True leaders develop the people around them. The Apostle Paul knew this well when he said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
The first century church was dependent on the development of new leaders. Paul was a multiplier, not a manager. As I think about this, many come to mind as they developed or invested in me. Think about your philosophy of how you see others.
1. Do you see others as created in God’s image? Personalities, styles, ethos, character traits, practices, and perceptions all contribute to who a person is. God created them and wants to build his kingdom through them. Do you see the same potential in them that God sees?
2. Do you recognize how God has “gifted” others for ministry? The body of Christ is full of people who are untapped or at best, underutilized. We need each other and each of us has a deep-rooted need to fulfill our God-given purpose in life. The Church is the place where this is supposed to ultimately happen. All kinds of people are merely making a living outside of church life using their spiritual gifts. God gave gifts for the building of his Church and kingdom. It’s time we recognize the gifts God has placed in others and allow them to be developed.
3. How do you allow others to develop their gift mix? We need to give them opportunities to serve. Believe it or not, people want to serve. The church I pastored had so many volunteers we gave some away to ministries that needed servants. When you explain why you are doing what you are doing, people will apply the gifts God gave them to contribute to the entire ministry thriving more and more. The key here is giving them opportunities and reasons to serve the Lord. It’s not a guilt trip. Observe how God has wired them, tell them the “why” about what is happening, train them, and remember one more crucial element.
4. Turn them loose. Let them serve. Trust them. Once you have recognized their gifts and have trained them, gently push them out of the “nest.” Fly beside them, but let them grow. One of the biggest lessons in leadership development is letting someone fail with you, holding the safety net for them at a distance. Continue to teach and encourage. Correct constructively. Believe in them. Keep living and serving for Christ as they will continue to watch your life. Give the “keys” to them and let them drive. Pray and hope they will achieve more for Jesus than you ever imagined. And always thank God for them.
If you are being developed by a leader, tell that person “thanks” often. This leads me to list some initials of the leaders who graciously invested in me. In turn, they have allowed me to serve in the ways I am gifted by God and now be a multiplier of others for Jesus Christ and his kingdom. THANK YOU: JD, JJ, RB, GH, DT, RM, SH, SB, JL, and countless others. Thank you. God being my helper, I’ll strive to put into practice what I have learned, received, heard, and seen in you, for Jesus’ namesake.
Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.