Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lessons Learned about Leadership Training

Twenty years or so ago Leadership Training became all the rage in churches. Suddenly if you weren’t training leaders you weren’t really accomplishing much. “Everyone is a leader” (according to John Maxwell) so “everyone must be trained as a leader”, we were told. We read all the leadership books, went to all the leadership seminars, and even worked the leadership mantra into our sermons: Everything rises and falls on leadership…. All leaders are readers… etc.

However, some serious challenges have popped up along the way:

1.  We have discovered that not EVERYONE is a leader.  It's obvious.  They may have their graduation certficiate, but there is no way on earth they can be trusted to lead anything. 

2.  The second, and bigger, discovery is that leadership classes do not produce leaders.  At the end of six weeks (or nine weeks or two years) students become graduates, not necessarily leaders. Classes and training programs look great on paper, but they don't always produce the kind of leaders needed in the field.

3.  Church leadership is a different life-form than secular leadership.  While it can be developed,(through classes, training, and OJT), it begins as a gift from God (Romans 12:6-8)

Leadership that DOES Work

Christ’s method of leadership training was discipleship.  He taught His students the message of the gospel, had them walk with Him in an apprentice model, and then released them to do the work.  Jesus found His leaders, not in the temple or synagogue, but in the market place.  His classroom was the size of the State of Rhode Island where they lived in the countryside.  In this classroom, He taught His disciples to rely on the Father for guidance in the ministry.

He never put out a sign-up sheet.  There wasn’t a Starbucks in Galilee where He and the twelve could sip frappuccinos.  But He poured His life into them as they lived together, and the eleven remaining men changed the world.  Here are my observations:

1.  Jesus spent time observing potential leaders at work, specifically secular work, before calling them.

2.  He chose the twelve after a night in prayer.

3.  Jesus handpicked His leaders.

4.  No one self-selected into His group.  Anyone could follow Him or be His disciple, but His team of twelve was by invitation only.

5.  Of the twelve, there was an inner circle of three – Peter, James, and John.

6.  Jesus taught principles of the kingdom along the way as they did life together.

7.  Jesus pressed His students into very difficult situations.

8.  He did not give His students a leadership template to follow or a program to propagate.  Instead, He gave them a mission.

9.  His final instructions to them were simple, “Go, make disciples.”  That was the entire game plan.  There was no Plan B.  He left the “how” up to them.

10.  Jesus taught in public, but He debriefed in private.

11.  His disciples learned as much from the debrief during Q & A as they did from the original content of His sermons and parables.

12.  He spent three years developing twelve men, which means He didn’t have a microwave leadership program for the masses.  Not only did His teaching method take three years with twelve students, but it was 24-7, 365.

HERE’S THE POINT:  If the Son of God poured every waking hour for three years into the hand-picked twelve and achieved a 92% success rate, it’s little wonder that we struggle at making leaders in an eight-week training class for the masses.

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