By Rob Jacobs
Nearly 2000 years before Jesus, the then king of Old Babylon developed the first law code for Mesopotamia. His name was Hammurabi, and his laws are known to us today as “The Code of Hammurabi.” One of the clauses of the code called for people to be put to death if a house fell and killed an owner because of flawed construction.
Faulty construction is deadly. The same might be said of ministry. I have seen ministries fall over and kill the occupants. A bit of hyperbole? Yes. But hyperbole with a point.
While I served at one of my church’s campuses, we quickly grew from 3 services to 6 services with about 1700 people a weekend. Two of those services were off-site venues in other cities. With an incredibly small staff, the potential for the ministry to fall over and “kill” its occupants seemed high. But it didn’t. It was constructed properly.
The key to construction element was a pipeline. I don’t mean indoor plumbing. No, what I am talking about is a Leadership Pipeline. Building a Leadership Pipeline for each of the nearly 40 ministries was the essential element to framing up a stable structure.
Here is a summary of 10 Dimensions I considered when building our Leadership Pipeline.
You must make the decision that you want to develop leaders. This decision has two parts.
Part 1: Ministry is not doing, but leading.
Instead of looking at the ministry as a “work to be done,” view it instead through the “levels of leadership” lens.
In other words, every single person, staff or volunteer, who is serving the church or ministry, is doing so at a particular level of leadership. They are serving at a given level of leadership.
Part 2: Decide that you will have a growth mindset.
This will require you to always thinking about “WHO” will replace a leader when they move up to the next level of leadership. Why? Because a growth mindset recognizes that people have the potential to grow in their leadership ability. In other words, you must see that succession planning is required for every level of leadership in your ministry.
You must intentionally design the leadership role. What are they going to do?
Design what you want their leadership to accomplish.
Design their responsibilities – their boundaries- expectations – etc.
Each level of leadership has a different set of corresponding skills,
You must specify the values—what is important. Explain the productive uses of time at that level. Define their thought process and perspective. And explain the inherent cultures, values, viewpoints at that level of leadership
1) It helps you understand what sorts of skills, uses of time, and values are critical to success at this particular level.
2) It helps you prepare people for leading at the next level because you have defined it.
Prayerfully discern who has the potential for leadership at this level. You are not just looking for a warm body. Remember…this is about building depth of leadership into your ministry. It’s about building a bench It’s about preparing for succession…when they move to the next level of leadership. So, discernment is essential.
Explain what leading at a particular level in a particular ministry is. Try to give them a sense of the leadership role. Make it tangible. Help potential leaders experience it for a day or even shadow someone. A clear description will lessen their anxiety, provides clarity, and helps them better pray and discern their calling as well.
Develop for Now
We must help people properly “onboard” into their new role of leadership. Developing leaders here is about helping them navigate the transition from one leadership level to the next successfully. People need onboarding that is meaningful. Too often we throw people to the wolves and say, “Good luck.” So, they quit, or they fail. Learning on the job is essential, but we need to take the time to integrate people into the new role properly.
They have got to have the empowerment to go Lead. If you properly developed them, they are ready.
That means two things for you.
1. Get out of the way. Stop micromanaging. THE GOAL IS TO TEACH
2. Don’t allow leaders to reach back down to the level of leadership below them and muck things up. That is not their job. This sort of leadership behavior clogs the pipeline because neither leader is developing to their level.
Let leaders lead!
Develop for Next
To develop leaders, create opportunities to expose them to leadership at the next level. Not just how they should be thinking NOW, but also what or how will they need to think at the NEXT level?
We start Developing them NOW for what is NEXT.
Determine & Discuss
Monitor how people are leading. Check in with them. Go over the results. Feedback is meaningful and powerful for leaders and their development.
There is a fine line between EMPOWERMENT and NEGLECT
Act if difficulties arise.
Allowing a failing leader to remain at their level of leadership is terrible stewardship of our people and the ministry. It does harm to the ministry. It does harm to the individual.
Move them back a level.
Move them out of the ministry.
A Leadership Pipeline is an essential element to the construction of any successful ministry. It will keep your structure standing during the storm and will allow you to add on when opportunities arise. Think of it as building indoor plumbing. Bring leaders in and build them up.
Hammurabi and I both agree we should construct things correctly.
Rob is the Pastor of Spiritual Maturity for Saddleback Church. He is responsible for leading and overseeing discipleship processes and programs, leadership development, and leadership development programs.