Whether you are a denomination, a network, or a local church that has a vision for church planting, developing leaders has to be on your mind.  It was certainly on the Apostle Paul’s mind as he began to see the message of Jesus spread across the 1st century world and seeing the church rapidly expand.  In 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul writes,You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”  What Paul is telling us here is that if we are going to see the Gospel spread to the ends of the earth, it’s going to take an army of leaders and here is how we will develop them, find men and women who are faithful and able to teach, and teach them everything I have taught you.  

Paul’s thinking still applies to us in the church today. If we are going to see new churches planted and our world reached with the Gospel, then it’s critical that we create leadership engines within our churches and Christian organizations.  What is a leadership engine?  It is an effective system for recruiting, developing and deploying leaders in ministry.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But, it may be more difficult than it first seems.  Here are a few thoughts on what is needed to create one.

Creating a Leadership Engine in your organization:

  • Creating a leadership culture begins at the top –  The senior leader in your organization must see the organization and the world around it as a fishing pond, a place to identify, develop, and deploy young leaders.  They must lead with vision and set an example for others in the organization to see.  They must organize around it and hold people accountable to it.  
  • Create opportunities for up and coming leaders to lead – From events, small projects, teams, and departments, create opportunities for young leaders to lead in a safe environment.  Start small and as they grow and succeed, have a pathway to greater leadership and responsibility for them to follow.
  • Spend time with young leaders – Most senior leaders are very busy, but a valuable investment of their time and energy is with up and coming leaders.  Many senior leaders don’t think younger leaders want to spend time with them, but trust me, they do.  Develop a structure and a plan of how you will spend time and what kinds of things you will discuss.  Coaching young leaders in ministry, leadership, and spiritual life is an investment that will bring great returns.
  • Create a feedback culture – Teach, model, try, give feedback, and try again.  This is a simple process that develops leaders in any arena.  If feedback is requested and received at every level of the organization, people will get comfortable with it and value it, even if at times the feedback is difficult to hear. The more people give feedback, the more they will learn to give and receive feedback more effectively.  This creates a culture that enables leaders to learn and grow in all areas.
  • Take risks, be willing to fail – Ultimately, if we are going to create a leadership engine, it means we have to give young leaders significant responsibility in leadership and realize that they will not hit it out of the park every time.  But, with strong relationships with more seasoned leaders, opportunity to really lead, and feedback, they will become stronger and stronger.  When they do fail, use it as an opportunity to teach, not criticize, and model how you lead through a situation that does not go well.

Lastly, where do we look to find these young leaders?  Well, they are in our churches, our seminaries, and in para-church organizations.  Churches and seminaries in particular are filled with talented & gifted young leaders waiting to be challenged to invest their lives in something greater than themselves, and hungry for someone ahead of them to make an investment in them through relationship.  Let’s begin to open our eyes and engage these leaders where they are.

All in all, as we move to fulfill our calling to reach those far from God, if we are going to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world, we will need to be wise and willing to take risks on young leaders.  A leadership engine will help us to accomplish our God’s mission in the world.