Developing a Leadership Culture in the Church - Lesson 1

Intentional Leadership Development Strategy

Four commitments that are essential to creating a culture of leadership are commitment to sharing, developing people, growth and making leadership a priority.

Mark Olmos
Developing a Leadership Culture in the Church
Lesson 1
Watching Now
Intentional Leadership Development Strategy

I. Why leadership development

A. More excellence

B. Less burnout

C. Greater capacity in ministry

D. Excitement around the vision of the church

II. Commitments to leadership

A. Sharing ministry

B. Developing people

C. Commitment to a leadership culture

D. Commitment to growth

III. Developing leadership

A. Leadership in your core values

B. Structure for leadership

C. Potential leaders

D. Training and supervising

E. Provide advanced training

F. Watch the leadership pools

G. Recruit, train and deploy lay pastors

H. You hire the called and strongly gifted ones


  • Four commitments that are essential to creating a culture of leadership are commitment to sharing, developing people, growth and making leadership a priority.
  • Common questions raised regarding leadership in the church often focus on the areas of qualifications, the role of communication, evolving structure and core values.
  • The process of developing lay pastors follows the pattern of identifying elders that are shepherding people, training them, commissioning them when they are ready, leaving them in the areas you found them and deploying them with clear orders.

Mark Olmos shares how to create a structure and church-wide mindset that pinpoints where leaders are needed, identifies who the potential leaders are, and provides that the training they need to serve effectively.

Today we are going to be talking about intentional leadership development strategy in your church, your ministry.

One of the things that I have noticed in the years of ministry that I have been a part of is that in whatever setting you are in, whether it is youth or missions or church, it is absolutely critical to be developing leadership, just to fill the organization of the church and to broaden your impact.

Today we are going to talk about some of the leadership development strategy that we use here at Palm Valley Church and some of the things that we have learned along the way.

I. Why leadership development.

A. More excellence.

The first question to ask ourselves is, Why? Why should we get into this whole leadership development thing? When you fill the church with teams that are led by qualified leaders, first of all you get more excellence. There are more trained eyes. There are more gifted hands. There are highly motivated teams that are committed to the vision of your church and so the excellence of the ministry you do just goes up.

B. Less burnout.

The second thing you will find is that you will get less burnout. Often in a church or a ministry, there is that small group of people or that one person that just makes the ministry go. They do everything. Season after season in ministry, they just get worn down. But when you have multiplied teams and more leaders, your burnout goes down.

C. Greater capacity in ministry.

You will also find that you get a greater capacity in your ministry because of greater involvement. As leaders emerge and you begin to hand off ministry, one of the things that you can do is release your staff to spend time on what you might call the growth tip of your church, those areas that are increasing in impact. Often we have these great ideas of things we would like to do in the community or in the world, but we never get to them because we are so busy with the day-to-day. But the more leaders that you produce, then the greater capacity you have because of greater involvement.

D. Excitement around the vision of the church.

The last thing that happens is there is an intangible excitement around the vision of the church. When you think about it, who is the most excited person on a Sunday morning? It is the pastor. He has prayed about his message. He has been thinking about the church. He has been praying for people. He has been spending time immersed in the Word. He is coming, he is ready to deliver this sermon, so he is filled with vision for the church. Imagine having 50 other leaders that are just as envisioned, just as excited, showing up on the campus. I guarantee you when that happens, there is this intangible excitement that people feel, being a part of this church because there is a sense of expectation that God is going to show up, that He is going to do something really special.

The bottom line is, you will be greater and more effective in building God’s Kingdom when you develop more and more leaders in your midst.

II. Commitments to leadership.

If you are going to become intentional about leadership, there are four commitments you need to make.

A. Sharing ministry.

The first commitment is this: You need to have commitment to sharing ministry. One of the biggest bottlenecks to growth in a church or ministry is when you have one leader who has kind of white knuckles, holding onto the reins of ministry in one area. It all goes through them and they are going to control everything. Sometimes this is a senior pastor. He has all the reins of ministry and he just won’t let go. If you are going to develop leaders, you have to make the commitment to open those hands and to hand those reins out and to share. Share ministry.

