Over this weekend I have the privilege of talking to a group of church leaders about IRTDMN. Just in case you don’t know it stands for Identify Recruit Train Deploy Monitor Nurture, but it is basically about growing leaders. I first came into contact with it many years ago when our Assistant Pastor at the time introduced it to the leaders meeting I was attending, but in the hands of the guys at Duluth Vineyard it has become a complete course and then some. Not sure who got the thing going originally, but it’s still got a lot of life in it.

In the process of distilling the detailed notes into more bite-sized pieces, I had to come up with a justification as to why we should go to such great lengths to create more leaders when the one’s we had seemed perfectly serviceable. Which got me thinking about some of the expected and maybe unexpected consequences. Thing is, it’s not just about enabling one generation of leaders, once released to lead, that generation looks for the next crop of potential leaders. It’s not a one-off course, it should become an integral part of every leader’s outlook. John Wimber used to say something like “If you want to know whether you’re a leader, look behind and see if anyone’s following”. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with that, in this context by leaders I mean anyone who is in a recognized position of responsibility within the church. What I am definitely not saying is that you have to be a leader to be effective for Jesus, you just need a pulse.

More leaders means less cracks

In any group, and churches are no exception, there will be cracks for people to fall into because they aren’t a good fit with the aspirations, experience and outlook of any others within the group. Thus they don’t get the opportunity to realise their potential as easily as someone more obviously gifted. So look out for those who don’t fit, they will have something you don’t or may be able to do what you are doing in a better or more effective way. With more leaders on the lookout to train others, there is more of a chance of people like that being noticed and given the chance to find their ministry niche. With less leaders the easiest targets for potential leadership tend to get chosen as it’s just the quickest and easiest thing to do. They don’t have time to develop the less obvious but maybe just as gifted.

More leaders means more management

By management, I mean how to disseminate information from the Pastor to the leaders and also how the Pastor gets to hear about how their leaders are doing. On the face of it this may not seem too pressing a factor for your church. Bear with me. All growing churches start off from a base level which means that all the leaders can be informed of what’s going on pretty quickly and probably personally by the Senior (that is, only) Pastor. That’s great, it means the vision and values of the church get passed along effectively. Get more leaders and the personal touch has to go somewhere along the line. So if you get a management structure in place before this happens, the new leaders feel included and the original leaders don’t feel like they are being lost in the crowd.

More leaders means better communication

There are at least two main sorts of communication within a church. There is communication between leaders which I have previously mentioned, and there is communication to members. This communication includes Biblical and practical teaching but also includes the visions and values of the church. As importantly it also includes the practices of the church. How the vision and values are worked out. Often times when Christians join a church they come with their own practices which may or may not be readily assimilated into the church. Sometimes this is helpful, sometimes not so much. If you have leaders who have bought into the visions and values because they have had them explained to them as part of the IRTDMN process, then they can help members understand the why of the ways things are done. Just to be clear, I am not suggesting some sort of cloning process or stamping out of ‘wrong thinking’, the best churches have a framework which has enough room within it to allow God the freedom to do whatever he wants. It gives security to the members and aids a shared vision for all.

More leaders means more room

The point of the Church of God is to see people saved. Sociologists have said that a person can relate well with twelve people in a given context. So simple maths tells us that more leaders mean more relating, means better pastoring, means a healthier church. A healthy church has outward focus as it’s not continually dealing with ‘issues’, so there are more doors into the church because the level of commitment to the purpose of the church is shared by all. If new leaders are not continually added, the church will reach a ceiling beyond which it cannot go numerically.

More leaders means more ministries

Having already warned to look out for those who may otherwise fall through the cracks, you may well find that because they think differently to you, these potential leaders may come up with extremely creative ways of the church serving the world. They may have to be guided at times, but never think that because you wouldn’t do something a certain way then God wouldn’t.

That’s really just a bunch of thoughts on some of the issues around growing leaders. There are many others and I have only barely brushed the issues of church communication management which is a whole course in itself. But if you only have one leader in a church then might I suggest it’s either a one-man church or you aren’t looking at the people through God’s eyes.

© Paul Wood