The #1 Thing I’ve learned about Leadership Development

If you ask any pastor in any church of under 300 people what their number one issue is with growing their ministry, I’m guessing 80-90% of them would say, “VOLUNTEERS.” Either we don’t have the quantity of volunteers we need or we don’t have the quality of volunteers we want. As the Lead Pastor of a 7 year-old church plant of 300 people I’ve had to build a volunteer culture from the ground up. We now have roughly 120 people serving with four full-time equivalent (FTE) paid staff (including myself). Over the years, we’ve had a total of 10 (other than myself) paid staff – all of whom have been raised up from within. 

Here’s the #1 thing I’ve learned about leadership development: Staff PEOPLE, not needs. 

I often hear pastors lamenting, “We need a children’s director.” “We need a youth leader.” “We need a [fill in the blank].” I’ve found that most pastors look at their needs and then try to find someone to fill that need, often looking past glaring issues of character, competency, culture, and chemistry to force a fit because they just need somebody!

The consequences of putting the wrong person in the right position (“right” because it’s a legitimate need) are far worse than leaving the position open and letting the need go unmet. The ministry will suffer. The leader will suffer. The people under that leader will suffer. And YOU will suffer.

Conversely, the right person in the wrong position will reap far greater rewards than doing nothing and far less damage than having the wrong person in the right position. Of course, ideally, you want the right person in the right position, but for most small churches this just isn’t a reality yet. But it can be.

Here’s how.

Good leaders make everyone and everything around them better

Every staff member (paid, unpaid, or stipend) that we’ve hired has spent less than a year doing what we hired them to do before moving on to a better fit in the organization. When I find a good leader, I find a way to bring him/her on the team, regardless of need because a good leader will make everyone and everything around him/her better. Better leaders make for better organizations regardless of where they fit because they influence everything. And better organizations grow faster which means that leader’s role will continue to grow and evolve to a place where you can now fit the right person in the right position. 

So, rather than looking at your needs and then trying to find the right people to fill them, look at your people and recruit high capacity leaders to your team first and then figure out where they will fit.


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