I recently had a phone conversation with my contact at the Right Now organization about leadership development. For the past six months our church has been a beta tester for their new online small group leader training. It's great stuff worth checking out.
Our conversation moved for a time to the priority of training leaders and how churches often do a poor job in this area then wonder why ministries are struggling. Maybe it's because we are just looking for warm bodies to fill rolls and once we have them feel that's good enough. It's ironic to think that as a church we expect children through adults to be taught and developed into disciples but don't put our finances and energies into developing strong leaders. At least that is what I have seen in many churches and what I have experienced up to this point in my current church. We're in the process of changing that mindset.
I am convinced of the value of trained and supported leadership. These leaders develop confidence, passion and excitement for the ministry. They discover the joy of learning and growing and desire more of it. And it spills over onto those whom they are leading. There is nothing more encouraging than to see a leader have an "Ah Ha" moment when they suddenly get something you've been trying to teach and show them. They never forget it.
I can remember times when I've taken leaders to a great conference and they just bubble over with excitement about all the possibilities for their ministry. They return home and get back into their ministry with renewed vigor and direction. They are filled with hope and the vision of possibilities. But even more, they feel supported by their church and have a great desire to be a blessing to the church.
So what's your plan for leadership development? Do you have one? Does your church budget and schedule reflect that developing leaders is a priority?
I know money for big conferences can sometimes be an issue especially for small churches and especially in these tough economic times. But what about having a retreat with just your church leaders or teaming up with another church(es)? How about other training tools such as DVD resources for retreats or regularly scheduled training dates? There are a ton of great resources out there for a fraction of the price of a conference but with some of the quality of a good conference -- I say "some" because nothing beats break out sessions at a conference where you gain so much from discussions with peers from other churches and cross-denominationally. A cool thing about these resources is that you can reuse them at a later date. There is some great stuff on www.bluefishtv.com , www.smallgroups.com, www.smallgroupministry.com and www.lifeway.com. The CRC denomination also has a great training book called "Effective Leadership in the Church" that could be a great starting point. Let us know if you have more.
Thankfully in these tough economic times you can get on board with one day webinars or satellite conferences that are very low cost and some -- especially webinars -- that are free. These conferences you have to watch for online because they're not always annual. I hear about them through Twitter or Facebook or blogs I follow. I'll be sure to post them in the Forum section when I hear of something.
Leadership development is what Ephesians 4: 11-13 is all about. It's how the church prepares/equips its members to be disciples for Jesus Christ. However you do it, training leaders is essential. Without it you shouldn't expect much from your groups and ministries.
'til next time,