A Leadership Development System that Works

A leadership development system that works is crucial to the development of your church. Having this system in place at every level is the foundation of your Plan for the Unexpected.

Plan for the Unexpected. Delegation. The Go Commission.
This is a repost of Classic Content

I was introduced to what was then called a delegation system early in my ministry. It was in a chapter of J. David Stone’s book The Complete Youth Ministries Handbook. It was called the Four Phases of Ease and gave four simple steps to equipping others for leadership and ministry.

Four Phases of Ease

The concept is simple. It begins with you doing it and progresses through each step until someone is carrying the responsibility for you.

  • I do. You watch.
  • I do. You help.
  • You do. I help.
  • You do. I watch.

Of course, it’s never as simple as this makes it look. But, you get the idea.

Five Steps of Leadership Development

Dave and Jon Ferguson, in their book Exponential, expanded thinking on this idea in a helpful way by introducing Five Steps of Leadership Development. Their plan moved from a delegation system to a leadership development system by adding one more important step.

Step 1: I Do. You Watch. We Talk.

Step 2: I Do. You Help. We Talk.

Step 3: You Do. I Help. We Talk.

Step 4: You Do. I Observe. We Talk

Step 5: You Do.  Someone Else Observes.

Read You Can Start a Missional Movement that develops his system.

The Lifeshape Square

Mike Breen turbocharged the concept in Building a Discipling Culture. He uses the language of leader and disciple. The square walks through the role and responsibility of each as they move around the square.

The D1 disciple is high in confidence that they can accomplish the assignment. The L1 leader is highly directive.

The disciple starts leading at D2. This usually brings the realization that there is a lot to learn. The leader encourages and casts vision for what they will become.

After gaining experience and encouragement, the D3 disciple begins to grow in confidence while the L3 leader becomes less directive. The D3 is gaining their wings and taking on more and more of the leadership of their ministry assignment.

The leadership development system makes the last turn as the D4 realizes they can fly on their own. Experiencing competence and competence, the ministry is now theirs (and they look for a D1 to develop). The L4 leader moves to the background having handed over responsibility and authority to the new leader.

Do You Have a Leadership Development System?

In a recent tweet, Will Mancini‏ (@willmancini) spoke to the heart of leadership development by writing “When pastors do for the people in a church what the people should be doing for themselves and each other, everyone loses.”

Start your leadership development system today by looking for one person who will watch while you do. Over time you will find that the church can not only survive an unexpected absence in leadership, but it will have a trained cadre of leaders to carry an expanding ministry in your church.

Plan for the Unexpected

Your church depends on you in a lot of ways. The smaller the church the more that may be true. There are responsibilities that you handle each week that no one else is prepared to do. What happens when you are suddenly unavailable? You need a plan for the unexpected.

Plan for the Unexpected. Delegation. The Go Commission.

It was on a Friday afternoon when I went from feeling great to intense pain in about a second. I finished the one last task that had to be done that day and went home. The pain made the trip with me and didn’t go away. The next morning Linda drove me to the emergency room. It was clear that I wasn’t going home.

Fortunately, I wasn’t scheduled to preach the next day, so my stress about being absent from church on Sunday wasn’t quite so high. But, my diagnosis made it clear I wouldn’t be working for a week or more. (It turned into “more.”)

Put yourself in my situation. What happens on Sunday if you are suddenly unable to attend? Let me offer three questions to get you started on your plan for the unexpected.

What do you handle every week that no one else can do?

Take out a legal pad and list the things you do that must be done on a weekly basis. The list should contain only the tasks necessary to keep the church functioning. It will include things like preaching, teaching, worship leading, and so forth. But, for many pastors it will also contain responsibilities like pastoral care, key administrative tasks, PowerPoint preparation, worship planning and a lot more.

Which responsibilities would be easy to hand off quickly?

Admit it. Some of the things on your list would be easy to delegate. There are people who have the skills and willingness to handle them. They are on your list because you like doing them.

At the points where this is true of you, you are the roadblock to leadership development in your church.

Start your plan for the unexpected by handing off one thing on your list this week. Identify the task and match it to a person who can carry it out.

Are you praying for the right people?

It might be that you don’t have the right people to hand specific leadership responsibilities. Why not focus your prayers by turning your responsibilities list into a prayer list?

Early in my ministry I served First Church of God in Hickory, North Carolina as Minister of Music and Youth. One of my responsibilities was to direct the adult choir. We were overjoyed when a Ramona, a strong soprano singer, started attending and joined the choir.

It wasn’t long before Betty Plants, the pastor’s wife, casually mentioned that she had been praying for a soprano to come. Ramona was an answer to her prayer. She deepened my prayer life with that simple revelation.

You never know when events will suddenly make you unavailable. Don’t let you church flounder in your absence. It can flourish if you plan for the unexpected.


What essential task will you hand off this week?