How Can I Develop Leaders When No One’s Ready?

Have you ever looked around your organization for a new leader only to discover that nobody is ready? That can be the most discouraging feeling, but it doesn’t have to be your reality.

Today, I want to talk to you about three ideas you can use to develop those leaders who aren’t quite ready. Before we dive into these ideas, I want to share a concept with you. For those of us who have been in ministry, and I’ve been in ministry for over 30 years now, we know that season of the year, around August and January, when you sort of get sick to your stomach because it’s a new season of ministry ramping up. You look around, you go, “Oh, no, we need more leaders. We don’t have enough leaders,” and it always seems to be that time of year you get that feeling.

It’s also that time of year you start to look around for new leaders to put in those vacant positions. You’re looking around the organization and you go, “Well, he’s not ready. He’s not ready. She’s not ready. Oh, there’s somebody that’s ready,” and we pick that person up and we put them in the leadership position. Then, we go to our senior leader and say, “Hey, I just developed a new leader,” but, really, you didn’t. You just did leadership placement.

What I want you to understand, there’s a big difference between leadership development and leadership placement. I’m afraid that the local church today has really defaulted to a lot of leadership placement rather than leadership development. What I want to do is … To solve this problem, we have to start developing leaders who aren’t ready, so I want to give you three ideas that we can dive into that will help you begin to build those leaders who aren’t quite ready. Stay tuned until the end because I’m going to share a fourth bonus tip, as well. Let’s dive in.

Idea number one is look at people’s potential. See people for what they can be, not just what they are. I think, a lot of times, we just get comfortable looking at people as they are, rather than taking the time to imagine what they could be 12 months from now, 18 months from now. That could make a huge difference, if we begin to look at their potential and imagine what they could be if we develop them over time.

I think it’s interesting when you look at the life of Jesus. He recruited some men who weren’t quite ready. Think about it. In Matthew 9, he approached Matthew, who was a tax collector. He was despised by people. What was he doing at the time? He was collecting taxes. Jesus walked up to him and said, “Hey, come follow me,” and Matthew did. It’s fascinating because Jesus looked at him not for what he was but for what he could be. Jesus did the same thing with Peter and Andrew. He walked up to them as they were fishing. These were uneducated fisherman, and he said, “Come follow me.”

Now, he didn’t take these men and immediately throw them into leadership. No, he began to walk with them. He began to disciple them. He was teaching them how to pray, how to have faith. He was teaching them the basics of the faith before he really started developing them as leaders, but he took a risk on people. He saw them for their potential and began to make an investment in them. Look around your church. Look around your organization. Who is it that you need to take a risk on?

Idea number two is look for willingness not just readiness. A lot of times, what we do is we look around the organization and we’re looking for that new leader who is ready to plug in, a plug and play leader, but they’re just not ready. We have to learn to look for willingness, not just readiness. I will never forget when I learned this lesson. I was leading a small group … This is back when we planted a church. I was leading a small group and, after small group one night, this young man named Roger came up to me and he looked at me and he said, “Mac, I want to do what you do.” I said, “What do you mean you want to do what I do?” He said, “I want to learn to lead a small group the way you lead a small group.” Man, he said, “Man, we just feel like family, the way you lead discussion and the way you really network us together and connect us together and bond us together and help us really grow in our faith. I want to learn to do what you do.”

Now, the whole time Roger was telling me this, I was looking at him and, in my mind, I was thinking, “You can’t do what I do. You’re not ready,” but he was so persistent. He wouldn’t give up. He just kept pushing me, saying, “Would you teach me? Would you teach me?” Finally, I said, “Okay, Roger. Here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to show up to small group 15 minutes early next week and plan on staying 15 minutes late.” He did. Next week, he shows up 15 minutes early. We go upstairs in the room over the garage and I said, “Okay, Roger. One of the first things you have to learn as a small group leader is you have to learn how to build a sense of biblical community among the small group. Here’s how you do that,” and I shared five or six things on how to do that. Then, I said, “Okay, let’s go downstairs. Everybody is about to come in. I want you to watch me do this tonight.”

