Developing Leaders

The power of equipping and empowering others

Jesus didn’t just send instructions to a group of people to go and share good news—he had a systematic way of training disciples, who trained disciples, who trained disciples and several generations later trained you and me. Now we are called to train the next generation of leaders. What can we learn from Jesus’s methodology? Jesus’ pattern of developing others can be seen in a tool produced by GiANT called “Developing Others.” Let’s look at each side of this square and note what Jesus did and how it applies to us as we develop leaders. Note the clock in the middle—developing others takes time.

Follow me (I do, you watch)

Jesus did not come to do everything by himself—he invited others to participate in what he was doing. To some he simply said, “Follow me” (Luke 5:27). To a group of fishermen, he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19 ESV). As they followed, they watched Jesus heal the sick, teach the multitudes, cast out demons, and practice a life of grace. Everything they learned was new. When he called them, they knew nothing about his ministry. They were likely familiar with some prophecies about the Messiah, but they had no way of knowing Jesus was that Messiah. They were in the state of unconscious incompetence. They did not know what they did not know. Incompetence is not a bad word—it’s a reality we face often. Until you know, you are incompetent in that knowledge. The key is to not remain incompetent. Part of equipping is modeling—modeling how to do ministry, how to do mission, how to preach, how to extend grace, how to lead worship, how to comfort, how to lead a Bible study.

Participate with me (I do, you help)

When the crowds followed Jesus, he had compassion on them (Matthew 14:4). The disciples told him to send the crowds home so they could buy food for themselves. Jesus responded by saying, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (v. 16.) This is the point when the disciples were at the state of conscious incompetence. They knew there was nothing they could do: “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish” (v 17). Jesus told them to bring the fish and bread to him, and after he blessed the food he told them to distribute it. Afterwards, he told the disciples to collect the leftovers. 5,000 men, plus women and children, were fed from two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus could have had manna come down from heaven; he could have done something that brought all the focus on himself. Instead, he invited the disciples to participate in what he was doing.

They had no idea how to feed this crowd—they were aware of their inability—conscious incompetence—but they were invited to participate. Imagine what was going through their heads when 12 basketfuls of broken pieces were collected. Did each disciple hold a basketful of leftovers and say, “What just happened here? Who is this man and why did he invite me to join him?” It’s a question worth pondering.

Giving opportunity to participate is an integral part of equipping, which is a vital part of developing leaders. In this case, you are taking the lead and teaching by giving them areas to participate in. As they learn, their participation can increase. This is a time when a lot of teaching takes place, so ask a lot of questions, and answer their questions. This back-and-forth communication builds trust and relationship as you teach and share opportunity.

Go and practice (you do, I help)

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” Luke 9:1-2). Notice a few key points here: first he gave them the power and the authority (the help needed), and then he sent them out. He did not send them out without proper preparation, training and example. They had seen, they had participated, and now they were given the freedom (and power and authority) to go do. In essence, Jesus empowered them to do what they had been trained to do. They went and did as he told them. They were aware of their task—what to do and how to do it. This is conscious competence.

Empowerment is a significant step in leadership. There comes a time to let go of the reins and let others take the lead. This builds trust; you show you trust them to take the lead, and because you are still there to help when asked, they trust you. One of the most difficult aspects of empowerment happens here—waiting for them to ask for help and only then to provide assistance. This means letting them make mistakes, get in a bind, even fail. Failure can be a great learning experience, but only when we don’t leave them in the failure alone. Rather, when asked, we step right in the middle of that failure and help them learn from the experience.

In the diagram above you note the “Pit of Despair.” When people are released too soon, they can feel overwhelmed. The job can seem like too much to bear, or the person may feel they are unqualified or simply can’t learn. This may indicate the need to slow down the process and spend more time in the “I do, you help” stage of training. Good communication helps in avoiding the pit of despair.

Go (you do, I watch)

This is the essence of the Great Commission—Go and make disciples. But before he tells us to go, Jesus reminds us who he is—the One to whom has been given all power and authority over heaven and earth. Then after he tells us to “GO,” he tells us he will be with us always—to the very end of the age. He calls us to go, but he tells us we are never alone. He is always watching. He is always with us. And the One who is always with us has all power and authority. That’s comfort, encouragement, and empowerment all at once.

The disciples came to the point they didn’t have to think about how to preach Jesus, how to anoint, how to counsel and comfort, how to lead—it became second nature. This is unconscious competence—they did things naturally. They became apostles devoted to furthering the work Jesus had started. They were constantly encouraged by Jesus’ words—I will be with you always.

One of the reasons ministry can get lonely and people get burned out is because of the lack of affirmation and encouragement. It’s essential that pastors bring affirmation and encouragement to their team members and ministry leaders. Remind them they are not alone—Jesus is with them and he still has all power and authority. Stay in relationship with them, praise them for successes, help them work through failures, give regular encouragement. And encourage them to find someone they can train, so our pattern of developing leaders continues.—Rick Shallenberger, Editor

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