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Leadership Development Principles Part 2
The leader needs to understand the value of extracurricular learning, that God normally develops leaders as they are leading. The testing of a leader’s giftedness, the affirmation of God’s call and the ongoing development of an emerging leader’s gifts all occur best and should be primarily developed in the context of ministry.
Now, many emerging leaders who have the privilege of attending a Bible institute, a college, or a seminary still need to understand that they will normally learn-and they usually say this, often years later-as much or more in preparation for ministry outside the classroom as inside, especially when they’re seeking to apply outside what they’ve learned inside.
This is why it’s so important for church leaders preparing for ministry in a school environment, in an educational institution to always also have a very clearly-defined and administered, we might call it, an extracurricular learning plan for the holistic development, and we’ll comeback to that later.
The next concept is the need for individualized learning. The personal background and ministry experience of emerging leaders very broadly. So, some students begin at the same time alongside other students preparing for the ministry as a church leader, and they have a very high degree of personal and spiritual maturity. Others arrive at the same point of preparation for ministry in a college or an institute or a seminary and they’re very immature personally, spiritually, theologically, often relationally. And some students have formal training before they come for training to be a church leader. Others have years of experience in the business world.
Each individual student is unique and is therefore best equipped for ministry by education and learning processes that can be as individualized as reasonably possible. This, again, is the concept that one size does not fit all because everyone’s coming with unique wounds, unique background, and unique experiences and therefore … There are some baseline similarities but there are often many more unique needs that need to be addressed specifically and individually for effective leadership development.
The next to last principle is the need for relational learning. Very frequently, as seen inScripture and in life and subsequent history of the church, God seems to normally use mature leaders to nurture the growth of emerging leaders. An example would be the Apostle Paul’s relationship with younger Timothy. Now this is not to denigrate the value of learning from one’s peers, that’s important. In fact, peer mentoring is also a very effective way to develop emerging leaders. It’s one of the most neglected way. Studies are showing significant learning, almost equal to learning from subject matter experts and teachers from emerging leaders that are peers.
But people normally grow in wisdom through the guidance of those who are more experienced. You know, it’s interesting, in previous periods of history, very natural, relational, and vocational networks made very normal the younger, less-experienced people to always be entering in some form of apprenticeship or being mentored. It was just a way of life and a way of culture. That’s just not that common today.
The bottom line here is that leaders do not develop in a vacuum. Instead, leaders are most often developed in the ongoing give and take of face to face relationships, especially those who have gone before them and who have been in effective ministry pouring back into them.
And the last one, I’m just calling the need for intentional learning. Developing leaders in knowledge and skill and character the way we’ve described it here can be accomplished most effectively when the goal of that development is very clearly and succinctly expressed as a part of an intentional plan-and I’m choosing my words carefully-with measurable outcomes, and this is whether it’s written or not. The more precisely the final product, we might say, of a mature, Christian leader can be described, the better emerging leaders can be nurtured toward that end.
The path toward the goal can be traversed if the point at which the training of an emerging leader begins, determined by an assessment of any sort, and then ends described in terms of some measurable criteria, is more clearly recognized. Now, the problem is that in many or most programs for developing church leaders, the final product is just, quite frankly, not very clearly defined. It’s the old adage, you aim at nothing and you hit it every time. Worse than that, the process that is supposed to lead to that final product of a mature, well-equipped church leader, just frankly, too often fails to do that.
It’s been said that the goal of teaching is to make learning possible. The real question is not whether teaching is taking place when you’re in a classroom or when you see a classroom, but whether learning is taking place, and whether that learning is truly equipping church leaders to do the work of the ministry that they’ve been called by God to do.