We went through group that night and then, that evening, after everybody left, he and I went back upstairs. We sat down and I said, “Okay. Tell me what you saw. What did you see me do right and then what did you see me do that I could have done better?” We sat there and we had a 15, 20 minute discussion about that. Next week, Roger shows up early again. I said, “Okay, this week, Roger, I’m going to teach you how to lead an icebreaker question. Here’s why icebreaker questions are important and here’s how you lead one. Watch me lead it.” Then, that night, after group, we went upstairs, took 15, 20 minutes. We debriefed it. Then, the following week I gave him the icebreaker question to ask the group. Again, went upstairs, debriefed it to see what he did well and what he could do better. We just did this week after week after week until, finally, next thing you know, Roger was ready to lead his own group.

Here’s what I learned from that. We have to learn to look for willingness, not just readiness, because, when we only look for readiness, we’re only going to do leadership placement rather than leadership development.
Idea number three is know what you’re looking for. If you’re not looking for readiness, then what are you looking for? I get this question more than any other when I’m working churches through the leadership pipeline process. People come up and always ask me this. What do you look for in a potential leader? What do you look for in a potential leader?

Here are three traits that I look for when I’m looking for a potential leader, and I call it TIP, T-I-P. First, T is teachable. Teachable. Is the individual teachable or do they act like they already know it all and have it all together? I’m looking for somebody that’s really teachable. I is integrity. Integrity. Is this a person that I respect, that others respect? Is it a person other people follow because they’re a person of character? P is passion. Are they passionate or are they passive? I’m going to tell you something. If you can find somebody that has a little bit of passion, you can teach them anything. When you’re looking for a potential leader, look for these three things, teachability, integrity, and passion. That’s somebody you can take some time and invest in. That’s the type of person you can begin to do leadership development with, rather than just leadership placement.

Okay, I said if you’d stick around til the end, I’d give you a bonus idea. Here’s the bonus idea, and it is my favorite. Give task before you give title. So often, when we are looking to fill a position and we’re identifying people that can fill that position, we measure the people against the full scope of that position. We can’t do that because we look at them and we go, “Well, they’re not ready to do that. They can’t do that entire job.” Well, of course they can’t. They’ve never done it before. We can baby step them there by giving them tasks along the way, before we give them the title. You give them responsibilities related to that role under your mentorship.

For example, let’s say that you needed to have a brand new children’s director. You find somebody that you think has the potential, you could develop them there. You can’t give them the title yet because they’re not quite ready for that, but you can give them task. For example, you could say, “Hey, I’m going to be recruiting a new children’s leader. I want you to come with me and follow me and watch me recruit a new team member.” Then, a few weeks later, “Hey, I want you to recruit somebody new to the team.” Then, “Hey, I want you to watch me lead one of our team meetings.” Then, “The next team meeting, I want you to assist me. Not lead the whole thing, I just want you to assist me in leading part of that team meeting.” Then, another time, “Hey, sit down. I want you to help me plan out this next quarter of activities for children’s ministry because planning is such an important competency related to this ministry.”They sit down, they help you do that. Then, next time, you can give them the opportunity to plan that. Here’s what you’re doing. By giving them task before you give them title, you are baby stepping them into the competencies they need in order to really lead in that position.

Thanks for reading and watching.

Breaking the discipline – habit barrier

I used to tell my kids discipline is doing that which you don’t want to do in order to become what you want to become. Getting your children to be disciplined is a hard sell. It’s not just a hard sell for kids it’s a hard sell for adults as well.

Solomon says in Proverbs 25:28 “like a city whose walls are broken through is the person who lacks self-control.”

I don’t know anyone who wants or says they enjoy discipline. Discipline requires willpower. Discipline requires determination. Discipline is fighting through the excuses. Discipline requires making a choice and sticking with it even when your mind body and emotions are telling you to quit.

But something magical happens when you stick with discipline. A switch flips in your mind. And honestly most times you don’t notice when it happens, it just happens. And when the switch flips you’ve just broken the discipline to habit barrier.

Habits are different than discipline. It’s discipline that builds a habit. But habits do not require willpower, they run on autopilot. Habits do not require determination or making a choice. The choice was made long before and the pattern is ingrained in your mind. That which was hard to do now becomes normative and a part of your lifestyle.

The key to maximizing your life is breaking the discipline to habit barrier over and over again in different areas of your life.

What habit do you need to establish in your life?

One More Step

When the obstacle is so big it seems there’s no way around it I will take one more step.

When the crowds are all long gone and no one is cheering me on I will take one more step.

When I have failed and it seems like my dreams are fading I will take one more step.

When I’m in the valley and I cannot see the finish line I will take one more step.

When the odds are against me and my soul is overwhelmed I will take one more step.

