Archives for : Leadership Development

How Deep is Your Bench

how deep pic

In the NFL you can go to any team’s website and check out their depth chart. They normally go three deep at almost every position. First through third string is necessary in most positions in case someone goes down during the season. Injury, of course, is going to happen to someone on the team at some time. They prepare ahead by training others to be ready to step into their position. Even though they may not play every down, or even any downs, they need to be ready to enter the game in a moment’s notice. Your church would be wise to think three deep on your ministry depth chart.

Your volunteer team needs to always be recruiting others and training them to be ready to step into their position. Notoriously, many churches are guilty of placing people into roles and responsibilities without letting them know what the expectations are for them. There is the tendency is to give them no training at all where they are expected to “fend” for themselves. If you want more out of your team, then you are going to have to invest more into your team. Three people need to know how to accomplish every role, position, and job in your ministry.

First, think of “just in time” training! Too much training can be frustrating for people to fit into their already busy schedules. Plan on an initial orientation to educate them on what to expect and then offer quarterly reconnects. Also, have someone designated to call them and see how they are doing, or need help, and if they have any questions. Weekly contact through a phone call can help a volunteer keep from being overwhelmed. Here are three things you can ask them: How did it go yesterday? Anything I can do to help you? How can I pray for you?

Second, organize ministry teams to determine job descriptions, divide responsibilities, and develop the purpose of their team. Why does this team exist? What is this team supposed to accomplish? One of the keys to recruiting volunteers is to be as clear as possible about responsibilities and expectations of the volunteers. Make a list of any special tasks team members might be asked to do, or areas of responsibilities of which team members might be asked to be in charge of, or special events the team organizes. Have team members get together to brainstorm and clarify their purpose.

Third, define what the team leader responsibilities entail and include. It is hard to fulfill expectations if no one has communicated what those expectations are. How long are they expected to serve? How many hours a month will this require? What useful skill sets are necessary or would be helpful in this role? How often should they get their team together to discuss their progress? Who do they answer to and how often are they expected to report to that individual? There needs to be a clear chain of command. Who is available to help answer questions and help work through problems?

Fourth, determine what assistants you need and what their roles will be. When you divide responsibilities and meet with your team members there are three questions that need to be answered. What needs to be done? Who will be responsible to see that it gets done? And what is the deadline? If you do not ask these questions and assign these responsibilities then your team will soon become more of a committee. Committees tend to talk about everything that needs to be done but not much gets done. You need team members who work on the ministry but also work in the ministry.

Fifth, know who your team members are and pray for them. Whether you are more relationship–oriented or task-oriented you must remember that valuing people always comes ahead of accomplishing the task. How can you add value to their lives? How can you best help them to be successful in the task they have been asked to do? What kind of specialized training should you offer? For the dream to work the team must work. A team only works when everyone is happy to be a part of the team. Think about how you can rotate team members so they can get a break when needed.

Sixth, determine how you will recruit more volunteers to serve on your ministry teams. We think putting it in the bulletin or announcing it from the platform is enough, but it isn’t. When church members were recently surveyed and asked why they did not volunteer more here was the answer; “We were never asked!” They need to be asked face to face. Ask them to join someone to watch and observe. Fight the temptation to just throw them into the role without being able to see what it looks like and how it operates. This gives them the opportunity to “kick the tire” and see if it is for them or not.

Lastly, think through what teams you need to have in place. Think through the systems needed to maximize the impact of the hard work of building relationships. If healthy systems are not developed then the back door can swing as wide open as the front. Consider systems such as assimilation, finance, worship, outreach, discipleship, small groups, ministry placement, and leadership development. What will these look like in your context? Who will oversee these systems? What will their job descriptions look like? What systems must be a priority for where you are in the process right now?

There is much work to do as you consider everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Then you need to begin recruiting and training volunteers to build a team depth chart that is three deep.

Healthy churches make sure that they have entry-level roles where people can become easily involved.

Building a Dream Team

Dream Team


      When you think of building a dream team at your church or in your ministry what comes to mind?  Whenever I think of the term “Dream Team,” my mind immediately goes back to the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” that included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.  They completely dominated their competition in every game by an average of 44 points.  This was the first U.S. Olympic team to include NBA stars and it gave fans a glimpse of basketball at its finest.

    The differences between ministry teams and athletic teams are obvious but there are also many comparisons that can be drawn.  Legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant put it this way, “I’m just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together – how to lift some men up, how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together as a team.”  The goal of any team ought to be “One Heartbeat” which will then insure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

     Coach Bryant went on to say,”There’s always just three things I say: ‘If anything goes bad, I did it.  If anything goes semi-good, then we did it.  If anything goes real good, they did it!’  That’s all it takes to get people to win.”  What great advice, because when we are focused on servant leadership as a team then we don’t care who gets the credit; other than Jesus!  All of us have heard it multiple times but it is still true; “Together Everyone Accomplishes More” and Ecc. 4:9-12 teaches this principle clearly.

