How We Fill Our Leader Pipeline Blog Feature

By: Patrick O'Connell on August 29, 2018

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How We Fill Our Leader Pipeline


In previous posts I’ve shared a lot about the leadership path and the simple tools that we give leaders to help them through the path (The Five Steps of Leadership Development, B.L.E.S.S. and 6 Coaching Questions). Now I want to talk specifically about the leadership pipeline.

Here's what we've done at Community Christian Church to increase our leadership pipeline. I wanted to figure out how to get more leaders in the pipeline. I’ve talked about our apprentice leader and coaching model in previous posts, but at the end of the day, I'm a church planter. I want to plant churches, and I want to start new sites. I want to start new things for the Kingdom.

In conjunction with some of our global partners, we've developed a multi-prong approach—one of Community Christian Church's most valuable resources. We call it the Leadership Training Center.

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Leadership Training Center


Track 1: Internship “SELF”

• Learn to lead yourself
• 6 months

Outcome: Lead Oneself



Track 2: Leader "TEAM”

• Learn to lead a team
• 6 months

Outcome: Lead a Team



Track 3: Residency “CHURCH”

• Learn to start and lead a church/campus
• 1 year  • Self-funded

Outcome: Start a new church or campus 


Track 1 is all about how to lead yourself, believing that a firm spiritual foundation is the best place to start a new leader. The only people that I'm inviting to Track 1 are solid coaches. Remember back to my Spans of Care model where it went Apprentice, then Leader, then Coach, then Director. I want to see that they have some leadership potential. I want to see that they have a proven track record, because I'm going to invest a lot of time and energy to help them start a campus or a church ultimately. 

You may be wondering, “How do I start more campuses and churches? What do I need to do to develop leaders to do it?” With the Spans of Care model, I’ve got guys like Tony, my small group apprentice, who became a small group leader and then a small group coach.

Tony says to me, "I think God might be calling me to be a campus pastor. What do you think?" I’d say, "I don't know, Tony. What do you think?" I've had this conversation, and Tony says, "I'll go through the Leadership Training Center to see if that's a reality.” And for six months, he learns to lead himself.

This is all outcome-based, so if he gets through Track 1, then it’s onto Track 2 where it's about learning to lead a team. Then in Track 3, it's about learning to lead a church.

We make no promises to anyone. We invite them on a simple journey, but this is our way of increasing the leadership pipeline. Because when I go around the world and meet with churches, they say, “Yeah, of course we want to start new campuses and new sites.” Then they inevitably come back to the same question: Where do we get the leaders?

Inevitably they come back to what we call a “leadership residency.” One of our values is that every one of our churches needs to have one leadership resident per year. It's the apprenticeship model again, and our leadership resident is a church planter in training. If you're a lead pastor and you really want to start new campuses and new churches, but you're not willing to apprentice the next generation of leaders to do that, then there is a huge disconnect.

This is one of the ways that we're trying to solve that disconnect. This is not prescriptive, and we don't have it all figured out. But over time, I’ve learned through the leadership development process and from other leaders how to structure some of these sequences so that they fit together. Keep in mind that even if somebody goes through this six-month track and they never go on to plant a new church, the Kingdom still benefits, and you've done a really fabulous thing for them by investing in their leadership development.

Again, this is another simple tool for leadership development. I hope I’ve helped you think about your own leadership pipelines and paths. I hope I've helped you think about some of the structures that either you have in place or don't. Regardless, I'm confident you are thinking about steps forward to take in your own journey of leadership development and that God will lead those steps.


Patrick O’Connell is passionate about helping people start new things for the Kingdom. A man who 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. O'Connell helped plant a network of churches in Kansas City, and it was there that 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 kids. He likes to run, read, and hang out with friends and family.


About Patrick O'Connell

Patrick O'Connell is the Global Director of NewThing, a catalyst for movements of reproducing churches. He is passionate about helping people start new things for the Kingdom. He's married to Nancy and they have three great kids. He likes to run, read and hangout with friends.