I was talking with a pastor this week during a coaching session. He confessed to me that he knew he should be developing his leaders, or at least helping them grow, but the task was overwhelming.
He had two major problems. First, his schedule was full and the thought of adding development or mentoring meetings to his calendar was stress-inducing. Second, there were just too many options for WHAT he should do to help his leaders grow.
As part of our session, we talked through four types of church leadership development curriculum that he could start using right away. Two of those options required zero time on his part and the other two would require some time, but not in the near future, which would give him the chance to clear his calendar.
Three Stages of Development: Self, Others, and Organizations
What I’m going to do here is lay out those four types of leadership development curriculum for ministry leaders. I’m also going to provide a lot of examples in each area and how to use that curriculum without derailing other aspects of ministry.
There’s one more thing. You likely have different leaders at different stages of personal growth, maturity, experience, knowledge, sanctification, and readiness to lead. That means you can’t assume that everyone will be learning at the same pace or even benefit from the same topics and challenges.
Therefore, I’ve gone to the trouble of breaking down each type of leadership development curriculum into three “stages” of development: leading self, leading others, and leading organizations. The idea behind those stages is that one stage builds on the skills and self-awareness found in the stage before it. And all leadership starts with being able to lead yourself, so that’s where we start, too.
Leadership Development Books
When it comes to creating a leadership development program in a church, most pastors default to creating a reading list first. That’s great! Reading books is a great way to build knowledge and expose both young and old leaders to new ideas.
Of course, knowing which books each person should be reading is hard. One leader may need to establish healthy personal habits while another is struggling to lead through interpersonal conflict on their team. One is working on “leading self” while the other is working on “leading others.”
That’s the best hypothetical that I can think of to illustrate why instructing your leaders to all read the same book at the same time can be unproductive for most of your team. Instead of a blanket reading assignment, provide a list of options that are more closely matched with each person’s growth level.
How to Use Books for Leadership Development
The first step is helping your developing leader to choose the right book that fits their growth stage. As they read, they should be taking light notes, highlighting sentences that stand out, and writing down questions or ideas that come to mind.
When they finish the book, they should write a one-page “book report.” That report should contain their top highlights, questions, and ideas for how to take action or apply what they read. Even though book reports felt like a chore in school, they’re a great way to help someone pay attention while they read. It’s also a good way to provide some tangible accountability to the reading project.
Books for Leading Self
- You Can Change by Tim Chester
- The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg
- Faith Mapping by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper
- The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn
- Dude’s Guide to Manhood by Darrin Patrick (for men)
- Found in Him by Elyse Fitzpatrick (for women)
- What’s Best Next by Matt Perman
Books for Leading Others
- Sticky Teams by Larry Osborn
- The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
- Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley
- Managing God’s Money By Randy Alcorn
- The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
- Am I called? by Dave Harvey
- Be Mean About the Vision by Shawn Lovejoy
Books for Leading Organizations
- Leadership and Church Size Dynamics by Timothy Keller
- The Trellis and the Vine by Collin Marshall
- For the City by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter
- Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
- Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
- Redemption by Mike Wilkerson
- The Heart of Racial Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil
- The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper
- Communicating for Change by Andy Stanley
- Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer
- Leadership as an Identity by Crawford Loritts
- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
Leadership Training Videos
We live in a video-driven world. Online video is more than just funny fail videos. Online video is used in training more and more. From online video schools like Treehouse or Coursera to millions of how-to videos on YouTube. In fact, I guarantee your leaders are already familiar with watching some kind of training video to learn something new.
It makes sense to incorporate video into your leadership development curriculum. There are some distinct advantages to including video training to develop leaders in your church.
First, video is engaging. When you provide leadership training material in video format, you’ll find that your learners pay better attention and can retain more information in a shorter amount of time. That’s because video engages a broader spectrum of their mental capacity, leaving less space for daydreaming.
Second, video is helpful for people who have a difficult time with reading comprehension. Lots of very intelligent, capable leaders are poor readers. When I was in school, I had a terrible time with reading comprehension, but I can still tell you what I learned from a documentary I watched about blue whales when I was 10.
