Training Leaders Through Distributed Leadership

One of my tendencies as a church planter was to assume that because I was the leader, my responsibility was to lead…everything. More than just wanting to be in control of what happened next, I sensed it was my duty and obligation to lead everything that we were doing.

Now, years later, I understand just how wrong I was.

Asserting my leadership resulted in several unintentional consequences:

  1. I was not effective at leading everything and became overwhelmed by attempting to do it all.
  2. I limited the opportunity for others with the gift of leadership to serve the Body.
  3. I was not raising up more leaders to carry the load.

One of the most important personal discoveries I made as a church planter was that it wasn’t my responsibility to lead everything; instead, it was my responsibility to raise up new leaders. I had to shift from using my gifts in leading well to using my gifts to develop other leaders. When I did this – our church began to experience a new level of freedom and growth. Now, as I work with church planters, I try to help them discover the value of developing leaders around them!

Training Leaders Through Distributed Leadership

Training leaders cannot happen without practice. You can orient and teach principles in a classroom, but true training happens on-the-job. Sharing leadership responsibilities with those you are training is necessary for them to learn how to lead.

Train in ministry not for ministry. Here are some important practical steps.

Here’s how we’ve been doing this in our Thursday night Bible Study in our home. We have 20-30 college students each week. My goal is to train every one of them to be able to lead so I’ve divided the leadership into seven parts:Training Leaders Through Distributed Leadership | missionalchallenge.com

1. Welcome & introduce visitors

2. Worship

3. Breaking into pairs to share testimonies

4. Explaining how to SOAP

5. Breaking into groups to study the Scriptures

6. Facilitating sharing of what each group learned

7. Closing prayer time

I assigned seven students responsibility for leading each part and provided simple instructions how to do it. After they lead, I follow-up with each one to ask: What did you do well? What could you improve? What would you do different next week?

Then I take time to acknowledge their effort and encourage them to do it again next week. They are also instructed to recruit someone to watch what they do and be prepared to take their task the following week. They are responsible to pass on the instructions and to reinforce the progress of the person they recruited.

By distributing leadership and providing on-the-job training, we are raising up students who can lead every part of our weekly Bible Study.

Training leaders through distributed leadership also removes the pressure that any one person has to lead everything. Plus, if someone gets sick or can’t make it, there are several others who are trained to step in and lead. The most exciting results of training this way from my perspective is that we are raising up students and sending them out prepared to start new Bible Studies. Just two weeks ago, we sent a half dozen students out to start a new Bible Study on Thursday nights in Redmond. And in a couple months, we hope to send more students to Issaquah to start another one.

Consider: What thoughts does this trigger for you? How could you implement training through distributed leadership in your ministry context?

Author

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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