By Rob Jacbos
Any church or ministry that is interested in growth must then be interested in growing leaders. There is a critical lens through which to view this through. The standard approach is seeing those involved in running the church or the ministry, be they staff or volunteer, through the “work to be done” lens. In other words, every person has specific work to do, and that is what they do.
As a proponent of developing a leadership development culture and systematic leadership pipeline approach, I would suggest that instead of looking things as a “work to be done” we instead view them 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.
Everyone is a leader, just at a different level. Each level of leadership has a different set of corresponding skills, values, uses of time, thought processes, and measures.
As the church or ministry grows, we prepare people, not to do different work, but to lead at a new level. Each level of leadership requires new skills, new values, new uses of time, new measures, new thinking, etc. The leadership pipeline is at the heart of a reproducible and sustainable leadership culture.
But there is an inherent danger that we must be aware of as we move people to new levels of leadership through the pipeline.
1. Prove it.
One danger we must be on the lookout for is the when a leader moves to a new level of leadership and feels pressured to PROVE they deserved the new level of leadership. This need to prove themselves often leads to a leader being more concerned about showing what they can do, in other words, what they did at the level of leadership below which made them successful. At the new level, proving themselves looks a lot like not pushing themselves, not innovating, not taking risks.
They play it safe. They USE what got them to the new level, but don’t transition to the new skills, new thinking, new uses of time, and new values appropriate for this new level. They rely on what got them there, but they don’t progress.
They stick to what they know … and do not grow.
2. Fake it.
This danger is related to the one above. To prove themselves, people start to become preoccupied with their image. Part of the reason for this is that at each level of leadership there are inherent cultures, values, viewpoints, etc. established by more senior levels of leadership. When people try to prove they belong at a certain level of leadership, they often cut themselves off from their real personality. In other words, they start to fake who they are. They replace their true self with a mask they believe they need to wear. Not being authentic to who they are, they cut themselves off from growing full into the new level of leadership.
They fake it to make it … but never make it.
3. “One day I will …”
As people in new levels of leadership fall prey to the dangers of proving their abilities over using their abilities they begin faking who they are over being true to who they are. They often start imagining how much better it would be if they left it all behind and they start to feel trapped. They begin to dream about getting back to a place where they don’t have to prove themselves and don’t have to wear a mask. Statement and words that sound like, “Pursue my true calling” or “One day I will …” or “When I do what I am shaped to do …”
Dreaming about the future… they fail in the present.
We must be aware of the danger signs and take steps to help people succeed at their new level of leadership, or we risk clogging up the leadership pipeline with people are stuck.
So, what to do?
1. See it.
We must help these leaders understand that is not their talent and not their abilities, but it is Christ who calls them and confirms. It is not they who prove their calling, but God. God makes them worthy of what He has called them to do. We must help them see that while they “toil” and “struggle” it is not with their power, but His energy powerfully worked within them. Leadership produced in faith, motivated by love, inspired by hope. As such, they don’t have to prove anything. They do need to learn new things, but there is nothing to prove.
They don’t prove what God has already affirmed.
2. Be it.
Second, they don’t have to wear a mask. We must help these leaders be authentic to their true personalities and see the reality that their identity is in Christ and not in their role or their results. Jesus never faked it to make it. And neither to do they. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that they will need equipping, encouraging, empowering to lead at their new level, but they don’t have to wear a mask to do it. They are heirs through God. Nothing they do or don’t do can ever change the reality of their true identity in Christ.
Royalty is their identity.
3. Live it.
Dreaming of the future to escape the present ends up robbing people of the joy in the now. We need to help them live it. In our churches and ministries, no level of leadership is a stepping stone to the next unless God calls them to it. So, we can help them fully invest their God-given abilities and their whole person into what they are doing now. They can live and lead for today.
Leading for today is the surest way to create opportunities tomorrow.
A leadership pipeline cannot function properly with talent stuck and plugging up the pipes. We need to protect against talent that is about to tank.
Rob Jacobs 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.