By Glen Schneiders
READ THE MAIN ARTICLE: “Developing the Leadership Culture”
Don’t Shortcut the Selection Process for Potential Leaders
You will pay in the long run for shortsighted personnel decisions (paid and unpaid). In the early days of church planting, the tendency is to fill slots with “warm bodies,” and often we have to do that. But as you do, assess which people have the capacity to lead. Don’t hand over control too quickly; it is much harder to reclaim it. David Cottrell puts it this way,
If you hire tough, it will be a whole lot easier to manage the right people. The decision you have to make is to hire tough and manage easy, or hire easy and manage tough. I can assure you that the best thing to do is to take your time on the front end so that you can enjoy having the right people on your team.1
That word enjoy in Cottrell’s statement is huge. Church plants are hard work. Placing the right people in the right roles makes life much more enjoyable for the whole team. This applies as much to unpaid leaders as paid leaders, except that sometimes it can be harder to “de-hire” the unpaid leader because you cannot take away compensation!
Look for the Teachable Moments
Don’t do a task alone when someone can join you in the experience. When you speak or travel, take someone with you. Use your travel time to mentor. Isn’t that what Jesus did as he traveled the dusty roads of Judea? When we started our new church, I was a young trustee at a Bible college. Three to four times a year I would travel to trustees’ meetings with two respected, veteran ministers in our area. I used that time to ask them questions and listen to them discuss the issues their churches were facing. I learned so much by just being with them.
Catch developing leaders doing things right and encourage them. Do this over and over so when you need to make constructive assessments, you have earned that right. Don’t allow your only points of contact to be for correction. Defend in public, correct in private.
Provide Planned Learning Opportunities
Expose developing leaders to good resources. If I read an outstanding book, I will discuss the key points I learned with other leaders. Often we will go through leadership books together. Some of the best money you can spend is for leadership conferences with seasoned leaders and developing leaders attending together.
Let Developing Leaders Lead
Give developing leaders a chance to lead. Provide an environment that gives them a chance to succeed, but make the tasks significant enough to encourage them to give their best.
When Jesus sent out the twelve, “he gave them power and authority” (Luke 9:1). He gave them instructions on what to take, where to go, what to say, what to do, how to handle conflict, and why to expect resistance. Then the Bible says, “When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves” (Luke 9:10).
Jesus gave the disciples something meaningful to do. The disciples preached and healed the sick. You must give developing leaders exciting opportunities where they can make a difference in someone’s life. And you must give them honest feedback to help them excel.
1David Cottrell, Monday Morning Leadership (Dallas: CornerStone Leadership Institute, 2002), 57.
Glen Schneiders ministers with Crossroads Christian Church, Lexington, Kentucky. This article is adapted from his chapter in Church Planting from the Ground Up, edited by Tom Jones. The book is available from College Press Publishing Company (www.collegepress.com) and other booksellers.