What are the most strategic ways to use your time in ministry? Next to corporate and individual prayer, I would argue that leadership development is the highest leverage way to spend your time. 

When others can do more, we have more capacity. It’s that simple. 

If you asked us where our big failure points were, we would be able to point back to a place where we ran out of leaders…every problem is a leadership problem at the end of the day.” – Kevin Peck

In this post, I’m going to walk through what people often claim as barriers to leadership development that I would argue are not true barriers. Then I will share what I see to be true barriers that must be confronted in order to develop leaders, and next steps you might take to grow in this way. Because while many of us have a compelling vision, a compelling vision without adequate leadership isn’t compelling.


Here are a few presuppositions that must be established before moving forward with this conversation:

    1. Vocational elders should mostly be evaluated on what they have equipped others to do in ministry, not what they can do in ministry (Eph 4:11-12).
    2. People can grow up in the right environment with the right attentiveness.
    3. We are poor predictors of who will emerge as a faithful leader. God uses Davids when we think He’ll use Saul’s or David’s older brothers.
    4. The best leadership definition: someone who takes initiative for the benefit of others.
    5. Leadership is the mature expression of sound discipleship. Robert Coleman highlights the following stages in Jesus’s approach with the twelve: selection, association, consecration, impartation, demonstration, delegation, supervision, reproduction. The final 3 stages involve empowering new leaders.
    6. College campuses are disproportionately fruitful environments for large-scale leadership development (Terry Virgo – Brighton, Tommy Nelson – N. Texas, Austin Stone – The University of Texas, etc.).

Not Barriers

    1. Time is not the barrier that people think it is. We always make time to do what is most important to us. Find time, make time. Stop doing other things so you can spend more time developing leaders. You’re not working on anything else that is high leverage (other than prayer).
    2. Money is not a barrier. Soma Mosaico in Leon, Mexico jokes that they have a budget of infinite zeros. The Austin Stone requires trainees to raise 100% of their support for the time they are in training. Both are training many leaders with no financial constraints.
    3. Size is not a barrier. Big churches don’t always develop leaders; in fact, many poach already developed leaders with money. Many small churches can give considerable opportunities for a developing leader to have diverse exposure to various ministry competencies. I could make the argument that a smaller church may be a better environment for leadership development.

Real Barriers

    1. A lack of conviction is a barrier. Your team must be absolutely convinced that job #1 is to develop as many quality leaders as possible against all resistance.
    2. Self-leadership is the single greatest barrier to developing other leaders. Henry Cloud has found most leaders have to track their time for three months before they can accept the wide discrepancy between how they think they spend their time and how they actually spend their time. It’s time to acknowledge you waste a lot of time on unstrategic work (e.g. email, random requests, appeasing toxic people, etc.). 
    3. Fear and control are barriers. If you can’t trust others to grow up, to make mistakes, to do it worse than you would for a sustained period of time, you will not consistently multiply leaders.
    4. The E-myth is a barrier. Most entrepreneurial leaders like working IN the organization on the technical aspects (e.g. preaching, counseling, etc.) so they fail to work ON the thing to increase the capacity of the org (e.g. fundraising, planning, development, delegation, etc.).
    5. Lack of urgency (i.e. “We have enough leaders right now” reveals the vision is to maintain the status quo.) Do you have enough leaders to reach 1,000 people in your city? A fraction of 1%? What about other cities and the Nations? You might say “our vision is smaller than that” but the problem is…Jesus’s vision isn’t smaller than that.

Creating Culture

    1. Words & Action – When aligned, everyone can see you do actually value what you say you value.
    2. Engagement – When everyone does it throughout the org, it becomes clear that it’s important in the org.
    3. Celebrations/Rewards – People work on what you celebrate. You get more of what you subsidize. So spend money on leadership development. Give raises to those who reproduce themselves most effectively.
    4. Correction – Correct the lone ranger minsters who do all the ministry for others, training no one to grow up in the same arena. If they can’t grow in this, they aren’t a good long-term fit.
    5. Be relentlessly boring – Keep doing the fundamentals years after everyone else has moved on to something new and “innovative.”

Action Steps for Creating of Culture of Leadership Development

    1. Prayer: Lead your current team to pray weekly for more laborers (Luke 10:2).
    2. Challenge: For 1 year, require all staff to spend 1:1 time allocation on leadership development and sermon prep (e.g. 12 hours of sermon prep = 12 hours in active development with leaders). Those who accept this challenge will become the envy of those who don’t.

Henry Cloud observes, “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”  

Are you tired of having too few leaders for the work, yet? 

If so, hurry up and think long-term. Embrace your vocation as an equipper. Stop what you’re doing this week and in obedience to I Tim 2:2, go get meaningful time with the most reliable men/women in your church who will be able to teach others also.

Which barrier is most difficult for you to overcome when it comes to leadership development?

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