Third, video usually takes less time. With video, you can cover more content in less time, and cover it better than you would normally find in a book. I believe that’s partially because books are designed to fill a binder or reach a minimum page limit to be worth printing. But it’s also true that most people can listen faster than they can read and still maintain high comprehension.
How to Use Videos for Leadership Development
I love videos because they’re practical in both solo environments and group environments. I can share a training video with a single leader and ask them to watch it at home. I can also pull up a valuable video during my staff meeting and watch it together as a group. That’s something you won’t typically do with a book.
Another helpful aspect of video training is that videos can be made short to cover a single idea. But you can still “string together” multiple videos to cover broader subjects thoroughly. That kind of nuggetized training makes it easier to remember what was covered in the content while still tackling big ideas that require more than a single 5 minute video.
TrainedUp is designed with that idea of nuggetized training in mind. With TrainedUp, you can collect multiple videos together into a “course.” And, since each video can also have follow-up questions attached to it, you can help your developing leader immediately process what they learned before moving on to the next video module.
TrainedUp Videos Courses for Leading Self
- Reading the Bible for Spiritual Growth
- Spending Quality Time with God (SOAP)
- A Simple System for Biblical Prayer (ACTS)
- Church in the Life of the Believer
- Biblical Basics of Church Membership
- Introduction to Volunteering in Church
TrainedUp Videos Courses for Leading Others
- Tithing and Generosity in the Bible
- Defining Leadership
- Self-awareness in Leadership
- Emotional Intelligence
- Stress-free Project Management
- Time Management
- Introduction to Care Ministry
- Introduction to Small Groups
- Abuse Prevention for Children and Youth Workers
TrainedUp Video Courses for Leading Organizations
- Communication in Leadership
- Decision-making in Leadership
- Goal-setting for Ministry Leaders
- Bible Themes – Part 1
- Bible Themes – Part 2
Finding Leadership Development Videos on YouTube
Of course, TrainedUp isn’t the only source for great leadership development videos. There are tons of amazing training videos on YouTube available for free. You’ll need to vet them for quality, but they’re easy to share with your team. And while YouTube videos alone don’t have the same accountability aspects as a TrainedUp course, they can still provide value for your team.
Here are a few YouTube leadership trainers that I think you’ll find useful as part of your leadership development curriculum.
- Developing Leaders with Mac Lake
- The John Maxwell Company
- Unseminary with Rich Birch
- Craig Groeschel on Leadership
In my conversation with the pastor that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, one of his biggest challenges in developing leaders was making the time for it. Of course, not all leadership development requires time. Most of it is learning, trying, failing, and doing better next time.
But there is significant value in creating space and time for conversations between leaders, especially between “senior” leaders and “junior” leaders. Whether someone is a senior or junior leader has little to do with their age. It has much more to do with their experience and how much they’ve learned along the way that they can pass on.
Ministry coaching, or mentoring, doesn’t need to be a deep time commitment for a top level ministry leader. There are ways to provide helpful and relevant coaching for developing leaders without blowing up your calendar. Those creative options for connecting your growing leaders with coaches look different at each stage of growth.
How to Use Ministry Coaching for Leadership Development
The approach and limits of coaching is hotly debated among those who do it professionally. Some prefer a topic-based approach, only addressing subjects relevant to the stage a person is in professionally or in life. Others prefer a situational approach, only addressing issues as they arise and helping the learner to overcome challenges in real time. You could simplify that into topic-based coaching and situational coaching. Both are necessary.
I often advocate for a balanced approach that incorporates both styles of coaching at different times. Sometimes it’s appropriate to stick to a script and teach on preset topics. There’s plenty to learn that might not relate to immediate challenges, but those things are still valuable.
Other times it’s appropriate to “wing it” and help leaders solve real problems they have right now. There’s plenty to be taught and learned while helping someone process through their current challenges.
I prefer each coaching session to be a mix of both, spending half of a meeting talking about predetermined subjects and half the time in problem solving. The reason for this is that it’s easy to get bogged down in one or the other when you should be spending time doing both.
Ministry Coaching for Leading Self
Self-leadership is a foundation of faithful discipleship and developing influence. It’s a foundation because every leader, no matter how senior, must continue to lead themselves well if they expect to lead in other capacities.
