Where do leaders come from? We can all probably name lots of people who we consider to be great leaders, but how did each get started? In most cases, another person in leadership likely noticed this person’s potential and decided to help him or her along. Noticing and helping are both central to leadership development. First, one must be paying attention in order to notice. Leaders should always be looking for new leaders. Second, good leaders invest time in developing other leaders. Good leaders tend to be busy folks, but they make time for important matters. They teach. They mentor. They provide opportunities and guidance. Good leaders actively cultivate other leaders.
In the church, we should always be cultivating leaders. Our mission to make disciples requires leaders who can envision what living out this mission could look like in their contexts. We need people who can lead reluctant folks through uncertain change. We need people who can transform conflict into productive communication. This level of leadership doesn’t usually emerge on its own. It requires intentional cultivation.
Developing lay leadership in the church can be particularly challenging, but I have some suggestions to help the process. First, think creatively about who might have greater leadership potential. Often, the most obvious ‘traditional’ candidates are at the busiest points in their lives with families and work. Be willing to look outside the box. Second, create new opportunities for new leaders. It’s much more difficult (and less appealing) to inherit an existing committee, team, or legacy program—especially when the group is dysfunctional or too focused on how things were done in the past. Finally, challenge your most effective existing leaders to identify and invest in someone who is just starting out. As you identify people with greater leadership potential, connect them with formational activities beyond your congregation. This fall, the Central Texas Conference lay ministry team is offering just such an opportunity—the Vital Leadership Academy.
The Vital Leadership Academy is a selective, eight-month program specifically for laity who show potential for greater leadership in a church in the Central Texas Conference. It consists of three parts: large group retreats in Glen Rose, small group meetings at the district level, and a commitment to daily spiritual disciplines. During the retreats and meetings, participants will interact with leadership topics such as giftedness, strategic planning, and conflict resolution. You can find much more information on the VLA’s website—www.ctcumc.org/vla. Applications are available now, and will be accepted until September 1. If you are already a key leader in your church, the academy is probably not for you, but we encourage you to steer others toward applying. You can even offer to write a letter of recommendation. Think about those noticed and cultivated you. In whom will you invest?