Spiralling to Strength in Lay Leadership

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As an educator, I am amazed how the theories and models I use in the classroom are helpful in broader contexts. With a passion for curriculum development, I often find my mind wandering in that direction when listening to church leaders dialog about the state of leadership development in their contexts. Recently I recognized a common weakness in the approaches to leadership development I was hearing about in these conversations. The highly intentional and concentrated portion of the leadership development process is generally happening after the role has been assumed. This can lead to an apprehension-filled 'trial by fire' expectation and experience! It can feel akin to placing a university math exam before a student who has just recently learned to count and saying, "We hope to be able to teach you what you need to know as you go." That is, if you can make it to the leadership training weekend we have planned for the second weekend in September.

In education, we teach critical, foundational competencies using a spiral curriculum: gradually increasing the breadth and depth each time material is encountered. An example of this spiral curriculum would be the journey from the first colour lesson to the finished masterpiece.  We intentionally expose students to new material, allowing them to experience and experiment, void of any expectation that they must produce anything other than curiosity and wonderment. Then we move with purpose towards activities that reinforce the core skill or concept through practice and application, with carefully created and supported attempts at independent achievement. And as students demonstrate greater levels of success in that supported context, we design opportunities for them to display mastery of the skills and competencies. This is very scalable, all the way from an individual 5min alphabet lesson all the way up through to the over-arching shape of a student's entire education from pre-school to graduate studies, where they write and defend a hefty dissertation. 

Could there be a place for this model of exposure, reinforcement and mastery in the church, spiraling to greater breadth and depth of understanding of what it means to be in leadership in an intentional process that unfolds over the course of a church member's journey with a particular congregation? Could it be something that might be so broadly applicable and flexible that many churches might implement it, allowing a continuous thread of development even when moving through congregations? As a pastor's wife, I can appreciate how incredibly helpful a simple, well-defined, progressive leadership development process would be, especially if it was something all the congregations you serve in could use and with which it would be familiar upon your arrival!

Imagine how different it might feel to meet as a Full Council when each member present feels invested in, supported and well-equipped for the task they have been called to for such a time as this! For now, this is a baby idea that has yet to have time and space to move through it's own spiral process. I will be exposing it to those that might be willing to listen (all of you!), seeking reinforcement of the ideas as they develop and dreaming of a day when perhaps they will be mastered in the churches of our beloved denomination (and beyond!?). I have no idea where this will go, but I am willing to say 'Yes' to this seed of an idea and see where God's going to take it. I'd love to hear from you!

Stay tuned... 

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Several examples from the Bible come to mind when it comes to leadership development. Joshua was mentored by Moses for over 40 years before God finally said it was his turn to lead the Israelites. During this time, he was Moses' right hand man. Moses also gave Joshua challenges which encouraged his leadership skills. 

Of course there is also the example of Jesus and His disciples. He didn't  just teach them but He sent them out to practice what they learned. 

I'm sure there are other examples in the Bible. I agree with you, Gwyneth, when you say "the leadership development process is generally happening after the role has been assumed." Those of us in leadership roles need to be mentoring our co-leaders and replacements now.  We never know when God will decide that it is time for someone else to take our place. 

I look forward to reading your future posts on this subject. 

Contributor

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the encouragement! You're absolutely right about there being scriptural examples of 'leadership development' that can speak into the formation of a spiraling process. And I am looking forward to diving deeper into those examples to see what Truth we can take from them for today's context. It's going to be a slow and steady study that will, hopefully, also include gleaning stories from those who have been 'developed' through a similar spiraling process and lots of general conversations about the realities of leadership development in our churches. 

I won't get very far on this adventure without the support of interested parties joining the conversation, so please feel warmly welcomed into a continuing dialog. As this is an 'on the side' endeavour, I try to limit my Network time to Thursdays and Fridays, so if you don't get a response, I'm not ignoring you. 

Shalom.