October 29, 2018 Tony Morgan

Demystifying Leadership Development: 7 Reasons You Don’t Have More Leaders

“Develop leaders for vision instead of for filling needs.”

Every once in a while, a high-capacity leader who loves Jesus will just show up right on your doorstep looking for the opportunity to help you accomplish God’s mission at your church.

Unfortunately, that’s not the norm. It’s highly unlikely that you will ever randomly have enough leaders to help you sustain the health and growth of your ministry.

This is why it is so important to establish an intentional strategy for identifying, equipping and empowering leaders to grow their capacity.

Several years ago, I spoke with Mark Miller, Vice President of High Performance Leadership at Chick-Fil-A about their strategy for leadership development. The company had reached a point where their opportunities for expansion were exceeding their current leadership capacity. It is so important to establish an intentional strategy for identifying, equipping and empowering leaders to grow their capacity. Click To Tweet

Mark said one of the secrets to their success was developing leaders for vision instead of for just filling needs.

“We always thought leaders would just make themselves known. Once our company reached the $1 billion mark, we realized we had opportunities but were missing leaders who were ready. Expansion always means more leaders are necessary. After that, we started developing leaders for vision and not for need.”

Mark Miller, Chick-Fil-A Vice President of High Performance Leadership

I think many church leaders need to pause and let the last sentence sink in.

“Develop leaders for vision instead of for filling needs.”

It’s important to understand that filling leadership needs when they arise may keep you afloat but this strategy will never gives you expansion and growth.

Developing leaders for vision means you are raising up leaders for initiatives that may not even currently exist. This is not easy and requires a great deal of faith.

God wants to expand your mission and vision but many churches miss out on what God wants them to do because they don’t find and prepare the people He wants to use. God wants to expand your mission and vision but many churches miss out on what God wants them to do because they don’t find and prepare the people He wants to use. Click To Tweet

Here are 7 reasons why you are not developing enough leaders:

1) Your ministry calendar is so packed with events that you have no margin for leadership development.

Leadership development needs to be highly relational in order to generate maximum results. This requires focused time and attention. Possibly you are spending more time on events and gimmicks to draw quick crowds instead of investing key resources and time into leadership development.

2) The senior pastor looks to one or maybe two people to lead the entire church.

This strategy may be faster and easier on the senior pastor but it certainly isn’t a healthy way to grow a culture of leadership development.

This is a great way to experience stalled decisions, disengaged leaders who are not bought into the vision, lack of creativity, and people who feel stuck in their current roles. Most importantly, it greatly limits a leader’s potential for growth.

3) No one owns the role of leadership development.

Look at the structure of your organization. Who on the team is responsible for leadership development? We hire children’s pastors because we want ministry for kids. We hire communication directors because we have messages we need to share.

It sounds simple, but a culture of leadership development probably isn’t going to happen without a leader.

4) Low capacity leaders have been promoted to high capacity leadership positions.

Many churches give promotions because of longevity rather than leadership capacity or effectiveness. It’s wonderful to recognize and honor people who have been faithful for many years but putting someone with a capacity to lead tens in a role that leads hundreds is a recipe for stalled results.

A leader cannot take a team further than they have been themselves. High capacity leaders will not follow low capacity leaders.

5) You have built a culture that only permits “professionals” to do ministry.

Rather than handling all the leadership responsibility on our own, we’re supposed to give it away to other capable leaders. Ephesians 4:11-13 clearly teaches us that the role of a ministry team is to equip the church to do the ministry. Expecting your staff to do all of the work of the ministry will greatly limit your leadership development because people will never have the opportunity to lead.

Note… some of the business leaders and professionals in your church are higher capacity leaders than the people on your staff.

6) You delegate tasks but never empower others to lead.

Only giving people tasks is not inspiring or fulfilling. It is so important to give people responsibility, tools, budget, decision making authority and freedom to fail.

Not empowering leaders causes them to feel bored and insignificant, eventually they move on to other organizations where they can reach their potential. Not empowering leaders causes them to feel bored and insignificant, eventually they move on to other organizations where they can reach their potential. Click To Tweet

7) Your team has unhealthy spans of care.

The span of care for your staff should be around 5 to 7 people. Being overstaffed can be detrimental to a team because the mindset shifts to staff doing all the ministry rather than raising up and empowering volunteer teams.

Unfortunately, many churches have taken this to another level and are so short-staffed that their teams are stuck in the weeds trying to accomplish  ministry tasks. A culture of leadership development happens when there is a healthy balance and staff have margin to invest in other leaders.


If you are interested in discovering how to develop more leaders, there’s a whole lesson to equip you to do it well in my Leading an Unstuck Church Course. In the course we talk about how to identify capable leaders, how to create common language and map core competencies for leadership development, and how to expand the leadership capacity of others.

The course provides resources and ideas to help you get unstuck in this area, but also in many of those root areas I described above for why you’re struggling to develop leaders in the first place (like over-programming and an ineffective staff structure).

And because you’re busy, you can work through the content online, at your own pace.

I designed and wrote this course to help church leaders learn the practical things they need to know to lead an unstuck church.

The lessons are a mix of written and video content, self evaluation, discussion and exercises. The content walks you down a clear path to learn the principles and skills necessary to lead a church towards health and growth. Enrollment is open again for the Leading an Unstuck Church Course for a short time.

I think people learn best as part of a community so we have also included a private Facebook group where I and other members of The Unstuck Group team coach, answer questions and facilitate discussion.

Click here to learn more about course. We believe this will help you grow your ability to lead a church towards health and growth.

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.