Multiplication Center

10 Truths of Churches that Do a Great Job with Leadership Development (Part 2)

June 11, 2019

Updated content, originally posted January 2016


Ever wonder why some churches ministries grow and multiply rapidly and others don’t?  While there are many factors, one of the key accelerants to planting more churches, starting more campuses, or deploying more people to impact a city is how diligent a church is in leadership development.

In the past few years, Leadership Network has run seven different large-church cohorts in leadership development. Each cohort has had a dozen large churches learning from one another’s models.  To learn more about our latest group starting, click here.

I’ve had a chance to have a ringside seat learning from the best models that have reproduced leaders for kingdom expansion.  In my first short blog, I laid out the first five factors that contribute to “fruitfulness” in leadership development.  This week, we’ll look at the next five. Taken together, these ten principles form some of the best thinking in the church today on leadership development.

The first five were:

  1. Each church has a vision so large that it cannot be accomplished with the current paid staff and volunteer leaders
  2. Someone on the senior team wakes up each day thinking about leadership development
  3. Each church has embraced the idea that building multiplying leaders for the kingdom is their kingdom work.
  4. Each senior leader and his/her team have agreed on a single definition of the attributes they want their leaders to possess- at each level of their church leadership
  5. Each church evaluates staff and promotes staff not on their individual contributions alone, but on their ability to develop and produce leaders.


Now to factors 6-10:

6. Each church focuses on building leaders from within. 

At one time, large churches operated like the New York Yankees. They preferred to “buy” talent on the free agent market rather than grow their major league roster from their farm
system like the St. Louis Cardinals. Many times, large-church staffs are made up of those who “cut their teeth and made a name for themselves” someplace else. Years ago I heard a senior pastor of a church of over 10,000 say, “We want to look for leaders who’ve performed well at other places. That’s who we want to hire.”

The problem with this strategy is easy to see. As another large church executive pastor said to me, “In an interview, everyone agrees with our vision, our values and our DNA. Its only 6 months after we’ve hired them we find out that’s not true. Now we’re in trouble.” Just like the Cardinals, churches with great leadership development pride themselves on having staff that are almost entirely built from within. When you take that approach, you know the person, their commitment to your DNA, and their commitment to your vision and values. You know their track record. When you hire from outside, you hope it works out and they buy in and do well.

If you believe “everything you need to reach your city is already in your church,” you focus on a homegrown strategy.

7. Each understands that apprenticing the right people is more important than the right curriculum.

Great churches in leadership development realize that formal classroom content plays a small part in developing leaders. I would suggest content should contribute no more than 10% of someone’s development. Seventy percent of a leader’s development comes from giving people hands-on experience. Twenty percent of a leader’s development is learned from being in an apprenticing relationship with an existing leader. These churches have thought through, “What characteristics are we looking for in leaders we want to apprentice?” and “What’s our apprenticing strategy?” Lastly they ask, “Are all our staff driving apprenticing down through every leadership level of their ministries?” One simple model of apprenticeship is used by Community Christian Church of Naperville, IL. It has five steps:

I do, you watch, we talk.
I do, you help, we talk.
You do, I help, we talk.
You do, I watch, we talk.
You do, and identify an apprentice, repeat the process.

8. Great leadership development churches have made ongoing coaching others a key part of their model.

Some churches have described their leadership development processes as, “We throw new leaders in the pool and hope they learn how to swim.” Taking on new levels of leadership can be very stressful. Great churches here prided themselves in helping new leaders be successful rather than “hoping” they make it. These churches coach their leaders, paid and unpaid, throughout their ministry journey. Again, churches that are “winning” in leadership development have everyone singing off the same song sheet in their coaching model. Five simple coaching questions used by Community Christian is one model:

1) How are you doing?
2) What’s going well?
3) What are your challenges?
4) What are you going to do about it?
5) What can I pray for?

9. Each of these churches has a strong commitment to their staff’s leadership development

Effective leadership development occurs when there is a culture of leadership development that exists, first, with the staff. Many times, staff feel they are hired primarily to “execute” ministry, but they don’t feel like someone is there to help make them better and reach new levels of competency in their leadership. Great churches have leadership development written as one of the key objectives for each staff member and their top leaders focus on this with their teams. Developmental reviews are done with every staff reviewing their leadership and their results each year.
Gaps are identified of where staff need to be better. Conversations are held to talk about their next step in leadership and what they need to do to get better. Time and money are invested. Staff are given cross divisional projects to stretch them beyond their existing role. Staff with high capacity gifting are identified early on. Plans are put in place to help them accelerate their development.

10. Great churches have metrics on their dashboards that tell them if they’re winning in developing leaders.

These churches have found a way of measuring what matters. In leadership development, here are several measures churches use:

First, what percent of our staff have been raised up from within? This is a lagging measure telling the church how well they’ve been doing.

Second, what percent of our leaders, paid and unpaid, currently are apprenticing someone else, getting them ready to lead like they do? This is a leading indicator. It tells the church how many key leaders they will have in the next two years. It also indicates the ministries within the church that have effectively embraced leadership development. Effective churches audit and track this number on their “church dashboards.”

A third measure is looking at a church’s strategic plan asking the question, “How many leaders will we need at each level of our pipeline or pathway to accomplish our strategic plan and how many do we have now?” This gap analysis is tracked to see overall progress. Often this is broken down by department, so each ministry area knows what they’re contributing to the plan and how they’re doing in the process.

Innovative churches are now giving data “a seat at the table” when making decisions on leadership selection. For example, most churches are using assessments such as Birkman, Colby, or StrengthFinders in the hiring process. Churches are now looking at the common traits in those assessments among their high performing leaders. Some are also using 3rd party data in association with the Christian data company gloo to assess commonly shared executive profiles. These churches are now able to identify common executive characteristics and then compare their current, younger staff as an indicator of future potential.

Developing leaders is one of the most critical needs of a growing multiplying church. If your church is interested in new ways of replication, multiplication and developing a customized model for leadership development learn more about our Leadership Development Accelerator.


If you found this article helpful, you can download the complete resource, 10 Things Great Leadership Development Churches Do, in a print-friendly format. In addition, I’ll send out other thoughts and ideas related to developing leaders in the church in the weeks ahead.



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