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2 Chairs, No Waiting. . .

My friend owns one of the most successful barber shops in our area. He realized quickly that there is a shortage of excellent barbers. I’m sure he could convince barbers to move from other areas and join him, but that’s not what he did. Instead, he became a people developer. He convinced people with a knack for detail and and good work ethic to learn the skills of barbering. Now he can charge a premium and has created a culture of growth and development.

Churches in the 21st century have to learn to do the same. We’re often okay with collecting great Christians in our community, paying the pro’s to do the work, and then letting the machine run. But I’m sure you’ve experienced an increasing apprehension toward churches, pastors, and ministry. We may have been able to get by for a time with simply creating attractive worship services and engaging kids programs, but I think we’ll see those days will soon be gone. 

What we have to do is develop leaders.

New church leaders have to come from somewhere. And the task is too great to only rely on sending elite-type young believers to seminary, and then wait for them to graduate. I’m all for seminary, but we have to learn to raise us theologically strong, missionally effective leaders at the local church level.

I’m sure no one would disagree that we should do this. It’s the how, the priority, and the execution that matters. Winston Churchill once said “Success is moving from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” When it comes to developing leaders, I believe we’ve at least done that at Northside Church. I’d like to share a few of those ways that we’re learning to raise up leaders, and I pray they’ll be helpful to you as well.

  • First, pray for new leaders.

On my daily prayer list, I pray for people to be called to ministry work. It’s the Lord that brings growth. It’s the Lord who calls. So I, and our fellow pastors, pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send out works to the field. That fire, the burning to reach and disciple, must come from the Holy Spirit. 

  • Second, we need a process of development that provides instruction AND opportunities for NEW people to lead.

We can’t keep calling on the same people over and over. Our best have to a part of raising up the next. 

For example, our men’s ministry is built around giving men opportunities to learn and lead. We have a cycle of 4 weeks, 6 weeks, then 6 weeks. For the first four weeks, we give guys (most who have never preached before) opportunities to preach in an early Thursday morning gathering of men. They complete an online training program that we wrote, submit their notes for review beforehand, and then get up and give the best 12 minute sermon they can give. For the next 6 weeks, we do a directive teaching study through a book of the Bible.

We use some of the men from the first 4 weeks to teach, and it’s a larger group who attend. For the last 6 weeks, we do smaller discipleship groups that are led by men who are developing as great leaders in our church. 

  • Third, we don’t neglect giving women opportunities to lead at almost every level in our church.

We don’t, per Scripture, have women serve as pastors. Rather, we press into their complimentary role and emphasize often the crucial role of their leadership. We have women give feedback on sermons, help develop sermon series, lead in KidSide ministry, counseling, hospitality, and other areas as well. 

  • Fourth, we have a ministry leader training program designed for church members who want to learn the why and how of leading a local church.

Paired with biblical and theological instruction, the program focuses on core competencies for leading a local church: self-awareness, evangelism, helping people grow and change, caring for others, conflict prevention and resolution, preaching and teaching, sending, and church operations. We built a mixed learning process curriculum around these competencies, and the program lasts about 5 months. 

  • Fifth, we want to continue to provide opportunities for leaders to launch out.

We’ve have the privilege of sending out a church plant that is not thriving in our local area. You know who steps up and goes out with a church plant? Great leaders. As much as that hurts, it provides opportunities for other leaders to raise up in their place. We try to be open-handing with the wonderful people in our church, and I truly feel that the Lord has blessed it. 

A great barber is hard to find. A great church, sadly, can be hard to find as well. That’s why we need new churches and better churches for all people everywhere. And it’s not going to happen accidentally. We have to be intentional about the task of raising up leaders. Pray for calling, train, give opportunities, and then step back and see what the Lord does!

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