You need to be freed up to do what only YOU can do. That means building a team that can take on the many aspects of ministry that need to be done but that you don’t have to do personally. You need training and delegation systems that really work. The problem is that leaders often start with the second goal (i.e. an unpleasant task that needs to be delegated) rather than starting with the first goal: to develop new leaders.

But what happens if you turn this around and start with the development? And—even better—what happens if you do that based on the particular individual in front of you rather than what it says to do in a book to develop leaders?

Discover the leaders you have

Have a real, open-ended conversation… one where you don’t have a pre-set goal. Help the other person assess where they are, unpacking where they are strong and where they want to grow. This will look a little different for everyone. One person may already be good at managing their time, but doesn’t have a clear picture of where they want to grow. Another person may be in the opposite place. Ask questions to help them unpack where they are. Ask follow up questions and listen until you can picture what they are doing. From there you can create a customized development plan that focuses on where the person really is rather than taking a cookie cutter approach.

Set them up to win

People can get lost in linear training systems. To raise engagement and commitment you have to show them that they are seen, heard, and valued. That can only happen if you detach your needs from their development. Start by asking open-end questions and actively listening to their answers. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What’s working? Where do you feel strong? In what areas do you feel confident?
  • What’s not working? Where do you feel stretched? In what areas do you want to grow?
  • How can you listen to the Holy Spirit and reflect on what he is calling you to? Who could you ask for feedback and perspective?
  • Where do you see a gap between where you are and where you want to be? What might help fill that gap?

You can readily imagine a conversation guided along these lines, although you don’t know in advance where it will lead you. You might be surprised. But no matter what people come up with as their next action point, there is always something they can do to move forward. That may or may not remove something from your own to do list, but listen instead for what God is communicating to them. That’s the more important thing.

Follow up

One or two meetings is not going to do it. Instead, set up a rhythm to spur your leader-in-training on and continue their development. Here are some tips to help you along the way…

  • Always begin with affirmation of their strengths. Everyone has strengths, and all gifts are important in the body of Christ. They all make a difference.
  • When you help them pinpoint an area to work on, make sure to stick to just one or two key points. Don’t give them all the information they may ever need to grow in this area. Rather, give them two things to do and remember until you talk with them next time. Then be sure to follow up on those.
  • If at all possible, use their strengths to build on as they enter their growth areas. Say one person is consistently faithful; that is their strength. Emphasize how helpful it will be that they arrive on time and ready to help—that’s half the battle for most of our learning. Once you understand how they are wired, you can tailor your approach to work with their strengths. “Swim with the stream,” I call it.
  • Finally, remember they will need more than just you. Ask them who else can help them. If they are ultimately to be successful, they’ll need to surround themselves with people who can help, support, encourage, and challenge them.


The Leadership Difference*- Anyone in a position of leadership, whether they’re leading a church, a team, or a small group, needs to know the skills and strategies covered in this book—skills and strategies that result in lightening your own load, developing the skills of others, and getting the job done effectively. *Amazon affiliate link.

Leadership Skills Guides- This downloadable resource is designed to make you to expert. Use it to provide as-needed training in 37 essential leadership skills. Written introduction, teaching points, scripture passages and reflection, and discussion questions are provided for each skill. Every topic has participant guides to hand out to those you are training and leader guides for yourself that give you a bit more content. There’s even a section that lays out various options for covering the material with those you’re training.

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