Raising Leaders in a Church Plant – Part 1

Unfortunately, seminary didn’t prepare me for the task of developing and leading leaders. I planted Lake Hills Community Church in Castaic, California immediately after graduating in 1990. I knew just enough to be dangerous and was crazy enough to think that I could succeed. I poured myself whole-heartedly into the task and found myself enjoying ministry together with our launch team. I prepared and copied the bulletins, visited newcomers, led a small group, prepared messages, planned the worship, and numerous other things that church planters often need to do!

It didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t do all that I was doing effectively, so I focused on equipping volunteers in our church. We initiated a gifts discovery class and started a monthly volunteer training night. This was an excellent process for increasing volunteers in our church, but everyone was still reporting to me. The need to expand our leadership base was obvious. I began to understand first hand the statement: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Certainly my leadership was a limiting factor in the growth and ministry of our church.

The need to identify and develop ministry leaders was obvious. But I struggled to know where to begin and how to do this effectively. Through conversations with pastors, reading books and listening to tapes on leadership, and struggling to see our churcRaising Leaders in a Church Plant - Part 1 | missionalchallenge.comh plant survive, I realized that I needed to intentionally implement a leadership development process in our church. I couldn’t depend on the arrival of qualified leaders from other churches. The responsibility for raising leaders was mine and I could not delegate it to others.

As I considered my own personal journey, I realized that I went through several phases in my own development as a pastor and leader. I started out doing the ministry with others. I found great joy and fulfillment in both the discovery of my gifts and abilities as well as their utilization in serving others. However, the more I excelled in ministry effectiveness, the more additional volunteers were needed. I had to be a mobilizer of volunteers if we were going to survive as a church.

We transitioned as a church from a Ministry Center where we were all serving together to a Ministry Training Center which focused on equipping others to serve. Yet it didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t mobilize everyone by myself and hold them accountable and motivate them toward ministry effectiveness. I needed partners in ministry who could do what I was doing in training volunteers. I then could focus on the development of leaders. This was a critical transition for our young church. We continued to embrace the value of training members for ministry, yet my role changed to being an equipper of leaders.

In our continued efforts toward ministry effectiveness, I focused on the coaching and mentoring of leaders. This included small group leaders, worship leaders, elders, teachers, and more. As anyone can imagine, this task was overwhelming. I realized that my focus needed to change yet again. Instead of developing leaders of volunteers, I needed to develop leaders of leaders. And I had never done this before. I knew how to develop leaders of volunteers. I didn’t know how to develop leaders of leaders. And so my journey faced the new challenge head on.

Every pastor of a healthy, growing church is faced with the challenging burden of developing and empowering spiritual leaders who will actively engage in the vision and ministry direction of the church. Where do pastors and churches find spiritual leaders? How are emerging leaders developed? What is the process for raising up spiritual leaders? And who is responsible for their ongoing training?

Over the past twenty years, I have learned much about leadership and understanding my role as a leader. It is my desire that an “enduring leadership culture” permeates our ministry environment. The ongoing effectiveness of a church is strongly linked to the multiplication of leaders who have spiritual character and ministry competence. It’s critical that we pay attention to who a leader is (being) and to what a leader does (doing). This means that we must establish an environment that nurtures the spiritual formation of emerging leaders in their process of gaining practical ministry skills.

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Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
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