Multiplication Center

10 Truths of Churches that Do a Great Job with Leadership Development (Part 1)

June 6, 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.

Over the past several years, Leadership Network has run many 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 to launch, 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 this short blog I’d like to lay out the first 5 factors that contribute to “fruitfulness” in Leadership Development.  Next week, we’ll look at the next five. Taken together, these 10 principles form some of the best thinking in the church today on Leadership Development.


  1. Each church has a vision so large that it cannot be accomplished with the current paid staff and volunteer leaders.

Churches with big visions dream about planting other churches or developing multiple locations. Others are looking to broaden and deepen their impact on the city around
them—such that their “fingerprints” are all over the community. A big dream heightens the need, energy and focus on developing enough leaders to accomplish the vision. If a senior
pastor wants to reach more people, open new locations or plant more churches, they will quickly discover that an increased footprint can only happen if there’s a significant focus on
developing leaders.

  1. Someone on the senior team wakes up each day thinking about Leadership Development

It’s best if the passion for leadership development resides in the Lead Pastor, who is shaping the overall church culture. The passion could also come from the “second-in-command,”
but someone on the lead team needs to assume responsibility for leadership development across the whole church. This person gives energy and passion towards the development of leaders. Without this person, the focus of leadership development tends to get lost in the business of preparing for the weekend and the myriad of ministries that happen throughout the week. Leadership
development never screams. It is quick to “fall off the table” in the midst of competing voices. The best leadership development churches have someone on the lead team that is ensuring the multiplication of leaders remains a key organizational focus.

  1. Each church has embraced the idea that building multiplying leaders for the kingdom is their kingdom work.

“Sundays come along with alarming frequency.” It’s easy to be caught up in preparing and leading services, ministries and running the church. It’s easy to let weekend worship attendance become the key measure for success. The weekend, while important, is one of the easiest distractions from developing leaders. Even during his “ministering to the masses,” Jesus constantly poured into his leaders (disciples), so that those following Him were ready to carry on the ministry after his death. Jesus didn’t lose focus that a cornerstone of his ministry which was reproducing spiritual leaders who would lead the masses. Paul, similarly, was never without an apprentice (the scripture often reads “Paul and…”). In 2 Tim 2:2, Paul commanded Timothy, “What you’ve heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men that they would be able to teach others also.” That’s 4 generations of leaders! Great churches pay special attention to their culture by what they reward and what they tolerate—both of which shape culture. It’s one thing to aspire to value leadership development, and another to really value it. Teams should ask themselves, “Do we have a
value of leadership development? Are we rewarding it? Or is its absence something we are tolerating?” In his recent book, “Empowering Leadership,” Michael Fletcher, Senior Pastor of Manna Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, states, “Building people and building leaders is the work we’re in.”

  1. 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.

Leadership has many different definitions. A list of leadership competencies can be endless. Great leadership development churches have defined for staff what great leaders look like,
regardless of where they lead. Staff and lay leaders have reached a consensus of what “great” small group leaders (either Serve Teams or Life Group Teams) look like and what is true
about their character, competencies and values. The same thing is true at all levels of responsibility all the way up to ministry directors, campus pastors or lead team members. Everyone is building leaders with the same characteristics in mind. I argue 80% of what a leader looks like is the same, 20% is context. A good friend of mine, Ric Thorpe, now the Bishop of Islington for the Anglican Church in the UK—head of their church planting initiatives nationally—tells the story of being on staff at Holy Trinity Brompton in London. Sandy Miller was building into a leader that could lead any team in the church. For a season, Ric became the worship director of the church, not because he was a great worship leader but because he could build and lead any team across the church. He went in and developed a great team and raised up someone to lead it. He then went on to lead various other teams who needed leaders raised up.

That’s what great leaders do. Eighty percent of leadership is possessing the right attributes of a leader. Great churches have crafted what that 80% looks like for them and then they develop their leaders in light of the 80%.

  1.  Each church evaluates staff and promotes staff not on their individual contributions alone, but on their ability to develop and produce leaders.

We all love great star performers but great churches reward, promote and champion those who have demonstrated they are great at developing leaders. These churches realize the development of new leaders will determine if the church will be able to increase their impact in their communities, regardless of the model of church they run. Great leaders that raise up leaders who can “do what they do,” will never be out of a job. They’re worth their weight in gold.

Great leadership development churches never promote individual contributors. They only promote people that are raising up their successor. At Manna Church in Fayetteville North Carolina, they create what they call an “upward draft.” Because they’re planting new churches and new campuses, they’re constantly creating new openings for their staff to be considered for. As Michael Fletcher, Senior Pastor states, “No one gets considered for the new opportunities until they’ve raised up their successor.”

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 experience.

If you found this article helpful, you can download the complete and updated 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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