Building a Leadership Development Cycle

 Successful churches understand that strong leadership is non-negotiable and that leadership development is equally important. Unlike most secular organizations, it is imperative to create leadership roles beyond paid staff. Lay leadership is critical to the success and mission of the church.

Leadership Development Cycle

Jesus developed leaders by finding ordinary people and bringing out the extraordinary in them. He didn’t find Peter the apostle; he found Peter the fisherman and developed him into an apostolic leader. Jesus didn’t stumble upon Matthew the disciple; instead he found a tax collector and developed him into a disciple leader. While there’s nothing wrong with hiring leaders, it’s pretty obvious that Jesus’ life exemplifies leadership development. The apostle Paul echoes this in his letter to Timothy. He writes,
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.  2 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV
Paul is telling Timothy, “What I’ve learned, I’m passing on to you, so you can pass it on to others.” He’s teaching Timothy the importance of a leadership development cycle. What does a leadership development cycle look like? Here’s a tool I use to illustrate it for pastors and leaders:

In addition to the 1 Timothy passage, you’ll also see Matthew 13:44 in the center of the chart. This passage reads,
 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
While there is a beautiful literal meaning to this parable, there’s also another application. First, we read about a man who found a hidden treasure in a field. Upon finding that treasure, he sold his belongings and purchased the entire field. Why? Maybe he was thinking, “If there’s one treasure in this field, there’s bound to be more!” What if our congregations were like this field? What if God purposely placed people in our churches to be found and developed? What if the leaders needed to take our churches to the next level are sitting right in front of us every Sunday morning?

The Four Phases

The Leadership Development Cycle includes four phases. Each phase leads to the next and is equally important.

Discover: Bird vs Egg

One of the first steps of leadership development is creating ways to discover who has the potential to lead. In the parable, the man found a treasure, which implies that he was looking over the field. I use the term, “Bird vs Egg”, because we tend to look for already developed leaders instead of potential leaders. We look for the bird, not the egg. When we look for the eggs, we are looking for people who have potential inside of them. These are people who are waiting to hatch and spread their wings.

Excavate: Relational Investment

In the parable, the man sold what he had and bought the field. Developing leaders requires us to find people with potential and invest in them. What does investment look like? Anytime we excavate treasure, we have to be willing to deal with the dirt. As leaders, we must be willing to invest in people by helping them deal with their dirt (we all have it) and grow into a deeper walk with Christ.

Polish: Mentoring

After discovering and investing in new leaders, we must help them shine. Treasure shines best when it’s polished. We polish leaders by creating mentoring opportunities such as leadership small groups, huddles, or formal coaching.

Release: Intentional Mission 

Finally, we can’t forget that a cycle is on-going. We must be intentional about teaching new leaders the importance of going back into the field (the congregation) where their potential was first discovered. It then becomes their mission to search for “buried treasure”, help those potential leaders deal with their dirt, and build them up to shine for Jesus.


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