Who is responsible for developing leaders in the church? Mary Jo Asmus made this observation in a recent blog post about how persons in many organizations would respond:
“It’s not part of your job description. Nobody has told you that you need to spend time and effort developing others in your organization. You have too many other things to pay attention to, and besides, isn’t developing leaders the job of human resources?”
In the church, seeking out and nurturing new leaders is an ongoing task that really belongs to everyone. Each of us leads in his or her own way in the life of the congregation. This may mean chairing a team or committee, helping people feel welcome when they come to worship services, facilitating Bible study, planning and executing worship, or organizing Wednesday night activities for youth and children. This is all about leadership—taking responsibility and joining others in carrying out a task.
Because leadership is dispersed in the life of the congregation, each of us needs to be developing future leaders. We are all talent scouts for potential leaders. We do this in several ways.
First, we encourage others in their Christian discipleship. Each of us should be growing in Christ, so how do we help others in their journeys? We do this through personal interest, sharing what God is teaching us, and teaching spiritual practices. We share the joys, failures, successes, and challenges of life together.
Second, we call out the gifts of others and provide opportunities for them to exercise their gifts. My usual practice when I accept a role of leadership in the church is to seek a co-leader or someone who will work alongside me in the responsibility. They learn from me, and there is often “reverse mentoring” where I learn from them. In so doing, we have the chance to more fully use the gifts that God has given to each of us.
Third, we empower people to lead. We recognize that the best way to learn is by doing, so we give individuals the chance to try some things on their own with our encouragement. In so doing, we continue to make ourselves available if they have questions or encounter difficulties, but we never take back the responsibility; we help them to succeed in the task they have accepted.
Fourth, we celebrate with others when something good happens in their church activities or personal life. We don’t do enough of this on an individual basis. The celebration may simply be an “Atta, girl” or “Atta, boy” but we let them know that someone else sees what they are doing and rejoices with them in it.
As we do this, we practice being “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV). We are building up the Body of Christ.