives of our students?"
    How to pray: Pray for this next generation to have a gift of discernment and a holy discontent that drives them into an authentic walk with Jesus.

  2. The next generation wants access. If something doesn’t permeate every aspect of a young person’s culture, they’re not interested. Consider the movie industry. Hollywood spends millions on inundating our senses with an upcoming movie premiere; from movie trailers, to billboards to articles. They know that one access point isn’t enough; they need to saturate the market. In the same way, the next generation not only has the craving to access what they are interested in, but they also have the ability to CREATE greater access and opportunity for people to engage Christ, His Church, and the Word of God.
    How to pray: Pray that the next generation has the wisdom to take the creativity that is inherent in their generation and use it to innovate new ways to reach the lost.
  3. The next generation wants community. The only thing that speaks louder than cultural pressure to an emerging generation is community. Young people will gather in a place of community to escape cultural pressures they may not feel comfortable with. The key to engaging the next generation is to invite them into the body of Christ before we invite them through the doors of our church. A commonly known model, but one that's entirely under-utilized, is that of discipling people into salvation as opposed to leading them to Christ and then discipling them after. People will always be more loyal to a community than they will to a personal decision. If you invite them into your community, then their decision to follow Christ will be more likely to stick. 
    How to pray: The next generation naturally creates community greater than many generations prior to it.  Pray that members of the next generation use that ability to be inclusive of every individual that is searching, no matter who or what that individual may look like.


Love Jams for Leaders: Showing Your Leaders the Love that They Deserve

Picture this.

It’s your ministry night and you’re 60 minutes away from putting on the greatest night of your students’ lives. (Just like last week and the one before that, too.) Everything is where it’s supposed to be; lights are bright, the hazer is working overtime, and the music is hot when all of a sudden your phone blows up and 3 key leaders text you that they aren’t going to make it to service because of sports/studying/work/washing hair.

Did they seriously just TEXT you last minute? Yes, yes they did. What usually follows an incident like this is frustration, perhaps a little ranting under your breath, and scheming hundreds of ways to make those leaders who just utterly abandoned you feel guilty.

Or maybe not.

Maybe you change the game for your ministry and consider that maybe, just maybe, if your leaders saw you throw a little grace and love their way they would be more apt to make your ministry a priority. One of the chief reasons why volunteers begin to shy away from the ministries we so passionately run is because many of us communicate obligation to our leaders rather than genuine love and care for their own personal process.

That said, here are a few thoughts that will help you to show your leaders love in a way that will reap dividends for your ministry later:

  1. Gratitude
    A simple “thank you” goes a long way. When was the last time you said “thank you for all you do” to your tech team, or worship band, or even the greeter at the door? I know you feel gracious, but gratitude without expression is just a fuzzy emotion that has no external impact. Know that you’re the only one that can show them genuine gratitude that comes from the top down.
    PRO TIP: Hand-written thank you notes still speak louder than a text.
  2. Affirmation & Attention
    Know that your words weigh a thousand pounds to your leaders. You can use that weight to crush them or get behind them and propel them forward. A great coach always affirms a team member when he or she runs the right play. Be sure to affirm the individual in the moment as well in youth leader meetings. Also, respond to them promptly when they email, message or call. If they’re on your team, they need to know that they deserve your time whenever they reach out.
    PRO TIP: Call and affirm your leader from a place that has nothing to do with work. Calling from a place other than work shows your leaders that they aren’t on a to-do list and that they are a priority to you outside of your ministry. For example, “Hey, I’m just grabbing coffee and was thinking about you. How have you been?”
  3. Relationship
    Great relationships aren’t transactional; they aren’t about what you get from one another. There are too many times in ministry where we focus on how much output a leader has rather than on what we can input into them. Make your relationship with your volunteers about their process and not your platform. Be more about “who they are” rather than “what they do.”
    PRO TIP: This may sound cheesy, or shallow (or both), but when your volunteer tells you about a need, prayer request, or even something they are looking forward to, schedule a reminder in your calendar to follow up with them and ask them about it. Call me crazy, but for some reason it blows our leaders away when we actually show that we are praying for something they told us last week.
  4. Money
    Say what you will, but randomly handing a volunteer or a leader a gift card, a $5 bill, or paying for their lunch speaks volumes. Go the extra mile when you throw them Christmas parties or summer BBQ’s. Long story short, don’t skimp on the extras if you don’t want your leaders to skimp on their efforts on your ministry nights.
    PRO TIP: Budget for it. If you have no room in your budget, keep in mind that leader engagement will go further in a student’s life than a trendy t-shirt will. Just sayin’.

What are some ways that you show your leaders some love?

Anchor Deep

Transition is hard.

Seriously. Every time I hear about one of my friends making a transition from one ministry context to another, I cringe. Not because of the transition itself, but because of how difficult it can be for the person making that change in their lives.

Think about it, in the course 4 weeks, a person transitioning in ministry will change their job, their location, their schedule, and most of all, where they place their personal sense of significance. During that time of change a person often feels like they're in limbo without an identity. It's in those times that I, and others, have learned stuff, a LOT of stuff. Stuff like:

  • The call of God isn't always convenient, easy, or a golden path crammed with angels singing the Hallelujah chorus...but it's still the call of God.
  • People who you never thought would care will speak life into your transition while others you expected to help you through the process simply don't show up.
  • Tomorrow will rarely ever look like today and it definitely doesn't look like yesterday.
  • Transition makes you question things like your validity, your next steps, your faith, and your ability to lead.
  • You wonder if your greatest days are behind you.
  • You begin to feel that God is punishing you, or moving you away because you're in the way, or even that He is tired of you. 

