The awkwardness in the room was palpable.
The four couples look as stunned as kangaroos in a ute’s headlights.
They weren’t sure what this Ministry Development Group was all about. Nor did they know how keen I was to develop emerging leaders.
I had given them screeds of information when I invited to be in this exclusive group.
I’d told them that I saw a bright future for their leadership and wanted to spend time with them in their journey of growth.
However, no amount of knowledge prepares you for the reality of nervously gathering in the pastor’s home with a chosen group of leaders.
Over my years of pastoring, I’ve used various methods to develop emerging leaders.
One of my most successful methods has been gathering leaders together and allowing them to develop in the context of a group.
Jesus Used This Method to Develop Emerging Leaders
It’s worth noting that this proven method of development is what both Jesus and Paul used to grow leaders.
Jesus led an exclusive group of 12 leaders to be with Him.
There’s only one recorded instance of Paul travelling alone to plant churches. He landed in Athens all by himself having left Luke in Phillips and Silas and Timothy in Berea.
Paul later reminds the Corinthians how beaten up he was when he met them after his solo effort in Athens (1 Cor 2:1-3).
We see Paul time and again gathering leaders together to train and develop them into effective Christian leaders.
7 Benefits of a Leadership Development Group
1. Organic peer learning
When leaders are placed in small groups it facilitates organic peer learning, especially when there is diversity in the group. In fact, you should seek to make the group as diverse as possible. Extensive research indicates that diversity in teams improves effectiveness.
2. Develop active listening skills
Leaders learn active listening skills as they bounce ideas off each other and challenge each other’s perceptions.
3. Defend their ideas
As the group forms closer ties people emerge from their safe places to outline their ideas about life and leadership. They are forced to justify and defend these ideas as others in the group challenge their preconceptions. This healthy level of debate helps leaders grow their communication skills and strengthens their core beliefs.
4. Bonds are forged
The normative and generally benign conflict that emerges as groups form precipitates the close bonds that leaders can forge when placed in a development group. Relationships move from the surface to far more meaningful connections. Respect and admiration grow as they come to understand appreciate each other.
5. Saves time
Group development is also a big-time saver for time pastors as they can mentor and coach 10 people at once rather than 10 one-on-one appointments.
6. Energises pastors
When a pastor decides to develop emerging leaders they get energised by being around people who are hungry to learn and grow. Pastors are often caught up with needy people who drain their energy. Focussing on leaders can be as refreshing a cold shower on a muggy day.
7. Validates people
Lastly, we shouldn’t underestimate the how people feel when invited to be part of an exclusive group. While the gospel is inclusive, development happens best when you make it exclusive. This sense of being chosen validates people and strengthens their sense of call.
6 Steps To Setting Up Your Group
Give it a name that intuitively indicates it’s a group for developing and equipping leaders.
Pick your leaders
Aim for diversity in gender, age and experience. Consider mixing current leaders with and potential leaders.
Determine your frequency
Decide how often you are going to meet and for how long. Will it be in monthly for 6 months, weekly for 6 weeks or every 6 weeks for one year?
Select your topics
You can survey the group members to discover what areas of development they are seeking.
However, it is vital that you cover leadership topics such as these: problem-solving, managing people, resolving conflicts, handling complexity, delegation, developing systems, attitudinal areas, walking with Christ as a leader, leading yourself.
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Choose your resource
Books and blogs can be an excellent resource. Even studying a book of the Bible together can be helpful especially for younger leaders who are still developing their devotional life. Podcasts also provide a rich resource of material.
Our Next Level Leadership program is purpose designed to help you develop emerging leades and incorporates minimal reading, individual interaction sheets as well as group coaching.
Invite the leaders
Ring each leader and tell them they will be receiving a personal invitation via email. Send them a personal email. Ring each leader after they have responded. Make this process personal and focussed.
How to Run the Group
1. Prepare well in advance
If you’re using any type of pre-reading method make sure you’ve read the material thoroughly.
2. Frame how and what questions around the material.
These will stimulate the discussion. Aim for an exploring style group rather than a guru download type group. Don’t be afraid to let questions hang in the air. Be aware that the greater age gap between you and younger leaders the more intimidated they will be by you.
Pray with and for the leaders. This vital element will hasten their progress and emphasise the spiritual nature of the journey they have undertaken.
4. Create a social space
Amplify the social element with some snacks and coffee.
5. Action steps are crucial
Include action steps that leaders must report back on, using tools like WhatsApp for connection and communication.
6. Give the group time
Don’t be alarmed by the awkwardness or stiffness of the first few meetings. As the group forms it will eventually find a more relaxed place of connection and openness.
Why not take the plunge and decide to develop emerging leaders using my proven method? Choose a few leaders, work out some topics and set a launch date and go for it.
I guarantee you will not regret putting tie and energy into developing leaders. Plus it will empower you to grow a healthy church.