By Mike Faherty
One thing I admire about the National Football League is its draft process. The NFL always has a fresh crop of talent flowing into its league. Older players move on and new ones take over. I think the church could learn something from this talent development process.
Not too long ago, we had some trouble in church. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem, but things were getting sloppy. Solid departments and initiatives were slowly going downhill, and quality standards were heading in the wrong direction. As the executive pastor, it is my job to make sure our departments and systems are running at a high level.
After a weekend of prayer and mapping out all of our systems, departments, tasks, and job responsibilities I found our problem—volunteer leadership. Our church, like many other churches, depends on volunteer leadership to run our departments. Over time, our volunteer leadership had thinned out. Some people had stepped down or moved away and they had never really been replaced. Existing leaders absorbed responsibilities and had more on their plates, but it was too much to handle. We had plenty of volunteer workers but not enough leadership. We did not have an ongoing system in place for identifying and developing leadership.
We had to develop a talent funnel similar to the professional sports draft and farm league systems. It had to keep candidates coming in on a regular basis. Here is what we developed.
1. Selection: Our pastoral team nominates those within the congregation we think have the potential for leadership. They will be part of an eight-week development course. The pastoral team had to unanimously agree for a prospect to be part of the “draft.”
2. The Interview: The candidate receives a letter from the senior pastor informing him that he has been selected, and asking him to respond if he is interested in the course. If he expresses interest, then he participates in a brief interview. Here is how it goes.
• Have you attended a membership class?
• Are you a tither?
• Can you commit to the eight-week program?
3. Self-assessment: We give a candidate three self-assessment tests from 123test.com. The online tests are a personality test, the DiSC personality test, and Team Roles test. I want to be sure the candidates are aligned with their God-given strengths for later placement in a department. I also give them a modified love languages test. I use this to understand what motivates them most. I like to know who needs a kind word, a gift card to Starbucks, or just a handshake and pat on the back. The love language test lets me hit the target more accurately.
4. Transferring our DNA: The goal of class one and two is to build the DNA of the church into the developing leaders. In a fun and entertaining way, I let them understand the history of the church and its pastoral team. We cover the basic beliefs of the church, the vision, and even the favorite preachers who have shaped the pastor’s belief system.
From time to time we have some transplants from other churches in our leadership development program. Our goal is to have them understand and embrace where we have come from and why decisions are made the way they are. Knowing these things gives them a dose of our DNA and aligns them with the direction of the church.
5. Spiritual Leadership: Classes three and four cover leadership at the heart level. We cover topics like loyalty, rebellion, and strong character. Yes, you do have to cover these topics. Remember that great leader Lucifer? He had some great potential but had some pride and loyalty issues. We also cover subjects like servanthood, flexibility, and flourishing where you are planted. This allows us to place potential leaders where there is the greatest need for help and not just where they feel they should go.
6. Practical Leadership: Classes five through eight cover very practical skills for operating and running a department. The topics include: executing a vision, motivating and recruiting volunteers, holding a meeting, and continuous improvement. We also cover helpful skills like multitasking, organization, people skills, and using technology to assist your leadership.
We go through this draft process three times per year and have anywhere from 5 to 12 students in each session. After graduation, they are placed in an assisting role in the department of greatest need, one which best fits their skill set and personality.
Our hope is these potential leaders will bud into the next pillars of the church, but like the NFL, not all draft picks turn out to be winners. That is OK with me, as long as we have an ongoing system to funnel new talent to the next level.
Mike Faherty, along with his wife, Laurie, serve as executive and teaching pastors at Living Word Church in Brockton, Massachusetts.