Why Leadership Training is Job #1

This entry is part 11 of 24 in the series 30 Days on the Chinese Church

I want to follow up yesterday’s article about The Resource Pyramid with a few more thoughts about leadership training. This topic is not specific to the Chinese church, but it is so important that I want to address it. I will also share some thoughts about how it applies specifically to the EM in a Chinese church.

What is a Leader?

We live in an age that is suspicious of authority and questions the right of leaders to lead. Especially in the church, we like to think that “everyone is a leader” and that “we are all the equal.” Yes, we are all equal in terms of our value in God’s sight, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has the same role. In fact the Bible makes it clear that we each have different spiritual gifts and that no one has all the gifts. One of those gifts is leadership (Rom. 12:8, “the one who leads”). God has called some to serve in the Body by exercising leadership.

In a practical sense, I would distinguish between leaders and other co-workers by the fact that leaders are responsible to recruit, train, oversee and support other people in ministry. Anyone who does this is in some sense a leader, but obviously not everyone has this role as a major part of their ministry.

Leadership Training is the #1 job of pastors and other key church leaders because that is what God has called them to do. The job description that the Bible gives for pastor/teachers is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). Every leader in the church should continually be “equipping the saints.”

Leadership in the EM

In the EM of a Chinese church, leadership training is especially vital. Often the EM begins as a youth fellowship with few experienced leaders. It is necessary to disciple young leaders and help them learn how to be spiritual leaders. Younger leaders also tend to be very mobile, so there is a need to continually train new leaders. Gradually God has called some young leaders to stay at CFC long term, and they are now among our key EM leaders. Some have been serving for more than 10 years.

Our college ministry at CFC is largely student run. A few times we have had a recent grad as an adviser, but the rest of the time I have been their only adviser. The student leadership core does at least 90% of the work of running the fellowship. Because usually only the upperclassmen are in leadership, they have only 1-2 years to serve before someone else will take their place. So we need to be in leadership training mode pretty much continuously. When a new group begins their term as core members I tell them that they should immediately start preparing those who will take their place when they are gone.

A few years ago when we were preparing to re-start our young singles fellowship I focused my efforts on preparing a new leadership core for the group. I spent quite a bit of time with the leaders and attended all of their leadership meetings for more than a year. Gradually I was able to back off and let them take the lead. Now they are running the fellowship and I am only their adviser. I join them for leadership meetings only a few times each year.

My new project is a young couples ministry that we began last month. At this point I am the one in charge of the ministry, but eventually that will change. I am looking and praying for God to raise up a young couple with a vision for this ministry and a willingness to take responsibility for leading it. It might take a year or two, but I am sure that eventually it will happen. My role is to start the ministry and raise up leadership, not to run the ministry myself forever.

I share these examples from my own ministry to help you get a feel for how leadership training and The Resource Pyramid work out in actual real life ministry. I hope that it is helpful to you!

Now it’s your turn. . .

  • Have you ever know of or been a part of a ministry that failed to raise up new leaders? What was the result? What could have been done differently?
  • What do you think is the most challenging thing about raising up new leaders?
  • What suggestions do you have for someone who is looking for the best ways to equip new leaders?
Series Navigation<< The Resource PyramidHow to Equip Spiritual Leaders >>

2 Responses to Why Leadership Training is Job #1

  • NKL says:

    1. The most recent examples: First, a fellowship for those who just graduated from university. The leaders were working from a campus group mentality and weekly meetings, prep during week and admin. tasks were burning them out because they had full time jobs now. Second, the EM was handed over the entire Childrens SS program and the first leader burned herself out trying to coordinate the curriculum and teachers.

    How I would ideally prevent these from happening again in the future: find EM leaders to be mentors for these emerging leaders. or, as a last resort, rearrange EM pastors job descriptions to devote time to mentorship. I have had to choose the latter option due to lack of lay-mentors.

    This leads to another issue: older bi-lingual candidates in our church have opted to return to the Chinese congregation once their children made it into university. Joining the EM for them was so they could watch over thier kids when they were in high school (see who their friends were, make sure they were not skipping service).

    There are some 2nd gen. EM leaders who are available to be mentors but these are in the “sandwich generation”–young children, parents who are seniors. There time is at a premium.

    Short answer: I agree with your strategy. Begin with the college age but just be prepared for a long cycle for leadership development to be self-sustaining.

  • PK says:

    It sounds like the EM at your church is experiencing “growing pains.” Taking over responsibility for children’s SS is a sign of maturity. But of course training up leaders for greater responsibility takes time. I suggest leadership teams rather than a single leader for a major ministry.

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"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." -- C. S. Lewis