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The Leadership BatonAn Intentional Strategy for Developing Leaders in Your Church
By Rowland Forman Jeff Jones Bruce Miller
ZondervanCopyright © 2004 Rowland Forman, Jeff Jones, and Bruce Miller
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Culture Where Growing Leaders Thrive
Jeff: Over the last decade, we've visited a lot of great churches, trying to learn everything we can from each of them. Yet one visit stands out from all the others. For one thing, this church is in Hawaii. It was tough to make the sacrifice to go to Hawaii, but I felt particularly led by God to do so. That church visit changed forever the way I will think about ministry.
New Hope Community Church in Honolulu, pastored by Wayne Cordeiro, has a strong leadership development culture. The church had only been in existence for eight years when I visited it, yet some ten thousand people worshiped at New Hope each weekend. Most of these people were not just attenders; they were engaged participants. One of the church's basic principles is teamwork. Every ministry is carried out in teams, and every leader works with four other people to do a ministry that each person has a responsibility to develop and encourage. They refer to these teams as "fractals." One "surf dude" guy I met on the beach went to New Hope. I asked him if he was on a ministry team. He replied, "Of course. We do ministry as team. I'm on the evangelism fractal in the surfing ministry." I was amazed that he could describe his role that clearly. He then gave more detail about his role, telling me that he was on a team with a leader who was encouraging him but that he also had a team and a few people he was encouraging. Another lady I met also went to New Hope and was on a team that made leis for newcomers.
When I got to the church, I was amazed to see thousands of people serving with great joy. One person I talked with said he was shadowing a cameraman, learning how to be a cameraman himself. He explained that every ministry leader is encouraged to have someone in his or her shadow. Nearly everyone I met knew their role in ministry and was both being developed and developing others at the same time.
I came back from Hawaii full of enthusiasm to adopt New Hope's way of doing teams and developing leaders. I announced to our staff that we were going to do "fractal teams." I painted a great vision of how this could work. Yet, the initial attempt flopped. I made the common mistake of getting excited about a particular church's way of doing things and immediately trying to introduce it into my own church culture. Here's what I discovered: If the culture isn't ready, even the best ideas and strategies are doomed to failure. Before we try to import new ideas, improved systems, and high-quality tools for doing better leadership training, we first need to prepare the soil in our church. We need to do the hard work of embedding new values deep into our church culture.
The churches doing the best job of leadership development are not necessarily those with the best systems or tools. What each has done well is embed the value of leadership development deep into their church culture. Leadership development has more to do with who they are as a church than with what particular things they do.
PREPARE THE SOIL
Last year my wife and I grew tired of our overgrown bushes and shrubs and hired some people to rip them out. Then I began to price how much new plants would cost, and I couldn't believe it! Why would anyone pay $100 for a dinky little plant-especially when you need about twenty of them! I bit the bullet, though, and paid the bill.
I decided to save a little money by planting everything myself, but I wanted someone else to prepare the beds for planting. When we got the estimate, the figure was astronomical! They wanted hundreds of dollars just to take out the old dirt and put in new dirt. Dirt is dirt, I figured. Our new plants would just have to find a way to grow in the soil we already had. I wasn't going to pay for new dirt.
A year later the results are mixed. A few plants have thrived and some have died; most are somewhere in between. Maybe all dirt isn't the same. If I had it to do over again, I would prepare the soil.
What does it mean to prepare the soil in your church so that leadership development can thrive? Over the past several years, we've learned several essential principles for cultivating a culture in which growing leaders can thrive. You can try to grow leaders without these, but your results are likely to be mixed at best. For best results, it pays to prepare the soil.
See People with Fresh Eyes
As we try to help our church cultures make the transition to be more leadership development-friendly, we must first change something within ourselves. If we are going to make the transition from acquiring great leaders to developing great leaders, then we must adopt a different view of the people in our churches. Ultimately, leadership development is as simple and organic as one person believing in another and building into his or her life. To do so, one must have the heart of a developer. We have to view people much differently from the way we naturally would. We must put on the eyeglasses of potential.
Jeff: I got my first pair of contact lenses when I was fourteen. On the ride home from the optometrist's office. I could see everything so clearly. Clouds had shape and texture; the sky wasn't just a swirl of blue and white. Trees had individual leaves; they weren't just green blobs on brown sticks. The new lenses helped me see the world differently.
The prerequisite to becoming a developer of leaders is putting on a new set of glasses, what I call "the eyeglasses of potential." The heart of a developer sees not just who a person is but what this person can become. This painting by René Magritte, a French painter who lived in the early twentieth century, captures the heart of leadership development:
The artist's subject is an egg, but this isn't what is appearing on the canvas. He sees beyond what the egg is to what the egg will become. Seeing people through eyeglasses of potential means looking beyond the actual to the potential in someone's life. At some point, someone saw you that way and gave you an opportunity to lead. That person believed in you probably more than you believed in yourself.
Jeff: When I was a young teenager, a college student named Todd took an interest in my life. You'd probably never have put us together just by looking at us. I was "preppy," and he dressed as though the hippie movement had never ended. He had wild hair, flare-bottom jeans, and a big leather strap around his wrist. Yet he was passionate about Jesus Christ and was wearing the eyeglasses of potential when he saw me. I was just a young absentminded kid, but he saw something more than that. He challenged me to do big things for God as a young student and initiated a mentoring relationship. He taught me and a few others from the Scriptures and coached us as we assumed increasingly challenging ministry responsibilities. He never let us look down on ourselves because of our youth, to paraphrase the apostle Paul's words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12.
I'll never forget the night Todd took me to a nice restaurant for dinner-something he had never done before. He had with him a letter he had written me, and he handed it across the table. This is what it said:
Jeff, when I look at you, I see a lion cub. You are young, playful, fun to be around. A lion cub. Yet when I really look at you, I see more than a lion cub. I see a lion. I see someone who has such leadership strength. I see someone whom God is using and will use to do incredible things for him. I'm just glad I get to see the lion cub becoming the lion.
What do you think he did for me as a young teenager? Todd gave me a vision for my life that was much bigger than I would have come up with by myself. Though the letter was damaged in an arsonist's attempt to burn down our church offices, twenty-five years later I still have it-and it still brings me encouragement.
Imagine what would happen in your church if leaders viewed everyone in the church through the eyeglasses of potential. When the church's core leaders make it their habit to constantly look for people's potential, this mind-set will likely spread throughout the whole church.
Excerpted from The Leadership Baton by Rowland Forman Jeff Jones Bruce Miller Copyright © 2004 by Rowland Forman, Jeff Jones, and Bruce Miller. Excerpted by permission.
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