How to DIY Your Own Church Leadership Academy

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re a church leader. But what is a church leader? There are many different levels of leadership within every church. Leadership could mean a member of the clergy or staff. But it could also be a key volunteer that has been given responsibility for a ministry.

Regardless of your role, you’ve got a responsibility to lead others and represent the church well. And regardless of your experience, you can always learn more. You can also help to train other leaders. This is the idea behind building a leadership academy within your church—allowing iron to sharpen iron within the congregation.

Building your own leadership academy might sound daunting. Where would you even start? You barely have the time to handle your own duties, much less help grow the leadership of others. Your church has enough work on your hands running a weekly worship service, much less a leadership academy.

But it’s not as difficult as you might think. Sure, it takes time and effort—but an effective leadership program pays serious dividends over time. Your staff and volunteers feel valued. It creates a positive church culture and builds a sense of loyalty. It also expands everyone’s capacity as a leader.

1. Know Who You’re Teaching

Who you’re teaching should influence what and how you’re teaching.

Let’s start at the beginning. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you trying to accomplish? What’s your overall goal?
  • Who do you want to train—staff, volunteers, both?
  • What do you want them to learn?

Jot down your answers to these and let them guide your decision making.

Meet with some of the people who might be trained. Are they interested in leadership development? What skills do they need to perform their roles better? There is no point in investing time and money into a training academy if no one is going to invest their interest in being trained.

If possible, involve some of these people in the process of building the academy. Get their thoughts and input along the way. This helps them feel valued and gives you advocates when it’s time to launch the new system. The worst thing you can do is confuse or disenfranchise potential leaders.

2. Pick a Platform

Once you’ve got a vision for your leadership academy, it’s time to pick a platform. This takes your leadership academy from the theoretical to the practical. The good and bad news is that there are an abundance of options for potential online platforms.

Some sites allow organizations to create customized training for employees. Some platforms come pre-loaded with training videos or allow you to upload your own. Part of the challenge with these options is the cost involved. They’re often built for big businesses.

You could save money by doing all of the leadership resources yourself. This means writing the content, recording videos, and uploading them to a distribution channel, like YouTube. Assuming you have the video equipment required, the cost is lower. But the time cost is much higher.

TrainedUp offers a compromise between those two routes. The cost is competitive because it’s designed specifically for church leaders. And the time investment is lower because many of the videos are already done. You can always supplement the content with some of your own—but that’s completely up to you.

3. Develop the Content

OK, so you’ve picked out the best training platform based on your needs and budget. Now it’s time to develop the content you’ll be training your leaders on. With some of the platform options, the videos are already created—so you’ll just have to select the ones you need.

If you’re going a 100% DIY route, it’s time to shoot some videos yourself. Creating quality videos takes time and resources. You need the camera equipment, the skills to use the equipment, and the time to edit everything together. Those are resources not available to every church leader.

Or you may not want to train with videos at all. You may prefer to conduct all leadership training in person. Classroom training eliminates the challenges of creating video and introduces the challenges of organizing a mass volunteer training. Both options have their own pros and cons.

The most important thing is that what these leaders learn is relevant and interesting. Boredom is rarely an effective conduit to education. If you’ve done a decent job of involving your audience in the development process, they’ll ensure the content is applicable to their work.

Pick different topics that they’ll find useful—how to lead a small group, how to preach a message, how to work with children and students. Find your residents on each subject and let them share what they know. Collect a few subjects to start and build a resource library over time.

4. Deliver Your Training

How you get the content to this audience depends on the platform you’ve picked. Most online platforms, including TrainedUp take care of the content delivery for you. The videos and discussion questions can be sent straight to leaders through email or text.

The more DIY options mean tackling the delivery yourself—but that’s still doable. If you upload your own videos to YouTube, you can create an email template with video links in the order they should be viewed by trainees. You can also write instructions for the viewers with discussion questions.

In-person training is quite different. These training are all done in a classroom setting with you or other leaders as the instructor. This gives you the advantage of being able to interact with all of your ‘students’ as they learn. You’ll be able to ask them questions directly and gauge their level of understanding. And make them call you ‘professor.’

So which one should you choose? Remember your audience. Where would they most prefer to learn? You may have to offer multiple options on how to get the training resources. That takes more effort, but will have a greater effect. Perhaps pick one and grow from there.

5. Measure the Results

The final step in building your church’s leadership academy is just as crucial—even if it’s often overlooked. To make sure you’ve met your goals, you have to track data and measure results. This may be the least exciting part to many people. But it needs to be done.

This could be as simple as tracking how many participants viewed videos or showed up for a leadership class. It could also be in the form of a survey asking what your participants thought of the content. There’s no point in building this academy if no one is learning anything from it.

Having a leadership academy at your church is not a one-time thing. It should be an on-going practice that you keep up as regularly as you can. That’s one of the reasons to track results. You’ll want this academy to keep getting better and improve with time. It’s OK if it’s not perfect to start with, just as long as you keep working at it.

You Can Do This

Everyone has the capacity to be a leader. Everyone at your church has a role to play and you can help them play their part. When you invest the time into growing them as a leader, they’ll feel valued. Not to mention, you’ll be a more complete leader in the process, too.

Building a church leadership academy isn’t as hard as you might think. If you’re prepared to take it on, you can do it. This is in part because of the many different options available to you. But also because you’re an awesome leader who has what it takes to make other leaders.

Getting started is often the hardest part. As you develop leaders, they’ll help you refine the process and step up to guide the next generation themselves. Leaders building leaders. Disciples making disciples. That’s what the church is all about.

How do you train potential leaders at your church?

About Robert Carnes

Robert Carnes is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.