January 01, 2014

By Ken Willard

Welcome to 2014! Now what? Well this just might be the year for you and your church to take leadership development up to the next level. 
    
We read in Romans 12 that leadership is one of the spiritual gifts. Do you have this gift from God? How many others in your church have this gift? As with all the other spiritual gifts…”Do not neglect the spiritual gift in you…” (1 Timothy 4:14a)  
    
What is the gift of leadership you ask? Many resources define it as, “the God given ability to lead people to accomplish God’s vision and goals.” While all churches have the same mission, “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” [see Matthew 28:19-20], the vision and thus goals in each church will be different and unique. As leaders in the church, our focus should be on equipping and empowering the congregation to accomplish God’s mission, vision and goals. 
    
For example, the Lay Ministry team for the Missouri UMC annual conference has as its vision, “Spiritually engaged laity partnering with pastors in leading congregations to fruitfulness in our mission: making disciples of Jesus Christ!” So our goals involve partnering with churches, pastors and local church leaders to help you make disciples and grow God’s Kingdom. 
    
The following are some practical ways for you and your church to develop and grow leaders in your congregation. Don’t try to do all of them! Pick one or two and focus on getting them going first, then begin to add others as needed. Of course, this list is far from complete…but hopefully it will get you thinking and the leaders in your church will be able to come up with more of your own. 

Leadership Team Meetings
Spend the first third of your sessions focused on discipleship and leadership development. For even more effect, combine the two. Share some key scripture verses and connect them to leadership topics such as dealing with conflict, accountability, mission and vision, setting goals, or others. 

Study A Book Together 
Gather some of your leaders each month and read a few books. Be sure you are making this more than just a “book review” by looking for ways to use what you are learning in your church. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: Leadership Axioms by Bill Hybels, The Healthy Small Church by Dennis Bickers, Bearing Fruit by Weems and Berlin, Start This Stop That by Jim and Jennifer Cowart. 

Lay Leadership Development 
Contact your district lay leader and get your team signed up for the next session in your area. Spend the time between now and the start of the next session focused on some of the other items listed here. 

Lay Servant Courses
Get your team signed up for some courses by contacting your district director of Lay Servant Ministries. The Basic course is a great place to start…but then you can take some of the advance courses. Don’t focus on “certification” or titles – keep the focus on developing as leaders. 
    
Not sure who your district lay leader or director of lay servant ministries is? Want to know more about these areas? Please visit the conference website: moumethodist.org > Quick Links > Laity Leadership; or contact your local district office. 

Leadership Workshop 
Bring in a trained consultant or facilitator to lead your team through a workshop on a specific leadership topic. This is a great way to invest in your leaders and to make it more personal to your situation and mission field. 

Attend An Event
Take your leaders to an event designed to strengthen and grow leadership skills. Two examples are the annual Willow Creek Leadership Summit in August and the Church of the Resurrection annual Leadership Institute. [The time you get to spend together in the car and at the event may turn out to be the biggest win!]

Leadership Retreat
Set up a one or two day off-site at least once a year for your whole leadership team. Many churches will bring in a trained facilitator and focus on strategic ministry planning for the year. This can also be a great time for team building when you have new members.     Getting away from the church building changes the event and will allow your leaders to focus more on themselves and the team. 

Partner Church
Connect with another local church in your area (not necessarily Methodist) and bring your leaders together. Leaders learn best from other leaders. Find a way to get the groups together on a project or event. Get them in a place where they can be comfortable asking each other questions and sharing. 
    
Make this the year you take leadership in your church to the next level. Invest in your leaders and God will multiply that for His glory and to grow the Kingdom in your mission field.