It is a good practice to glean what you can from those who know how to practice well.  Last week VP3 hosted a webinar called, “Best Practices in Local Church Leadership Development.”  Three panelists joined our time to share what they have learned over the years regarding an investment in the formation of those within their local communities. Pam, Kent and Beth are seasoned at knowing how to notice the particulars of those whom they walk alongside.  All three know how to “call out” what they see dormant in peoples’ lives.  They are careful, yet direct in making appropriate and tailored prescriptions, helping people move toward a better place of maturity and a truer place of service.  Quite frankly, I was impressed with the practices they keep in this sometimes misunderstood deal of leadership development.  Their practice grows from a conviction that leadership development from a Christian perspective is first and always tethered to helping people tend to their followership to Jesus Christ.  You will benefit from listening in on what they said.  Here are some highlights…

1.  Leadership development must begin with honoring the person and his or her growing awareness of who God is and who they are.  We collect positive and negative experiences throughout life, and sometimes it is hard to distinguish which is which.  Creating a safe and hospitable environment where people can reflect on their life experiences is critical to helping them recognize and reclaim God’s deep love, concern and desire for who they are becoming.

2.  Learning the art of asking good questions is both honoring of the person, and invites new dimensions of discovery and imagination.  And in order to know if you should ask “question A” or “question B” will require a careful paying attention on the surface of things in order to discern what is going on in the deeper currents beneath.  This is true whether we are listening with discernment for what is going on in the soul of the person, or listening for the contextual clues in order to better understand what sort of leadership to best apply in a given situation.

3.  Rare is the church, or organization for that matter, whose culture is one of a careful investment in its people developmentally.  There are many organizationally sophisticated churches that know how to line up their one-size-fits-all programs.  Some of the programs in the line up are even leadership development.  But because we are first and continue to be disciples before we are leaders, the work of leadership development is more of a particularizing work than a one-size-fits-all sort of work.  Those given to leadership development that is more particularizing in nature must learn to ask courageous questions of the system or organization in terms of how it is supportive and empowering.  How might the system be enhancing or inhibiting the development and unleashing of its people?

4.  Leadership development can bear fruit that will last if it utilizes processes which are about the whole person.  Utilizing processes that help set the table for discovering character and skill related learnings will help a local church community over time grow mature believers who know how to put their hand to the work of leadership and do it well.  We need to move away from approaches that are only concerned with preparing people for certain tasks.  From time to time that will obviously be helpful, but if that is all our church provides for training or developing her people we may continue to experience our local churches as 1000 miles wide and 1/2 inch deep.

5.  Those who seem to have been able to help “produce” good fruit–good people–good leaders in their setting have do so because they have invested in their own ongoing formation.  And they have made a shift from being consumed with getting done whatever it is they feel need to get done, to caring deeply (even worrying) about how to unleash those whom they have begun to notice around them.  In fact, although they may have been with these people for years, it almost feels as if they’ve really noticed them for the first time.  Their new question became, “What is it that God wants to do in and through Karl, Lisa, Josh, Lorie, Kim, Maureen, Paul, Jen?”  Those who seem to be good at leadership development at some point along the way began to wonder about an exponential impact through the lives of others, rather than the impact they had been able to make on their own.

I invite your to listen to the whole conversation from the webinar, “Best Practices in Local Church Leadership Development.”  I also invite you to consider beginning The Emerging Journey process in your setting to help you begin the good practice of investing in the leadership development of those in your own church setting.

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