Our Plan For Developing Leaders of Leaders in Family Ministry


In a previous post I wrote about the importance of establishing a volunteer leadership pipeline in our ministries. Leadership pipelines provide a clear leadership path and a structure the entire ministry can be built on. As I network and work with other churches I’m encouraged to see so many churches doing this, many for the first time. One of the key roles on the pipeline, whatever you label it, is a volunteer who leads other leaders. Often times this is the highest volunteer role without being on staff. We call them Coaches.

Our Plan to Develop Coach Level Leaders

We’ve had Coaches for a long time in our children’s ministry, but it’s fairly new in our student ministry. Recruiting the right leaders for Coach-level roles is difficult because the expectation is so high. The role might require 3-5 hours/week if done well. Another challenge I know churches have is developing these leaders. We were facing that challenge too and rolled out a new plan that I want to share with you in the hopes that it can help your ministry.

The Challenge

One of the challenges we faced is that most of our Coaches had no leadership training or experience. Some had, but most of them were not used to leading a team of leaders. They had served as Leaders (the level on our pipeline, not the generic term), but most people on that level are leading small groups of kids and students. Some lead teams of adults, but there’s just so much more required to be a Coach.

Another challenge we had is that some of our family ministry staff were not naturally gifted and wired to develop coaches. It was not one of their top 3 passions and we saw the impact of that as the ministry grew. Our Coaches led less and managed more. We needed a system, even if it wasn’t long-term, where we could train and develop coaches in some type of rhythm and hold them accountable for the role they served in.

Coach Trainings

Our first move was to start having Coach Trainings with all Coaches from our children and student ministry teams. I am passionate about developing leaders and I love to create training content, so I led them. We had them about every other month and I simply created the content based on what we felt was needed. However, we knew this wasn’t a sustainable solution.

Coach Meetings

After having a few Coach Trainings we had a good feel for what was needed going forward. We transitioned from having Coach Trainings to Coach Meetings. Three times a year we gather all family ministry Coaches and we primarily focus on these 6 things:

  • Share Wins/Stories – We do this at every staff meeting, volunteer circle up, or team training, so we do it here as well.
  • Provide Shared Accountability – One of the responsibilities every Coach has regardless of their specific role is to meet 1-on-1 with their team members throughout the year. At Coach Meetings they share who they have met with and who they still have to meet with. They track it in our church management system.
  • Listen to Feedback – We want to get feedback regularly from every volunteer on our teams, and the same is true with Coaches. They know more than we do about how well it’s working (or not).
  • Cover Our Values – We created 6 Coach Values and we cover those at each meeting. They help reinforce the culture we want to create among Coaches.
  • Teach / Train – We pick one thing to focus on from a training perspective and we teach on that. Last time we taught the details of our assimilation strategy and where they lead within that.
  • Vision – We re-cast vision because vision leaks, but also because Coaches are vision-casters themselves.

Coach Meetings aren’t everything, of course. There’s the apprenticing of new Coaches and the 1-on-1s they have with their directors, but the Coach Meetings have been a helpful supplement. My favorite part about them is the power of having them in the room together and what comes out of that.

I’m grateful for our Coaches and the significant role they play in our family ministry. We couldn’t do it without them.

How do you develop volunteers who lead other leaders?

How a Volunteer Leadership Pipeline Can Grow Your Team & Church

pipelineEvery ministry leader wants more volunteers, but what if we are a barrier to making that happen? Moses was a barrier to leading the Israelites until his father-in-law offered wise counsel. The disciples neglected their primary responsibilities until they shared leadership, then the church grew and flourished. In both cases the solution was to delegate authority through a specific structure.

There is an important tool to help delegate authority and ensure nobody becomes a barrier to the growth of your volunteer teams and your church.