When the pain is so intense that I don’t know if I can carry on I will take one more step.

When I hear the whispers of complaints and criticism I will take one more step.

As long as God gives me breath and urges me forward I will take one more step.

Fail Different

If at first you don’t succeed don’t try again, at least don’t try again the same exact way.

Each successive try should be done differently so that in trying you’re growing, learning and sharpening your leadership. In time you’ll get it right and be wiser for the efforts.

It’s hard to learn when you’re not challenging yourselves to fail differently.



Gut check moment

Are you going to do it or not? You have that idea you’ve been thinking about. That dream that won’t leave the back of your mind. That vision that you’ve only shared with a few close friends. So, are you going to do it or not?

There will come a point that the dream will either fade away or you’ll take a deep breath and jump. With every idea, dream or vision there will come a gut check moment.  And in that moment you find yourself asking:  am I going to do this or not?

In that moment you write the check, say yes to the new opportunity, resign you’re safe job or complete the registration form. That is a gut check moment. That’s the moment you make the commitment. You’re in. No turning back.The gut check moment shows you how much you believe in your own dream. It’s in that gut-check moment you either jump or walk away.

So are you going to do this thing or not?

The Upside of Leadership Challenges

I don’t like facing leadership challenges. They get in the way. They create distractions.  And to be honest they sometimes wound my sense of leadership confidence.

But I have to confess once they’re over I’m thankful for them.  I’ve discovered I grow the most as a leader when I’m in a position of total dependence on God. When I look to Him for perspective and wisdom He uses the leadership challenge to deepen my insight, sharpen my skills and enrich my understanding of HIs character.

So if you’re facing a challenge today.  Remember this equation. Challenge + Dependence = Growth

What lessons have you learned through your leadership challenges?

My Journey From Fatigued to Fit

When I was 40 years old I woke up one day and realized I had no energy. Ministry was taking a toll on my health. I was overweight, stressed and just plain tired. As I prayed through my physical condition I told God I didn’t want to do a diet. I had been there and done that!  I needed something different…A lifestyle change.

I recently shared my health journey with Greg Orham, founder of Pastorfit You can check it out below.

What is your biggest challenge to getting fit?  Let me know in comments below.

3 Disciplines that Will Make You a Better Teacher

I never want to grow stale as a trainer. After so many years of developing others, it’s tempting to put it on cruise control. That’s why I work to maintain certain disciplines as a trainer. Here are three things I want to do every time I train:

  1. I want to learn something new about the topic before I teach it.
  2. I want to maintain the posture of a learner by seeking to learn something new during the session from the learners.
  3. I want to process through each exercise and question in advance so I can be focused and flexible during the session.

These are three disciplines I believe will make me a better trainer.

What’s one discipline you want to maintain every time you train?

Your BIGGEST Leadership Development Challenge

I read a survey recently that found only 14% of organizations have confidence in their leadership talent pipeline. That’s frightening to think an organization or a church feels that insecure about the development of future talent.  The long-term health and vitality of any organization are dependent on a continual multiplication of new leaders.

This shows the importance of having an effective leadership development strategy. The statistic above breaks my heart because some of my favorite times with my team are times we’re focused on growing their confidence and competence as leaders.  We discuss future talent on a regular basis and everyone is constantly looking for who they can reproduce themselves in next.  And the thing is…it excites them.  They don’t see it as a chore but an exciting challenge.

As you may know, my passion is helping leaders produce more and better leaders. So I’ve been spending my weekends working on some new tools to help you become more effective in developing your leaders. But I need your help.  I’ve provided a survey below that will help me understand your needs better and tailor content to help meet those needs.  You can remain anonymous or there’s an option to let me know a little bit about you as well.

But I need your help.  I’ve provided a survey below that will help me understand your needs better and tailor content to meet those needs.  You can remain anonymous or there’s an option to let me know a little bit about you as well.

I look forward to hearing from you.  I’ll be posting the new tools and content here in the coming weeks.


How You Lead Today Matters Tomorrow

How you lead today will determine your legacy tomorrow. So what legacy do you want to leave through your leadership?

What attitude are you displaying today? What wise decisions are you making today? How are you treating people today? What are you doing to grow your team members strengths and skills today? How are you modeling godly character today?

Whatever your answer is to those questions today will likely determine your leadership legacy tomorrow?

Lead today in the way you want to be remembered tomorrow.