B. Developing people.

The next commitment you have to make is to developing people. That is a Biblical mandate. In Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11, it says, “And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” What was the purpose of the pastor? It was to equip the body so that we could grow into the image of Christ. Our Biblical mandate is to develop the people in our midst. We have to be committed to that.

C. Commitment to a leadership culture.

The third commitment is the commitment to a leadership culture. What you are going to find about leadership is, it cannot be a program. You can’t just say, We’re going to have a leadership program and we are going to be a leadership church because of that. It has to be a part of your culture. You have to develop it and let it sink deeply into how people think about the church and the staff.

D. Commitment to growth.

Finally, you need a commitment to growth. Developing leadership broadens your ability to care for growing numbers of people. Most churches want to grow; but when you reach a certain level, if you don’t restructure with a growing team of leaders, you simply won’t be able to care for the fruit that God is bringing your way.

Other factors are involved in growing a church as well, but developing an intentional leadership structure will help you sustain that growth and help your church to reach its full Kingdom potential. You have to be committed to growth if you want to do this, as well. Those are your four commitments.

III. Developing leadership.

What are some of the steps that we use in developing leadership culture here at Palm Valley and what can you learn to do for yourself?

A. Leadership in your core values.

Put leadership into the core values of your church. We include leadership as a Biblical value in the way that we think about doing ministry here. In Romans chapter 8 Paul is talking about spiritual gifts and he says, “If it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently.” So leadership is a gift given by the Holy Spirit of God for churches. Jesus modeled it with his disciples as well, developing the leadership structure with the three and the 12 and the 70, sending them out two-by-two. Paul demonstrated leadership by appointing the elders to take care of the churches and giving instructions for qualifying those leaders. So we see it in scripture.

Again, it is not a program, but it is a way of thinking and so you have to include it in part of the goal and the vision and the mission of your church.

B. Structure for leadership.

The second thing you need to do is to structure for leadership. This is one of the most important things and one of the places where a lot of ministries or churches kind of fall short. In our church we require team ministry. We require it. Do you remember in scripture when Moses was presiding over the people in the Book of Exodus, from morning to night? He was bringing his wisdom to all of the problems the people were going through. Moses’ father-in-law comes up to him and in Exodus 18:17 he says this: “Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing you are doing is not good.’” It is not good. Moses was a wise leader and he was God’s man, but it was wrong for him to sit from morn to night trying to take care of the needs of all of the people. So he talks Moses through and instructs him on how to create a leadership structure to involve others.

We also see structure in the New Testament in the Book of Acts, in Acts 6. There are some needs that are being unmet in the church, so they come together to solve the problem and they end up developing what we call ministry coordinator positions, or deacons, and giving them qualifications that enabled them to meet the needs of the church and allow the spiritual leaders of the church to continue to pray and to preach the Word. So there is definitely structure in the Bible.

We use a system called ?_____(07:44.0). _____is not a new thing. _____ was actually taught by a man named Winky Pratney?_____(07:50.5) He is an international evangelist. Loren Cunningham____? (07:52.5) from Youth With A Mission also has taken that, and Wayne Carduro____?(7:58.9) in Hawaii with New Hope Christian Fellowship took that into his church, which is about 12,000 people and used it as a structure to develop leadership there, and he has done an excellent job.

Let me explain what ______? are and how we use them in our church. A very simple idea, but it is very profound. It will have a profound impact in your church. As a matter of fact, I suggest that you as an exercise later, do exactly what I am about to do. This is how it works.