Volunteer Leadership Pipeline

A leadership pipeline is simply the primary pathway for leadership growth as a volunteer in your church. It is the foundation of how all of your volunteer teams should be structured and organized. A Volunteer Leadership Pipeline might look like:

  • Level 1 – Contributor/Member – This could be someone who is a member of a small group or a contributor on a volunteer team. They do not have the responsibility of leading or caring for a specific group of people.
  • Level 2 – Leader – Someone on this level is specifically responsible for leading a group of people. It could be a small group of 6th grade guys, an adult small group, a band, or a team of volunteer contributors such as a parking team.
  • Level 3 – Coach – A coach leads a specific team of leaders. In many churches this is the highest level of volunteer leadership before becoming staff. Some examples could include an Elementary Small Group Coach, responsible for all the Elementary Small Group Leaders at one service or a Production Coach, responsible for leading band leaders and producing a service.
  • Level 4 – Director – Directors lead coaches and oversee entire ministries or programs. Directors may be staff depending on the size of your church.

Helpful Tips for Implementing a Pipeline

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when implementing a leadership pipeline.

  • This isn’t about value. All gifts and roles are valuable to the church. This is about stewarding the leadership gift well. The lead vocalist in a band may be on Level 1, because while they “lead worship” they may not specifically lead a group of people. But, we can all agree they add huge value to the church. Talk about this when sharing your pipeline.
  • Use it across the entire church. Every ministry org chart will look different and will need unique volunteer roles, but make sure the pipeline is utilized throughout the entire church and every role and org chart lines up with it.
  • Clarify competing terms. For instance, I just mentioned how Worship Leaders may not be on the Leader level of the pipeline. That’s confusing, since the title has “leader” in it. Our pipeline does have the Leader term, so we call our elementary worship leaders Worship Team Members to avoid confusion.
  • Emphasize apprenticeship. You want to constantly have people apprenticing to step up to the next level. Establish an expectation that everyone is apprenticing someone to take their place. This allows for future growth.
  • Create a plan for developing people through each level. Identify the core competencies, skills and experiences needed to succeed at each level and develop a training system to prepare people to move from one level to the next.

Creating a leadership pipeline and placing people in those roles allows your team to grow beyond what you can lead. Everyone has a limited span of care, a number of people they can realistically care for and lead. This recognizes that truth and structures around it. By doing that, we allow our volunteer teams to continue growing while caring for everyone as they do. And, as the volunteer equation suggests, growing your volunteer teams can grow your church.

Mac Lake is an expert on this and I recommend you check out his blog and anything he writes on this subject.

Do you have a Leadership Pipeline? What is it?

A New Thing I’m Doing to Help Churches Reach Their Full Potential

A decade ago when I left the “business world” to jump into full-time vocational ministry I did it for two reasons.

  1. I loved the time I spent volunteering at church more than the time I spent at work.
  2. I believed many churches had tons of unreached potential, and if they could reach it, their impact in carrying out God’s mission would be huge.

I knew I wanted to do everything possible to help churches reach their full potential and the best way to do that would be to devote my full-time energy to it. Most of my energy would go towards working for a local church while the rest would be spent helping other churches and church leaders through coaching, consulting and building networks where everyone could learn from each other.

A New Thing I’m Doing

When I get the opportunity to work with other churches and church leaders we’re usually doing the Coaching Process or a collection of Consulting Modules. In both of those we look at the 30,000 foot level and talk about vision and strategy. However, we rarely get to focus on that enough and some churches struggle to implement the plans we develop during our time together. For a few years I have been looking forward to offering a new service to help churches through a system proven to help churches grow. Enter Church StratOp.

Church StratOp (Stragetic Operations Planning)

so6stepsChurch StratOp is a 3-day guided process developed by Tom Paterson and used by hundreds of consultants to help thousands of churches and businesses by doing the following:

  1. Gives you perspective on all of the strategic, financial and operational parts of your church.
  2. Helps you know where you stand.
  3. Clarifies where you should go.
  4. Gives you a customized plan on how to get there.