     In  Jesus on Leadership Becoming a Servant Leader, C. Gene Wilkes has much to say about what a team should look like.  He describes four elements: Togetherness, Empowerment, Accountability, and Mentoring!

  • Togetherness – This is a team sport and Wilkes says, “A leader is more like a player on a soccer team than a pro golfer on tour…Ministry teams are how the early church met the need of evangelism. Ministry teams are how the church of the twenty-first century will continue to meet needs effectively.” Remember, a team must share “one heartbeat.”  A great resource on this concept is Church is a Team Sport by Jim Putman. 
  • Empowerment – Coach John Wooden, the wizard of Westwood, who led the UCLA basketball team to seven straight national championships said, “The guy who puts the ball through the hoop has ten hands.” Team members must know their role and what is expected of them.  Wilkes says, “Encouragement without training is like enthusiasm without direction.”  We cannot afford to have the pep rally without a game plan! 
  • Accountability – The leader of the team is first responsible for equipping team members. 4:12 points out that the leaders are “for the training of the saints in the work of the ministry.”  Wilkes says, “Team accountability can happen when team members become servants to the goal of the ministry” (one heartbeat) “and slaves to those on the team to help them reach that goal.”  Your team needs more from you if you expect more from them!
  • Mentoring – Never forget that the speed of the leader determines the speed of the team! Don’t expect those who follow you to catch what you are teaching unless they see you demonstrating it in your life.  Wilkes says, “Mentors model what they want their followers to do.  Their actions weigh as heavy as their words.”  And, “Servant leaders model for others what Christ modeled for them.”

     Building a “dream team’ requires far more than teaching leaders something they need to know.  It is more than leaders just learning something they need to do.  It also requires you showing them how to be something and the only way for that to occur is to live out what Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  Make sure someone is mentoring you on how to lead with a servant’s heart and then you mentor someone in the same way.

          In Developing the Leaders Around You, John Maxwell says, “An organization cannot increase its productivity—but people can!  The asset that truly appreciates within any organization is people.  Systems become dated.  Buildings deteriorate.  Machinery wears.  But people can grow, develop, and become more effective if they have a leader who understands their potential value.”

     Healthy churches focus on developing leaders and building their “dream team!”



     There was a song a few years ago that said; “Looking for love in all the wrong places!”  The reality is that we are often looking for leaders in all the wrong places or at least in the wrong ways.  Quite often I am asked what characteristics should we look for when seeking new leaders?  One important thing to remember is to take it slow in the beginning.  Never elevate to a position without first observing how they handle small projects.  Begin with entry level responsibilities and see how they handle them.  A necessary core value in leadership development must be, no one leads who does not first serve!

     Carey Nieuwhof recently wrote a blog on “5 Signs You Are an Insecure Leader.”  The first sign he gave is that you are constantly comparing yourself to others. The second is when your sense of self-worth is driven by your latest results.  Thirdly, you can’t celebrate someone else’s success.  The fourth sign of an insecure leader is that you need to be the final word on everything.  Lastly, an insecure leader is unwilling to make room for people who are more gifted or competent than them.  We must refuse to hold on to everything for the sake of control and safety.

     Carey says this about number five, “This is where your personal traits inflicts direct harm to your organization (not that the other traits don’t, but this one has a direct and lethal impact).  The sign of a great leader is not that they are the most gifted or competent person in the organization.  The sign of a great leader is someone who can attract and keep people more gifted and competent than themselves.  The future will belong to people who can forge great alliances, make great partnerships and attract great people.”

     This is why discovering and developing the right leaders is so important.  We all need others to help and assist in the work of ministry.  The challenge of II Tim 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also,” is not only biblical but also effective.  Here are a few other things to look for as you select individuals to invest your time in to develop as leaders.

     When looking for leaders, Look for Self-Starters!  Watch for those who are already doing it and not just talking about it.  You would rather have someone you have to say “whoa” to then someone you always have to motivate to do something.  They are reading their bible, studying, trying to share their faith, and actively pursuing God.  They are making “rookie” mistakes but someone who never makes a mistake usually is not trying very hard.  They do not need a title or a position because they already have a mind and heart to work!

     When looking for leaders, Look for those who have a teachable spirit.  Carey says this in his blog, “insecure people end up being controlling people.  You don’t need experts because you want to be the expert.  Know-it-alls weren’t much fun in kindergarten; they are less fun in the adult world.”  Look for those who desire the advice and counsel of others.  Before elevating someone into a leadership role you need to ask these questions; “Do they value the counsel and input of others?  Are they open to constructive criticism?”

