A Model for Creating a Pipeline of Leaders
New churches help new people find a way back to God. So starting new churches and new sites is a good thing. But if you want to plant more churches and sites, you need to be thinking about leadership development.
I have a variety of experiences in leadership development. I was in the army, so I saw how leadership development worked in the military. I worked in the corporate world, and I learned about leadership development there. But when I came into the church, I saw that ministry leadership was different. In order for a church to thrive and grow, I quickly realized that a church leader’s most important role is to develop other leaders.
For pastors who want to launch multisites or plant new churches, your ability to expand is directly proportional to your ability to recruit and raise up new leaders. Unfortunately, leadership development is often the missing ingredient in a church’s expansion plan. Pastors must be willing to invest in raising up new pastors and ministry leaders if they want their church to grow and thrive.
Download the NewThing Toolbox to receive tips, tools, and training to help you on your journey as a church planter.
Are You Ready to Grow?
To evaluate whether your church is positioned well for expansion, ask yourself these questions:
- Is your vision for leadership development, pipelines, and pathways big enough to meet your dreams for bringing people back to God?
- Are you actively engaged in recruiting, equipping, and releasing leaders? How well are you doing at this?
- Are you willing to do some things differently in the way that you train new leaders? If so, what are you willing to do, and how far are you willing to go?
- Do people understand what leadership development is when you talk about it? Do they have clarity on what you're actually talking about?
Ripping a Page from Jethro’s Playbook
Let’s look at Exodus 18 as a model. Moses is doing a lot for the Israelites. He's overwhelmed. He's exasperated. He's at his wits' end. He goes to his father-in-law, Jethro (I’m paraphrasing here), and Jethro replies, “Moses, what you're doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. Listen now to me, and I will give you some advice and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him, but teach them his decrees and instructions and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.”
Jethro says, “Select capable men from all the people, men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times but have them bring every difficult case to you. The simple cases they can decide for themselves. That would make your load lighter because they will share it with you. If you do this, and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
I lead The Leadership Training Center at Community Christian Church. At Community, this passage from Exodus has informed everything that we know about leadership development. We've structured our church around it. We think about leadership development as relational spans of care.
Creating Relational Spans of Care
Initially Moses is overwhelmed by it all. He's tasked with caring for all of these Israelites, and they're all coming to him. Hour after hour, he's presiding over them as they're bringing their disputes and their challenges before him, and basically, Jethro says, “Dude, that's insane. Not only is it going to kill you, you're not going to be able to do it,” so he recommends a change. At Community, this is how we structure our spans of care:
Spans of Care
- A Director (staff person) is directing hundreds and thousands
- A Coach is overseeing 50
- A Leader is overseeing 10
- Every leader has an Apprentice
Apprenticeship is the fundamental unit of leadership development. Every leader at every level at Community has an apprentice. Unless you as a leader have an apprentice in some capacity and you are modeling this to the people in your churches or your teams, you're not going to be able to increase your leadership pipeline.
John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.” So when people ask, “What is a leader?” it's someone who has influence over another person. At the end of the day, when I invite somebody onto the leadership path, I'm asking them to have influence over others according to the model set forth in Exodus.
Patrick O’Connell is passionate about helping people start new things for the Kingdom. He didn’t grow up in church. He dabbled in atheism and was a committed agnostic for many years. He eventually found his way back to God. He helped plant a network of churches in Kansas City. It was there he began coaching and training church planters. He wants to leverage his knowledge, experiences and understanding of church planting and Kingdom to help people find and follow Jesus. Today he does this as Director of NewThing. Patrick has served in the U.S. Army, graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago and received a Master in Missional Church Movements from Wheaton College. He’s married to Nancy, and they have three great kids. He likes to run, read, and hang out with friends and family.