First of all, we tell people, “Whatever ministry you are in, just draw a circle. Everything within this circle represents what you do in ministry.” For instance, we will take “discipleship to Palm Valley.” This is our discipleship ministry. Everything involving discipleship happens in here. Then you put your ministry name up here. I am going to put “discipleship” just as an example. Then down here I say, Write out the purpose of that ministry. What is the purpose? Be sure, for any ministry in your church, that this purpose fits the mission and vision of your church. I’m going to put “purpose” here because it is too long to write our purpose.

We want to lead people to be fully devoted followers of Christ. That is the mission of our church, to be fully devoted followers of Christ, that is our ministry. When a person says Yes to Jesus, our ministry takes over and we help them become fully devoted. So you have the name of your ministry, you have the purpose. Then what we tell all of our leaders, we say, “Now we want you to divide your ministry into four parts.” If you were to have four departments in your ministry, what would they be?

Let me answer a quick question right now. Why four? Why not three or why not five? In some ministries, it might be three, some might be five. But we tell people, use four as much as possible as part of the initial exercise, use four as the model.

So for discipleship, we might have what we call “first step.” So first step is like our new believer ministry, our membership class, baptism. When a person says Yes to Jesus, they take their first step. Then our second one might be our small group ministry. We know that the ongoing discipleship of our people is going to happen in vibrant communities that study the Word weekly together, so we do small groups.

Then we have advanced classes. We call our advanced classes, “Equipping You.” This is where we will actually add classes on “How to Study the Bible,” “How to Share Your Faith,” “Apologetics,” “Theology,” “ Leadership,” other classes like that as well.

So we have advanced classes and then we will have “Leadership Development.” Under here we will have our “Lay Pastor Program,” our “Internship Program” and other ways that we build leadership.

We have four different areas. The next step, once you have divided the areas, is to put a line and ask yourself the question, “What kind of gifts would a person need to lead this ministry?” Or this ministry, this ministry. Sometimes when you are breaking these up, it might be a little bit more administrative. It may be a little bit more entrepreneurial. Sometimes there is just training, or it may need a lot of teaching. Whatever it is, you find the gift mix that you would need for each of these and then you put a name. For us, I will put names here with the guys that we have.

When I took over our department I said, “I want each of you to take your area and I want you to do the same thing, to make a ____? of it.” They make a _____? so that he has curriculum, he has training, he has connecting, advanced training, things like that. Every ministry then does the same thing.

This has all kinds of advantages when you begin to structure like this. The very first thing that this does is, it creates what we call a leadership vacuum. A lot of times people will walk into a church and if they see things running really well, they say, They don’t need me here. Everything is running so smoothly, they really don’t need me. But when you have a _____? structure, there is always a need for new leaders. People are constantly looking for people that will step up and take charge of sign-ups or take charge of training or take charge of different departments in ministry. It also forces you to do church as a team. There is no Lone Ranger out there just trying to do it on his own.

It seems simple. But as soon as we did this in our church, you could feel a change. All of a sudden, teams started forming. This also allows you to identify leaders. Once in a while you will hit a leader that is really, really good, very gifted. Then you say, You know what? We can actually promote him to leadership over the whole area and then free up this leader to do something else. It allows vertical development of leaders.

It also allows horizontal development of leaders. You may have a person who says, “I’m an administrative assistant, say with the youth, but my passion is kindergarteners” or “children’s ministry.” So you take that administrative assistant and you move them horizontally to an area of passion. It creates a structure that really allows a leadership community to grow and to find the right places for themselves.

The other thing we do with _____? Is because people are in teams, it also produces kind of a system of care. We make sure that in our _____? we tell them, “Be sure that you care for one another, you hold each other accountable for ministry. And that you carry the DNA of the church.” So the _____? System is really important.

We have about 4200 people now at our church, so we have a lot of people involved in ministry. When we do ministry review at our church, we start with _____? I’m sat down by the executive pastor and he says, “Draw your ____? for me. Tell me how it is going. Tell me where you need leaders and where the holes are.” So the ____? Structure is really, really a good tool. I would encourage you to spend some time toying around with it. One of the things that we do with all of our leaders when they first start out, we give them a ____? sheet and say, “Draw your _____?” When somebody starts a new ministry, we give them a ____? sheet, we say, “Show us what it is going to look like, what the team is going to look like.” So they all come together with this structure.

