Generate desires to see churches renewed and strengthened. Through the Generate Renewal Grant, churches can work with experienced consultants to help fuel the health of their church ministries. The following article from one of Generate’s partnering consultants has tips that can help strengthen every church.
By Howard Bixby
Church ministry leadership is usually generational. Churches that have been growing and visionary often have had a group of pastoral and lay leaders of a similar age group who worked together as a team to accomplish the current church vision and strategic plan. This 10- to 15-year period of excitement and growth is often followed by a plateau in numerical attendance; then the church may enter a time of decline. Visionary excitement and growth are allowed to fade away to be replaced by apathy, discouragement, and decline. The cycle from a church’s birth to death can be completed in as little as 25 years.
The church that has a strategy for and practices developing new leaders can avoid this cycle. Multiplying leadership is the intent for God’s people in both the Old Testament (Deut. 6:1–18) and the New Testament Epistles (2 Tim. 2:1–2). Vision that lasts and multiples long term is vision that is passed on through discipling the generations that follow.
Tips for Discipling New Leaders
1. Discipling involves more than transferring knowledge. Purpose, vision, and goals; how-to methods of ministry; attitudes, values, and relationship-building skills: all of these are needed.
2. A friendship is the foundation for discipling leaders. Receiving important truths and values happens much more quickly and surely when the teacher and follower enjoy a trusting relationship with each other (John 17).
3. Vision is best learned when presented simultaneously by intertwining an example and a statement. The trainer and disciple need to experience successful leadership situations and vision casting together in the same ministry (Phil. 4:9).
4. The follower should demonstrate change. For a successful leader, or mentor, to pass on the vision for success, that person must be able to evaluate the disciple and see God changing and using that follower. The disciple can be tested to see if the mentor’s actions or attitudes have become the disciple’s own (2 Tim. 3:10; Phil. 2:20–22).
5. Pass on purpose and mission rather than programs. Sometimes a single-generation vision dies in a church because the leaders tried to disciple the next generation to execute a specific church program. Rather, future leaders can achieve God’s purposes with different programs that may be more effective in those leaders’ generation or culture.
Leadership development is all about preparing the next generation to use the programs and methods that will most effectively achieve God’s purposes and mission in the current culture. The best time to prepare future leaders to succeed in the next generation is right in the middle of God’s current blessing. Everyone who serves in a successful ministry today should be discipling someone else to replace that leader and do it with excellence for the glory of God.
- Whom am I preparing to lead this ministry when I am no longer able? This is a question that every leader should ask. Am I praying for the future leader, meeting with that person regularly, and having that person do this ministry with me now?
- Evaluate leadership potential or needs by evaluating the ministry programs you and others are involved in. One way to identify potential leaders is to look at the fruit of leaders’ programs.
Howard Bixby has five decades of ministry experience. Now retired, he most recently served as president of ChristWay Ministries, where he assisted churches and pastors with strategic planning, led teacher training seminars, and helped churches develop a passion for Biblical outreach and growth.