March 20, 2016 Scott Magdalein

How to “Home Grow” Your Future Staff Leaders

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Hiring staff is hard. It can feel nearly impossible to gauge things like fit and chemistry when hiring from the outside.

Home-grown leaders are often better for so many reasons. You’ve seen them in action. You were a part of their development. They’re used to your culture. They’ve been proven through the fires of ministry at your church, in your context, with your people.

Developing future staff from within your congregation takes a lot of work. I’d imagine that’s why leaders tend to hire from the outside; once it comes time to hire, it’s too late to develop a lay person for the job. That’s why you have to start thinking about future staff development now, before you have a role to fill.

Start with prayer.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-37

There is a fundamental difference in developing future ministry leaders and developing future business leaders. Ministry leaders are stepping into the role of spiritual harvester. They are partakers in a holy calling, fellow-laborers with Jesus.

Jesus tells us to pray for workers to go into the harvest. While that prayer often results in our own calling and movement, it should be a sincere prayer that God would provide the right people for the roles that only God knows you’ll need in the future.

Create a development plan.

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ… – Ephesians 4:11-12

There is always a temptation to over-simplify the development process. We think, “If we can get people in the room with leadership, shadowing on leadership tasks, joining in on leadership discussions, then they’ll be ready to lead one day.” Often, we don’t remember our own development and chalk up our growth to learning “on the job” and we think that’s good enough for those we lead, too.

But we also forget the frustrations of having to learn on the job; painful mistakes that hurt people, failed ministry launches, poorly planned events. These are the hard knocks of ministry that we can help those we lead to avoid.

A clear development plan should be designed to help lay persons grow in the way God has laid out for them. It should not be designed to produce future staff from every person who steps into the process. Not everyone is called to staff roles in a church.

Create a coaching plan.

Jesus is an excellent example of coaching in ministry. Yes, you could argue that he mentored his disciples, but there are many examples of Jesus’ role of coaching in their lives.

For example, Jesus gives them a method of evangelism in Luke 10 and then sends them out in pairs to put their learning to practice. When they return, he debriefs with them concerning their experience and clarifies their points of confusion. That’s coaching.

Create a mentoring plan.

In the Bible, we can see a mentoring relationship development between Jethro and Moses. Jethro wasn’t purposefully preparing Moses to lead Israel, but you can see the value of the investment that Jethro put into him before Moses returned to Egypt.

I was taught recently that the primary distinction between mentoring and coaching is that coaching has a clear destination of growth or development. Mentoring, on the other hand, is like having a sage who provides wisdom and direction, but doesn’t push the learner in a particular direction.

Providing your leaders-in-development with a mentor, especially one within the staff, gives them a leg up on personal growth. Self-knowledge is one of the most valuable results of a mentoring relationship.

Create a content plan.

You could say Jesus was the original content-based developer. He told stories, referenced Scriptures, and offered new insights, all of which was for the purpose of developing his disciples. We would be wise to follow Jesus’ lead here.

A key part of the Leadership Pipeline concept is content development to support your pipeline plan. But you don’t have to be following the Leadership Pipeline process to find value in developing content that supports the purposeful growth of your future staff leaders.

Every development plan can be supported by a mix of three types of content: (1) purchased content, (2) remixed content, and (3) bespoke content. Purchased content is, of course, straight off the shelf. There’s a ton of it out there and the hard part is choosing the best stuff.

Remixed content is when you take content off the shelf, combine it with other helpful content, and roll it into your development plan. For example, you might combine Vital Signs by Tony Morgan with a video on metrics that matter from YouTube or a few blog posts on the topic.

Finally, bespoke content is the stuff you make yourself. This takes work, but the value delivered can be immeasurable. Vision videos, ministry training handbooks, volunteer policies, group leadership courses; these are all examples of bespoke content. They fit your vision and culture and language and can be highly impactful within your ministry.

Growing your own future staff leaders from within your congregation is hard, but so worth it. Get started now.

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Scott Magdalein

Scott has 12+ years of experience in leading technology and innovation in the church space. He is the former Product Manager for YouVersion (the Bible app), ChurchMetrics.com, ChurchOnlinePlatform.com, X3Watch.com, and a bunch of other online and mobile tools. He’s currently working on a new project called TrainedUp.org to help churches teach more effectively online.
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