There may be other structures out there, but we have found this to be very effective for us.

C. Potential leaders.

Identify them early, especially in your core classes and in your assimilation classes. We have a membership class and when people come into our membership class, we are sure that we have them introduce themselves and tell us what they do. So we kind of keep an eye out for really good leaders. We have people who are coaches. We have people who are CEOs, military officers, teachers. We also find out their church background because often we will find people who are former elders in churches, former small group leaders, former missionaries, even former pastors.

So when you are looking for potential leaders, the key is to find them early. As soon as they come into your church and you are getting to know them, just kind of look for the people who have led before and make notes as they get established in your church. Don’t mobilize them right away, give them time to get established in your church. Sometimes they are even coming in burned out, so give them a chance just to be loved and become a part of your community.

Also, one last thing on potential leaders. Provide a place for emerging leaders in your youth group. Some people see the youth as just youth, they just mess around on the computer all day. You know what? Some of the best leaders in churches come out of youth groups. So try to provide positions on your worship team, on the various teaching teams with children for young adults and teenagers because they become great leaders as well.

D. Training and supervising.

That takes us to #4. You have identified them. Now you need to train them and supervise them. I want to encourage you, never underestimate what people are willing to do if you equip them. Some people say, “But I just can’t get volunteers to do this.” Sometimes people won’t volunteer because they are not quite sure that they have enough skill or experience to do something. But if they know you are committed to training them and equipping them for ministry, a lot of people will step up and do those kinds of things.

First of all, encourage good training for all ministry positions, not just duties, but teach them how to think like a leader and carry out the vision of your church. Have all of your departments have really good training for volunteers that are stepping in and for leaders that take over.

Establish a balance between care ministry and accountability. We tell all of our leaders to be sure that there is prayer, there is care and there is empowering and there is equipping. Because one of the things that you want when people step into ministries is for them to experience a sense of community with their teams, and not just duty-driven types of things. We want them to be loved, part of a family, doing spirit-empowered ministry. So you train them well and supervise them.

One of the other things that we have found effective, especially in small groups is the apprenticing mindset. We won’t let a small group start unless there is also an apprentice in the group. So we build our groups with the expectation that a leader is going to be trained in that group as well.

E. Provide advanced training.

The leadership gift is one of those things that can be equipped and sharpened over time. A lot of times we really don’t provide that kind of training. We just kind of do the task that we do every week. One of the things that we have done for equipping are advanced classes as we provide leadership classes, leadership training.

The lead pastor, myself and some of the gifted leaders of the church have put together curriculum where we teach basic leadership principles like vision casting, team building, communication, planning, apprenticing, leadership habits, those kinds of things. We call it leadership 101. Next semester we are launching a class called leadership 201 which takes it a step further. We are teaching how to manage with excellence, how to do conflict resolution, how to design new ministries, how to lead change, how to develop Christ-centered culture in your ministry, how to lead leaders.

So we have basic leadership and then intermediate leadership as well. We provide this for people and they eat it up because they do want to lead well, but often they are not given the skills and the tools. We enjoy doing that for them.

One of the advanced leadership classes that we offer is also an advanced theology class. Some years ago I was training some young elders and I remember asking them a question, I said, “What do you guys think? We are going to be doing some more training Wednesday nights at my house. Do you want to do a Bill Hybels book? Do you want to do a Chuck Swindoll book? Do you guys have any preferences?” Almost like out of a spirit of fun I said, “Or do you guys want to learn theology?:” I was shocked. As soon as I said “theology” they said, “Teach us theology.” The truth is, for the last 10 years I’ve been teaching theology every single year because leaders love to learn what they believe and how to answer every question. So we take Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.” We choose 36 chapters out of that, it is a nine-month course. We have a 90-minute lesson that is interactive. We give them theological memory cards so they can memorize definitions and scriptures. We try to make it as close to a Bible College level class as we can. They love it. The leaders absolutely love it. Our goal is to teach them how to think Biblically and to base all of their beliefs on the Word of God. We encourage all of our leaders at some point to take the class. We are currently running the class on Monday nights. We have 22 people that are going through it. We are really excited about that.