     When looking for leaders, Look for someone who is passionately pursuing God!  They are abiding and walking in Christ daily.  They are not perfect but their hunger and thirst for “righteousness sake” is apparent.  They daily spend time with the Lord, they are the spiritual leader in their home, and they have a desire to help others live Godly lives.  Because Jesus is lord of their life they do not have a problem with submitting to those God has placed in their life to oversee them.  You can see the zeal in their walk and whenever you are around them they want to talk about what Christ is doing in their life. 

     When looking for leaders, Look for someone who loves to worship at your church.  They have a burden to see the Lord’s name lifted up and praised in a worthy manner.  They are not observers of worship but they actively participate.  James MacDonald in Vertical Church puts it this way, “Our main job is to usher in the almighty – God forgive us when we settle for less.”  This potential leader may not see it as his “job” but he desires God’s presence in every service.  They are not “hung-up” on certain styles or methods but desperately want to praise Jesus!

     Healthy churches are looking for leaders to develop in all the right places and in all the right ways!



Following is important and we know that Jesus said, “Follow me!”  Jesus discipled others by moving them through a process (“I Do, You Watch; I do, You Help; You Do, I Help; You Do, I Watch”) from being followers to leaders.  Leadership is influence and moves the follower forward through different levels.  First, we must watch, listen, and learn.  Then we begin to act upon the learning we have received.  Many are trained way beyond their level of obedience!  Thirdly, the follower begins to lead others intentionally.  Next, they not only lead but focus on developing other leaders.  Average leaders lead followers while great leaders lead leaders.        

     Leadership is basically the process of pouring into others to multiply ministry effectiveness, expand Godly influence, and reproduce spiritual leaders.  There is an old saying, “If you want one year’s prosperity, grow grain, but if you want ten year’s prosperity, grow men and women.”   A focus on leadership development focuses on building a simple reproducible system to ensure that our practice is able to catch up with our knowledge.  All too often we try to think our way into a new way of acting instead of acting ourselves into a new way of thinking! 

     The key to committing to the development of leaders is coming to the point where we are no longer content to just lead followers!  The reality is that followers are very high maintenance and require a lot of oversight.  That is natural and should be expected in the beginning but not long term.  Every time a leader can find and develop another leader it increases the scope of their influence for the Gospel exponentially.  Jesus intentionally influenced twelve and deliberately invested in three.  Develop leaders who have a heart to develop leaders.  That is multiplication!

     This focus requires asking the right questions.  Whom have I developed who can handle this?  Which of my leaders has a team capable of taking on this ministry?  What have I done to prepare this leader for this opportunity?  What can I do to equip and empower this leader?  What can I do to help this leader grow and improve?  How can I train, coach, and mentor followers to become leaders?  When a leader is committed to developing other leaders they are not interested in being the star but in helping others to shine!

     Unfortunately, we think that a training event or the right book on leadership will change the culture all by itself but that only takes us partway.  There must be a plan for implementation of the learning through coaching and mentoring.  Jesus spent time with the disciples and built a strong personal relationship with them.  His goal was to reproduce His values in them so that they could accomplish His Kingdom goals.  How did He do?  Acts 5:28 says, “and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.”  He not only developed followers but leaders!

     What do you look for in the followers you want to invest in to become leaders?  First, they must already be busy and active.  The principle here is to look for those already driven to make a difference for Christ.  They are not standing around waiting for someone to put them to work but they are already busy.  They have a hunger and thirst to do more.  One word of caution; some have not gotten involved yet because they have never been asked or they are unsure of where they are needed and even if they are needed.  Remember; look for those already in motion!

     Second, they must have a teachable spirit.  Look for those that are willing to listen and are excited about learning.  They have a healthy respect for you as a leader and they believe that you can help them to develop and succeed as a leader.  If they are not excited to enter an intentional leadership development relationship with you then it is probably best to look for someone else.  Leadership development is an involved process that requires time, energy, discretion, patience, discipline, and can be difficult to carry out.  But, it is well worth it!

     One leader of leaders, Larry Bossidy, puts it this way, “When you’re confused about how you’re doing as a leader, find out how the people you lead are doing.  You’ll know the answer.”  The only way, and it’s the biblical way, to maximize ourselves as leaders is to develop other leaders.  It is a win-win situation when we mentor followers to become leaders.  Without leadership development your ministry will plateau and eventually begin to decline.  Mentoring leaders is not cloning but giving followers an intentional pathway for becoming whom God always intended them to be!

     Healthy churches are focused on developing leaders not just followers!