StratOp Facilitators use 25 customized tools to guide teams through the 6 phases of the StratOp process: Perspective, Planning, Action, Structure, Management, Renewal

This week I’m in Chicago, IL, being trained and certified in this process. I’m excited to share this with other churches because I know it can help them reach their full potential. 

What potential does your church have that is currently not being reached?

How To Start Equipping and Stop Doing As A Leader

equippingIn one of my first jobs as a high school student I got to experience some bad leadership. I knew it wasn’t good, but I was far too young and ignorant to be able to describe the reasons why. In hindsight it’s easy to see. There were many reasons, actually, but ultimately what it amounted to was the leader was either there doing work or completely absent. It was usually the latter and the person in charge in his absence was never equipped to lead well. When he was there, he was doing the work more than leading and equipping others.

What about in ministry?

You could probably share a similar story about a previous boss. The sad thing is, we often replicate this in our churches. In the Bible, Paul was pretty clear about the purpose of the leaders of the church.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-12

Our job as leaders in the church is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” I don’t think we have a problem being absent like my boss was. We have problem with doing more than equipping.

5 Ways to Start Equipping

Our staff team has been focused on equipping volunteers more in order to free up time for our team to lead. Here are 5 simple ways we have sought to equip more and do less as leaders.

Make Your Stop / Delegate List

You may have heard of Stop Doing list, where you list all the things you should stop doing to free up more time for what’s really important. This is the expanded version. Make 3 lists and put everything you do in one of them. Things only you can do, things others could do, things you should stop doing all together.

Stop Doing Your Stop Doing List

This one’s easy, just stop.

Prepare Your Responsibilities to Delegate

Often times the reason we don’t delegate is because we need to do some work in order to hand it off, so instead we just do it. Maybe it’s documenting a process, sharing some files, or meeting with someone. Go ahead and prepare what is needed for each item on the delegate list so you can hand it off.

Recruit Help

Now it’s time to starting recruiting people to help with the responsibilities you wish to delegate. Hopefully you listed some things you lead, where you can delegate authority over that to someone else. Talk to people you know, “market” the needs you have through various channels, and get others to help you recruit.

Invest in People

Use the time you now have to invest in people. Invest in the people you lead and the people they lead. Invest in new people who aren’t yet connected to the church through a small group or ministry team. Invest in people who aren’t leading at a higher level yet, but have the potential.

What challenges do you face in trying to equip more than do?

The Goal of Leadership is to Align, Focus & Maximize Every Other Gift


osI love the movie Office Space, though I haven’t seen it in about a decade. I probably liked it because I used to work in the IT field and could relate to the humor, though I was fortunate to work for 2 good companies. In the movie the company is analyzed by an outside firm and one particular middle manager is being scrutinized because they realize he actually doesn’t do much. He says his job is to be the intermediary between the client and the engineers who do the work, but it’s obvious he is not a leader and really doesn’t do anything.

A Leadership Problem

The comedy played out in the movie is a picture of real life sometimes. Many managers, bosses, and leaders use their position as a way to avoid work. Sadly, this is even true in some churches. But, the problem I see far more often is not laziness. What I see is the gift of leadership not being utilized well.

In the Bible, leadership is written about as one of many gifts given to followers of Jesus in order to help them BE the church. All of the gifts are needed and together a church can be the best representation of Jesus, far greater than what any of us can represent individually. If I had to summarize the unique goal of leadership and how it works with all the other gifts I would say:

The goal of leadership is to align, focus and maximize every other gift.

Leadership is about coordinating and empowering every other gift in order to realize the vision. As church leaders we often times get caught in the trap of doing ministry more than leading others to do ministry. In doing that it is almost like we take on many of the other gifts, gifts we usually do not have, and seek to use them. By doing that we limit our effectiveness and rob others of the opportunity to use their gifts.

We align to get everybody and their gifts moving in the same direction to achieve one vision.

We provide focus to help them best utilize their giftedness and the things our ministry does best.

We maximize the potential within them so their gifts are fully realized and deployed.

How much of our time is spent on leadership as defined here?