Also, as senior pastor, this is the kind of thing that you can do, or one of your upper leaders in your church. It sharpens your preaching, to have to go through theology every year. It Is really, really an excellent thing to do. Provide advanced training for your leaders.

F. Watch the leadership pools.

Gifted leaders will emerge in small groups, in mentoring groups, in the ministry coordinators and men’s ministry, etc. These will become really natural pools for leaders to be developed. Sometimes you will see a leadership gift really standing out. When you watch leadership pools, this is kind of assuming that you have a good communication system. We sit at the table every week with our lead team and we talk about our leadership needs. We will say, “I need a leader for a prayer ministry” or “we have a leader leaving, anybody know a leader for this?” So we communicate well so that everybody knows where the growth tip and the needs are in our church.

We evaluate ministries regularly, to make sure the teams are full and operating really well. When a vacancy occurs, then we get together as the leadership and staff to see if we have somebody to fill that. Watch those leadership pools because from time to time you will see an emerging leader really kind of stand out. When they do, let me encourage you, get together with them. Sit with them over a cup of coffee and look them in the eye and tell them, “You know what? I can see God working in you in a really powerful way. We can see your leadership developing. We would like to ask you to step up in your leadership and to get involved in this ministry, or this ministry. Would you pray about it with your wife and let us know what you think?”

So watch the leadership pool.

G. Recruit, train and deploy lay pastors.

This is a little bit different. There are several reasons again, that a church will grow. But when you structure well for leadership development, it will give you that infrastructure to sustain growth and expand your mission field. As you grow you are going to have a greater need for the pastoral mantle in your church. They will shoulder the care, the counseling, prayer, funerals, marriages. They will monitor the doctrinal radar and carry the DNA of the lead pastor into the congregation.

The goal is that each person in your church, no matter how large, is never very far from a pastoral leader. So watch for them. From out of this culture of leadership, you are getting to recognize that there are certain leaders that just shepherd others well in their walk with Christ. Develop a solid lay pastor program that fits the DNA of your church. We will talk about that a little bit later.

Then deploy them. Senior pastors, this is where you have to do this. Let go of the ministry and let go of the need to pray for every person, to visit the hospital yourself, to do every funeral, every marriage. Let go of that responsibility and hand it over to people that you give the mantle of pastor in your church. It will free you up.

So recruit, train and deploy your lay pastors.

H. You hire the called and strongly gifted ones.

I believe that most churches would love to hire internally. They would. Being intentional about leadership development allows you to build very vision driven, a very core value filled pool of leaders to choose from. As you know, when you hire it is so important that there needs to be calling for ministry. You have to know that this person not only is good at what they do, because often you are calling them away from a secular job that they used to support their family. So you be sure there is a calling for ministry, that you can see God’s hand on what they are doing.

Then when they do step up and you hire them, reward them well. I am a very big fan of taking care of the people that God brings your way and really providing for resources for the family, providing all the training they need and the resources so that they can succeed in ministry.

One of the things we are working on now in our church as kind of the outer edge of development, is an internship program. We have a person finishing Bible college who said, “I want to do an internship at your church.” We got the paper from the university and we started developing standards and we said “You know what? Let’s do this for our entire church. Let’s develop an internship program so that we can actually invite people globally who want to come from around the nation or around the world to learn to be a pastor, church planter, youth worker, worship person.” Because our commitment is to continue to develop leaders.

Let me encourage you again. As you do more and more ministry, you begin to expand, you are going to need more leaders. Start with values, structure for leadership, add training and then grow with the church.

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