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On Developing and Leading Staff/Other Leaders

Let me answer this question in three parts. First, I’ll describe the five types of leaders in any church that I believe need to be constantly developed. Then I’ll describe the three major efforts I would make in setting up a successful leadership experience for any leader in the organization. Finally, I’ll cover the four ways I would implement accountability for leaders.

The types of leaders

There are five levels of leaders:

Non-vocational governing leaders (board level)

Vocational full time leaders (full time staff)

Vocational part time leaders (staffers, interns)

Non-vocational mid level leaders ( teachers, small group leaders)

Non-vocational lower level leaders ( lead ushers, other lead workers)

I think this listing reminds us that there are multiple levels of leaders in any church. It creates a mindset of intentionally wanting to move leaders up the levels of involvement, and it gets people thinking of themselves as influencers, not just static job-performers, regardless of their level in the church. Development procedures should ideally be set up for every level of leader in a church.

Setting up successful leaders

I believe that most underperforming or conflict-laden leadership relationships in churches come about because one or more of the following three questions has not been answered (or has been answered incorrectly) about a leader and his or her role. So I would start out my relationships with all leaders, but particularly with full time staff, by revisiting these questions with them and their working partners. The three questions are:

1. What’s the leader’s Design? In other words, what do your past, your spiritual journey, your passions, your practical skills, your personal/spiritual gifts and your personality all combine to make you? Successful leaders can only lead out of who they are. If a leader is unclear on this, his or her leadership will be unclear or unnatural, and unsuccessful.

2. What’s the leader’s Direction? In other words, given a clear understanding of your Design, what are you best designed to do? Where should you be deployed? What should be your highest impact role? Are you there, or are you running someone else’s race? What would others say about how you fit in where you are leading and in what you are doing?

3. What’s the leader’s Development plan? In other words, if you’re really in the right dimension of the ministry and pursuing the right direction as a leader, how can I as the senior leader help you grow even better at what you do? When I ask this question, I usually ask how a leader would currently rate himself along four classic core competencies in ministry:

A. Character Competence. Do you fit the level of Biblical maturity required for your level of leadership? Where do you need to grow?

B. Knowledge Competence. Do you know what you need to know to lead effectively at your level? What do you need to learn, in both factual and personal realms?

C. Skills Competence. Do you know the practical skills you need to know in order to operate effectively at your leadership level? What skills do you need to acquire or improve? This refers to the “hard skill” side of applied leadership.

D. Emotional Competence. What are the emotional requirements to work with people at your level? Do you have the depth of emotional intelligence (EQ) needed to work in harmony with people in your role? Where do you need to be strengthened ? This refers to the “soft skill” side of knowledge.

Implementing accountability

Once you ascertain a leader’s fit and competency level through conversations together or just through several months of working together, then you can begin to help that leader grow in skill and effectiveness by working with them  in shared accountability together. The steps in this could be the following:

1. Craft a leadership development plan for each leader. More accurately, I would have the leader create his or her own leadership development plan and then fine tune it with me and/or their direct lead. It  would be a plan set up on annual terms, in line with two other things that are crucial: a job description for their position and an annual review of their performance.

2. Design a job description that fits them. Again, I would have the leader himself draw up the first draft of this document to be fine tuned by me/others as required. It all has to fit their Design, Direction and Development status, as discovered above. Many churches I know of still have no job descriptions that make any difference. This is a blind spot, especially in evaluating the work of pastoral staff. Having no job descriptions leads to assumptions and presumptions in performance.  This can be especially damaging since most pastoral work is done along the subjective line of developing people or conveying information and not that of functional performance. I would insist that job descriptions for all upper level paid leaders be implemented upon my arrival at any church. And that would include me.

3. Design a feedback process that respects them. Most churches have no feedback system for either good or bad performance. This creates insecure leaders. With a development program and job description agreed to, however, we can lovingly evaluate how effective a leader is. With paid staff, I would advocate an annual review that would ideally involve what industry calls The 360 Review. In the 360, the leader is evaluated by his or her direct supervisor, then his or her peers, subordinates or those that receive his or her ministry efforts, and finally by the leader himself or herself. I have seen this done rarely in churches but I think it can work well and I would be committed to pursuing this in my next ministry. The 360 approach promotes open communication, along with a  sense of fairness and possibility that are especially important in the subjective and intensely personal environment of performance in ministry. And it would include me.

4. Provide rewards for success. This is a final piece that I have rarely seen churches implement, because churches seem to think that giving rewards to people for good service is somehow anti-Biblical. I don’t. I think promotional steps can be made clear even in churches. Tangible rewards for good service can be given and verbal and personal recognition can be offered to most people. The biggest reward for doing well in ministry leadership is being entrusted with even more leadership. After all, that’s where a leader’s heart really is: to matter more and more.

As to  the functional aspects of reporting and accountability, I would pursue a weekly staff meeting as a group without fail, along with weekly written reports submitted to me as the leader of the staff with copies to my Board liaison. I would insist also on a monthly one on one meeting with each of my key staff leaders in which we would build our own process of strengthening one another and practicing the open communication that I stressed as a personal value in an earlier section .

As a leader, people would say that I …

Influence others to see their potential, to believe in their ideas and act on their beliefs in His power.

Bring perspective that changes outcomes.

Deliver visionary declarations from Scripture that energize others.

Unleash others

Encourage dreams.

Create results through gifted and unleashed people.

Create results by recruiting and empowering great talent.

Create results by insisting on staying connected with our shared purpose.

Create results by believing in the Mission, Vision, and Values we share.

Create results by being open to the innovation of others.

Create results by understanding the power of prayer.


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