Now at the risk of coming off sounding like an emo song written by a kid with too much time and teen angst, I am happy to say that on the other side of transition people often find themselves rooted in a city they love, serving in a church they love, and surrounded by more people who support them more than they ever could have imagined. And even though the transition is difficult, the arrival is sweet. It brings perspective as we realize that the anchors God tells us to drop into the midst of the storm of transition are there to keep us focused on Jesus and on His call in our lives.

Here are those 3 anchors that any person going through transition should drop:

  1. Speak What You Know To Be True
    It's easy to doubt in the darkness what God has told you in the light. We all know that when doubt creeps in, fear creeps in and if fear is present, love and strength is not. It's in those times of darkness and doubt that you need to call to memory the promises of God. Remember the words He spoke to you at the beginning of your transition and what He has promised you. Audibly speak them out so you can hear yourself say it, because if you can say it, then you can hear it, and then you can believe it.  And never forget that, as the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1.20, that, "All the promises of God find their YES in him."
  2. God Will Never Take You Where He Doesn't Plan to Sustain You
    I promise. Time and time again, throughout Scripture, we see the character of God shine through as He makes a way for His people. Isaiah 43.2 puts it like this, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you." Notice that it doesn't say "IF you walk through the fire," it says, "WHEN you walk through the fire." Again, this doesn't mean that you won't walk through some pretty rough terrain, but it does mean that He will see you through it.

  3. You Are Moved So That You Will Grow
    One of the most invaluable things I learned in the midst of this transition is that sometimes our current context keeps us from claiming the next mountain top. There's comfort in the familiar and the pain of change is sometimes too great. But the reality is this: God often will bring transition into your life to grow you through something you normally wouldn't grow through so He can answer that prayer you prayed long ago. When you ask God to grow you, He is faithful to do so, even when it's not convenient to us and He will often use change to get the job done. 2 Timothy 2.13 speaks to this in saying that, "If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself."

So to those of you who are about to enter a transition in your life or are in the midst of one, I encourage you, anchor down and anchor deep. God is faithful and He knows the plans He has for you.

I Hate Small Groups…but I Love Discipleship

Allow me to create the hurt.

Imagine that your ministry is everything you have ever wanted it to be. Let’s be honest, it’s the most attractive thing happening on a weekly basis. Your social media feed is full of pictures of dimly lit rooms with amazing stage lights and the best looking people lifting their hands to Jesus during worship, you have EVERY person engaged in a small group, and your lead pastor has given you a budget that you can’t deplete by the end of the year if you tried.  Best. Job. Ever.

Now imagine with me that in that same ministry your key influencers are still struggling between praising on Sundays and partying on weekends, your ministry has a huge revolving door on it, and many of your people are falling away from Jesus. What went wrong?

Unfortunately, this story is all too common amongst churches across our movement. Historically, we have attempted to remedy this by “getting into the lives” of our people on a more relational level with hopes that it would open the door to discipleship. Systematize this desire and you have small groups: A place where a select group of people can connect in the home of a peer or a leader, build relationship, and know Jesus.

Now before I bring my two cents into the conversation, let me give you the other $0.98. I think small groups are VITAL to ministry in the informational age we live in. They create an atmosphere where the 3 big needs of this generation are met: access, engagement, and community. It makes serving Jesus less about an event and more about a family. I think they’re great…really, I do. But here’s my beef…for all the time and effort we put into creating a stellar system of small groups where community and relationship is cultivated, we at the same time allow this to be our primary vehicle for discipleship. Yes, we might create curriculum to place into the hands of the small group leader, but all we are doing is placing knowledge in their hands without creating within them a competency to disseminate that knowledge.

I have seen, all too often, small group leaders carry the desire for their groups to be popular, inviting, and approachable which at times can lead to one watering down their content so as not to drive anyone away. This leads to our groups not becoming “discipleship-based,” but places for those whose faith has turned into a moralistic, therapeutic religion where the mantra is, “I want to feel like a good person and feel like I belong, but don’t make me feel like I’m less or I may turn and leave.” Thus, creating pressure for the leader to water it down.

Can I share a secret with you? This is how my small groups used to be. Everything I described above was my first 2 years of ministry to a “T”. In the process of being dissatisfied with the way I saw my small groups going, I began to study how others were making it happen successfully, recreated my model, and identified a few things that were necessary to implement if I was to turn it all around:

  1.  Quality over quantity.
    In the hustle to have the highest number of small groups around I automatically qualified every one of my volunteer leaders to be small group leaders. Bad idea. In the effort to feel better about my faux discipleship process I made it look big and shiny, but there was no substance. Start with a small pool of leaders, raise their competency, and then began to recruit more.
  2. Competency over knowledge.
    Successful small groups go well beyond curriculum. If all I had to do to fulfill the Great Commission was present information, I would have my “well done good and faithful servant” status early and could have coasted into Heaven. But the Bible asks us to be more than walking Systematic Theology books; it asks us to “study to show ourselves approved.” What won for me was a monthly small group leader session where I emulated the elements of a small group, but did so on a macro level. Discipleship requires both process and proximity and if I am going to raise the competency level of my leaders I have to get them close to me and get into their personal process.
  3. Relationship isn’t the outcome; discipleship is.
    Hear me when I say this, PLEASE don’t miss an opportunity to disciple people simply because you think it will offend them and ruin your relationship with them. Know that walking with Christ comes with a cost, that’s why discipleship is so necessary. Discipleship means you go beyond presenting the information and actually take that information and make it a part of their process. This requires time and effort, but it is also what our Lord commanded.

I know you know this, but we are called to make disciples of all nations, not small groups of all nations. If we make discipleship our primary agenda, then our small groups will thrive and flourish as a result.