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Leadership Development Models

In this session, we’re going to be taking a look at leadership development models. We’re seeking to answer the question, how does a church leader develop greater personal maturity and ministry effectiveness?

There are several models that have been developed, two that actually are focusing on the same practical applications would be one by Ted Ward called the Fence Model, one by Robert Clinton called the Railroad Track model. Both of these models are communicating three very fundamental dynamics that are almost always a part of effective leadership development.

We’ll use Clinton’s model, the Railroad Track, for this session. Those three dynamics are number one, instruction. This is either in a formal or non-formal environment where you learn concepts or ideas or principles or doctrines. The second dynamic is experience. This is actually being in the field doing ministry experience, and then this really the most significant because you can actually have instruction and no experience. Or you can have experience and no instruction, or you can have both of them going on at the same time but not connecting.

That’s often the problem with traditional field education. What’s being learned in the classroom, one set of concepts and ideas, and yet, the experience on the field is not connected to the concepts or the theology or whatever the principles are in the classroom. And so, the real key dynamic here is the idea of periodic reflection and application with a mentor or a coach or a supervisor, and this doesn’t necessarily need to be one person. It could be several.

But the concept is, periodic times where, to use another metaphor, someone helps you connect the dots between the theory and the reality of your experience. You may recall my reference to a quote I like very much from John Frame, “Theology is application. If it does not edify, it is worthless.” And the concept here would instruction in theory or concepts or ideas or doctrine that is not actually applied to life, and ministry is worthless.

Now what’s interesting is when studies have been done of Jesus’ development of the disciples, it’s very, very clear that as Robert Coleman says this first quote, “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.” And there’s much to learn from his methodology of developing leaders. Coleman goes on to say, “Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program, just letting his disciples follow him.”

Coleman goes on to say, “Knowledge was gained by association before it was understood by explanation.” And then one more excerpt from his book ‘Master Plan of Evangelism’, “If we do not make the journey from theories and ideals to concrete situations, then the concrete situations will be lost under a smog of words.” You can see here that, although Coleman might not even be familiar with this model, he is making the same point, and that is, knowledge must be connected with experience normally under a mentor or a coach or a supervisor in the field.

Now, it’s very interesting when you look at this passage in Acts 4. It’s somewhat striking as you think of education and ministry preparation. In Acts 4 we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John,” and now note this, “and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.” And then notice this next phrase, and or but, it could translated, “They recognized that they had been with Jesus.” What a contrast between those who are formally educated and have not been with Jesus, and those who are uneducated and have, showing the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on them by their boldness.

I shared with you earlier an ancient Chinese proverb that also taps into these dynamics, bears repeating here:

“I do, you watch. I do, you help. You do, and I help. You do, and I watch.”

Another Chinese proverb I want to share with you here that applies, a new one in this series, “I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.”


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Leadership Development Methods

In this session we are going to be taking a look at leadership development methods. Within the field of education, a very common differentiation is made between three methods of learning or three methods of education. One is formal educational methods. The other one would be non-formal and the third one is informal. Let’s look just briefly at each of these categories.

Formal education, this is usually related to a school, college, university. Formal education is, it’s normally full time, not always but normally. It’s long term. There’s normally some form of accreditation with admission standards and requirements that need to be met with a standard curriculum. It’s usually leading to some kind of a diploma or a degree that someone gets, that’s offered through the school. It’s normally content centered and it can be very costly.

Now formal education is usually seen as isolated from the student’s normal context. It’s primarily teaching and curriculum centered and highly governed. This type of learning is the type of learning you’d normally think about in schools, colleges, universities, graduate schools and other educational institutions.

A second method of education or learning is non-formal. Now, non-formal education is normally part time, as opposed to formal being full time. Instead of long term, it’s short term. It is not accredited whereas formal is accredited. There’s easy access. There’s not a barrier in terms of not having the credentials or the background necessary to be received into a school or an educational program.

It’s personalized in terms of the curriculum and the methodology. It’s usually offered through distance education, through conferences, seminars, apprenticeships and it usually occurs in the learner’s normal context. Again, in contrast with formal education where it’s usually not, and it is affordable whereas formal education is usually expensive. The key point here, just as before is that, it’s primarily learner or learning-centered, where formal education is primarily teacher or teaching or curriculum centered.

Now the third category is informal education methods. Informal methods are unstructured. They’re spontaneous. They’re highly relational. They’re way of life. There is no curriculum or credits. It doesn’t lead to any diploma or a degree. It’s just simply a teacher, a mentor working with someone that needs help and needs development with a skill or some area of life, and the teacher, the mentor is simply someone with more experience. It’s highly learner and learning- centered like non-formal education, but the focus here, there is no program at all. It is just simply a focus on walking through life with someone and learning in time and in life, in light of contexts that arise.

Now this was obviously the primary educational method of Jesus that he used in the training of his disciples. There was teaching. There were times that he would preach and teach to crowds, but yet it seems like, from the scriptures, that most of the learning of the disciples was in what we would call an informal method process.

Now there are times when the lines between each of these methods of learning are just not that clear. They can be blurred. In other words, it isn’t always as cut and dry as it seems, but these definitions, I think can help you have a general idea of each method of learning and impact how you learn and develop as leaders, as well as how you help develop leaders in your ministry. Now finally, I want you to note how these three educational methods can be seen as three developmental training levels of a teacher.

Now notice here, level one is teaching content to the learner. You see the teacher at level one bringing content as the arrow goes from the lower right to the upper left. This is curriculum centered. Then level two, as you see a significant turn being made back to the right. That would be facilitating. This is when the teacher moves from teaching content to the learner to facilitating the learner’s needs. This would be learner centered or non-formal, where the first would be more formal.

Then level three, the next turn would be the teacher really taking on more of the role of a mentor, accompanying the learner, walking through life. That would be informal. So if you look at this now through the earlier grid, you can see level one is formal, with the focus on content. Level two is non-formal, with the focus on the learner and learning and informal, the third level, walking through life.

So it’s very significant to see how this turning of the corner takes place when, as you can think of yourself as a teacher, you learn to shift from level one, that is merely focusing on teaching content to someone, transmitting information. That’s the curriculum centered, to level two, facilitating, becoming learner centered. Then to level three, accompanying or walking through life as Jesus did with the disciples. Now I want you to note how in all of these shifts, you see a shift from the formal, level one, to the non-formal, level two, to the informal, level three.

Now forms of all three learning methods are normally needed in developing leaders holistically. It would be a misunderstanding to think that one of these levels or one of these methods of learning was actually superior to the other. They are all just different methods that need to be used appropriately and most effectively. It could be summed up in a, in a sense in the old Chinese ancient proverb that the essence of informal learning is “I do and you watch. I do, you help. You do, I help.” And then, “You do and I watch.” Then what’s often forgotten is the last step, which is “You do and another watches.”


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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.


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