Leadership development is extremely important in churches, but often times it doesn't receive the time, attention, budget and focus that it warrants. There are numerous reasons for that, but I think one of the big reasons is we simply don't know what to do. What are practical ways we can develop the volunteers or staff we lead? If that's you, I hope this list of leadership development ideas I've used int he past with volunteers and staff is helpful.

The list of leadership development ideas, exercises, and tools listed below are ones I have done over the years with volunteers and staff to help them develop them as servants, ministers, and leaders. They're broken down by category .(Hint: Make sure you're meeting regularly with a team of leaders and potential leaders)

Bonus Resource: Development Small Group Guide

One of the best leadership development ideas I've ever used is I led a 6-week small group made up of leaders I specifically chose to be in the group. We used Craig Groeschel's book Chazown as a guide, with the primary goal of helping them discover how God has wired them and how they can best use that. I created a plan from that book and you can get it for free if you would like to use it with your leaders. Just fill out the form below and look for the email.


Read the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and discuss.

Read 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Use the assessment to evaluate your team and employ the ideas from the end of the book (Overcoming each dysfunction) to work on them: http://www.tablegroup.com/dysfunctions/

Read Death by Meeting and restructure your meetings to be more effective.

Read Making Vision Stick, create a simple vision statement that is clear and compelling and create a system to help you cast it, repeat it, celebrate it and embrace it.

Read Tony Morgan's post about Empowerment vs Delegation – how can you empower people on your team?

Read Tony Morgan's ebooks and talk about how to implement those teachings and systems in your context.

Read about the 4 Stages of Leadership on Tony Morgan's blog. What stage are you and your team leading from?

Read this post from the 99% about Creativity, Routines, Systems and Spontaneity and discuss.

Discuss What Every Volunteer Needs resource from Willow Creek – http://www.willowcreek.com/wca_prod.asp?invtid=PR32892


Play the excerpt from one of Patrick Lencioni's interviews on the Catalyst Podcast (click here to download) about volunteers and discuss the relevance to your team.

Listen to the Harvard Business Review Ideacast 8 – Leading Through Conflict. Is there conflict in your organization? How should you address it?

Listen to any Catalyst Podcast, Andy Stanley Podcast, or Craig Groeschel Podcast and discuss as a team.


Watch Systems: Liberating Your Organization as a team and discuss systems in your organization.

  • What behaviors/actions in your organization do you want to go away?
  • What behaviors/actions in your organization do you want to see more of?
  • Systems create behaviors – discuss the systems behind each of them and figure out how to celebrate them or change them.

Watch Trust vs Suspicion and discuss the level of trust in your organization.

  • Is trust built by keeping agreements?
  • What spoken agreements does your team have?
  • What unspoken agreements does your team have?
  • Of those agreements, which ones have been broken, resulting in the eroding of trust?

Watch 5 Big Ideas for Church Leaders and discuss how those ideas relate to your context.

Watch Becoming a Great Staff and talk about what your team can do (staff or volunteer) to become an even better team.

Watch this video called Bookie by Craig Groeschel. It's about taking risks and failing forward. Discuss the risks your team has taken and whether or not failure is okay in the culture you've created.

Watch the Upside of Tension. Talk about tensions (not problems) that exist in your ministry and how you're currently managing them. What needs to change? What are you treating as a problem to be solved when it's really a tension to be managed?


Have everyone on the team take a personality profile and go over the strengths/weaknesses of each profile and discuss it as a group.

Have everyone complete a spiritual gifts inventory and discuss how everyone's gifts are being used or not, and what shifts need to happen to maximize strengths and delegate weaknesses.

What would be your one sentence job description? Discuss.

Clarify the win for each environment and role within the environment.

Teach your team how to delegate – See this post

Draw up the organizational chart for every team and ministry you lead

  • Make note of the empty slots/roles that need to be filled.
  • Draw up what the organizational chart would need to look like if you doubled in size.
  • Use the future chart as a guide to know what you're working toward.

Andy Stanley teaches that 3 keys to an irresistible environment include: Helpful content, Engaging presentation, Appealing context. 

  • Which one are you best at?
  • Worst at?
  • What can you do to make sure all 3 are present in every ministry environment you lead?

Use the Jim Collins Diagnostic Tool to evaluate your team and figure out how you can go from Good to Great .

Discuss these questions about assumptions we make.

  • What are our organizational assumptions as it relates to our ministry, team and “customers”?
  • What decisions are we making off of those assumptions? Assumptions could be that parents need help raising their kids in faith, people like singing to worship God, people won't show up on time, or that most people in our church are reading the Bible for themselves.

Visit another church as a team to learn from them.

What leadership development ideas have you used with your teams?

Comment below

P.S. Don't Forget The Bonus Resource

Just fill out the form above to get the small group guide. It's easily one of the best leadership development ideas on this list.