Coaching for someone who is developing their self-leadership skills and disciplines often looks more like spiritual mentorship rather than skills coaching. Because it’s less about skills and more about self-awareness and self-discipline, coaching doesn’t need to be personally managed by senior leaders on staff.
In fact, this kind of coaching is perfect for elders, deacons, or older congregants who’ve displayed maturity and a desire to develop others. With a little direction, those people can provide incredible insight for younger leaders who need to develop a foundation of self-leadership.
When discussing preset topics, here are a few potential coaching topics for those learning to lead themselves well:
- Personal walk with Jesus
- Past church experiences
- Current passions
Ministry Coaching for Leading Others
When a growing leader begins to transition from a focus on self-leadership to take on responsibility for leading others, it’s vital to incorporate the development of specific skills, knowledge, and tools.
Therefore, coaching during this stage of development should cover these topics as well. However, situational or problem-solving sessions should be evolving from a focus on personal growth to a focus on interpersonal conflict resolution, ministry planning, and vision clarity.
The coach that this person should be engaging with is different from the self-leadership stage. Instead of a spiritual elder, the coach should be more attuned to the specific challenges of growth that leaders experience when leading people directly. Even better, if you can find a coach that has led successfully in a similar role, that coach will have more specific experience and wisdom to share.
For example, the best coach for a growing children’s ministry leader might be someone more senior in that role at a different church.
Some topics that would be helpful for discussion during this stage are:
- Identifying and recruiting teams
- Culture building
- Room for improvement (skills gaps)
Ministry Coaching for Leading Organizations
Those moving toward or feeling called to organizational leadership face heavy issues and sometimes a steep learning curve. They should be forced to think comprehensively about organizational health and culture, theologically-driven ministry, precise communication of God’s word, heavy issues that come up regularly in pastoral counseling, and how to guard their own soul in the midst of such weighty tasks.
Ministry coaching at this level is less about skills development and more about clarity, confidence, and conviction. Coaching sessions tend to be more situational than topic-based. Leaders at the level are usually heavy readers, so gleaning wisdom on topics is done from books instead of coaching sessions.
At this level, it’s best to work with senior leaders at other churches or to work with a coaching company that can provide access to multiple senior leaders. There are two coaching companies that I know and trust.
- Courage to Lead was founded by Shawn Lovejoy. His coaching team consists of over a dozen experiences and successful ministry leaders at growing churches.
- Five Factors was founded by Matt Adair. His approach to coaching is part discussion and part training. His team excels at helping ministry leaders reach and maintain personal health.
Church Leadership Conferences
The final area where you’d find valuable church leadership development curriculum is through ministry conferences. While these conferences can be expensive and require travel, they’re also a source of diverse wisdom from multiple leaders in various contexts.
There are usually three aspects of a leadership conference that you’ll find value when it comes to developing your leaders.
First, the main speaking sessions are great sources of motivation and inspiration. While some are chock full of practical advice, they’re mostly about building confidence in leaders. These large group sessions are the reason people leave conferences with a renewed sense of vigor.
Second, most church leadership conferences provide venues for breakout sessions. Breakout sessions are much smaller, usually fewer than 50 people in a room, and led by a practitioner in a specific ministry area. Those sessions are usually highly practical and great for note-taking.
Third, my favorite aspect of ministry conferences is the access to experienced leaders. If you have a little courage, you can approach a great leader and get specific insight or input about a question you have. Most breakout session leaders will remain in the room after the session is over and give you a chance to converse with them one-on-one.
How to Use Leadership Conferences for Church Leadership Development
The best way to make use of church leadership conferences is to bring your team of growing leaders with you. While it’s okay to go alone and bring back all the wisdom you can write down, it’s much better to give your leaders direct access.
The challenge for most churches is finding space in their budget for this type of leadership development curriculum. However, I’ve found that even a single conference trip each year pays dividends throughout the year, and following years, as knowledge builds over time. In my opinion, the upside is worth the financial and time investment.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I hope this resource has been and will continue to be a source of help to you as a leader. And if you want to chat about implementing any of these church leadership development curriculum options, start a conversation with us on the chat box on this page or on our homepage.