If you’re not developing leaders, you’re heading for a brick wall.

If you were to look at the leaders in your church, where did they come from? Were they trained elsewhere and you’re reaping the benefits?  Did you train them?  If you trained them, was it deliberate?  One of the great joys of ministry is seeing other people lead well and wisely from a deep Gospel heart.  In my context, the best leaders within the church have often been formed in the crucible of a ministry like AFES, where there’s opportunity, encouragement and support.  It’s there they cut their teeth, grow their gospel leadership abilities – and then it’s the local church that benefits for the years beyond.

But if you’re involved in the local church, you’ll know there’s never enough leaders.  For anything.  Each year, around from August to December there’s the growing panic that from kids ministry to music to bible study leaders, there’s not going to be enough to go around and no time to train anybody.  What do you do – risk it and put “untrained” leaders in, or cut back on what you do to ensure quality?

When Ed Stetzer came out to Australia a few years ago, one of the areas he identified as being a road block for growth within churches was their number of leaders.  And not just leaders, but those who could lead leaders.  You can see the figures in the chart, and they’ll differ slightly in every context, but what they’re pointing to is clear: leadership – not just yours – plays a key part in the growth of the church. So the question becomes then – where do these leaders come from?

There are two solutions we normally reach for.  The first is history: you can hope that over the course of time those with a history of Gospel leadership join your church.  The question will still remain though, will their leadership be right for your context?  The second is hustle: you can just keep trying to cover the gaps by working harder, asking those already leading to work harder too, and hope that over the course of time that those who don’t lead will pick it up by osmosis.  This is our default.  Because we know what needs to be done, we know why it needs to be done, and it’s easier to do it ourselves.  

The problem with both of these solutions is that neither of these are long-term strategies for continued healthy growth.  If we want to grow the church, reach the lost and mature the saints in ever-increasing numbers, we need a third option – we need to intentionally develop Christian leaders.

As you start to think into 2018 and the challenges and opportunities it presents for you and your church, here’s three considerations.

First, what’s the plan? Do you have a plan to help people grow as Christian leaders that extends beyond a Ministry Training Strategy?  Are you training for core competencies in Christian leadership as well as skills for Christian leadership in a particular area?

Second, how are you training? Human nature is to train people like us, in the way we learn. Is that true of who you’re training now, or how you’re training them?  Depending on what research you read, only around 10% of people’s learning is through formal programs, with 20% through others and 70% through experience.  Yet we often weight the first area with 70% of our time and hope for results.  What would our leadership development look like if we were to reshape around these figures?

Third, what would need to give up to do this?  That’s a confronting question, because rarely is something we’re doing unimportant.  But in ministry, as in life, we’re faced with difficult choices about what we will do and what we won’t do.  So if we’re convinced that to reach Australia with the Gospel we need to keep developing leaders, then we’ve got to be willing to give up the good to aim for the great.

Derek Hanna is serves as Geneva Push's Director of Training and leads our Strengthen Team by developing our growing peer network, network of coaches and quality resources. He lives and works in Brisbane, and nine years ago planted Village Church in Brisbane City.