TRAINING LEADERS & How to Create a Formal Training Structure in Your Church #SpiritualWaypointsBook

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), pp. 197-198.

(In other postings I’ve discussed more specifics of “Apprenticeship” and “Mentoring” for church leaders.  For more on this topic see these postings which are also excerpted from SpiritualWaypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey).

Churches over 1254 in attendance should create a leadership development and training program. There are three elements that are essential for fostering holistic leadership training.

Element 1: Educate the mind.

Leadership training in a local church often takes place one night a week, with churches offering courses on leadership, volunteerism, management, etc. Too often churches confuse leadership training with theological or historical training, neglecting the former and accenting the latter. While good training has elements of each, remember that the trainee is struggling with hands-on application. Thus a sizable portion of the educating the mind should deal with the principles of application. It is also important to host a question and answer time for application clarification.

Element 2: Educate the hands.

The focus of most church leadership training is head knowledge, but this can be inadequate for hands-on doing is needed too. Remember the story of Len Sweet at Waypoint 6? Len had burgeoning head knowledge about Christianity and Christ, but it was not until he was forced into a ministry experience did God‘s power impact his life. Thus, training should not be only about theory or case studies, but should require the leader to be actively participating in ongoing ministry. And the trainee should be reporting back the results on a regular basis. This forces the trainee to learn ―in the field‖ as did the twelve disciples and the thirty-six teams of two, who reported back to the master the results for clarification, adjustment, and improvement in ministry.

Spiritual Waypoints [cropped top 1:3 65kb]Element 3: Educate the heart.

As will be noted in the next section, educating a heart to be sensitive to God‘s nudging, guidance, and correction are critical for effective leadership. Research suggests that formal training often results in less spirituality in a trainee‘s life.5 Thus, to offset the potential to over emphasize head and hand knowledge, a formal training program should include devotionals, meditation, ministry focus verses, and spiritual formation.

Elements 1, 2, and 3 must also be equally balanced. Due to the urgent nature of ministry, education of the hands can often dominate. At other times educating the mind can rule. Yet because supernatural intervention is needed in leadership development, it is educating the heart that is most critical to the process. Let us therefore investigate this area more closely.