Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

December 2005
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Healthy Leaders Are Built in Community #2

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

In our last Letter we looked at the traditional approach to building Christian leaders: the local church sends its emerging leaders to a specialized, independent, external entity (the “factory”) that takes responsibility for training them and then sending them back.

A Comparison of Three Approaches – Parts 2 & 3

Another approach is when the church has an internal “Leadership Development Department” (LDD) – in effect, a “local factory” – that takes responsibility for training new leaders. This is becoming a very popular approach today with the spread of church-based theological training; in essence, the seminary is brought to the church.

This has some advantages over the “central factory” approach, since the “local factory” will probably be more in touch with the church’s own doctrines, beliefs, values and vision. Moreover, the participant will be able to maintain his existing relationships while he goes through his learning, and he will be considerably more likely to continue his life and ministry as a part of the church when he completes his learning.

However, this approach still has significant downfalls:

A much healthier approach is when leadership building takes place immersively and pervasively throughout the church with the support of a specialist LDD. In this model there should be considerable “cross-linking” between the community and the LDD and no “walls” between them.

The LDD cannot do it properly by itself. It takes a family to build a leader – a large family. Leaders are not formed in isolation but in community. If they are to be healthy, they need the nurture and support as well as the genuine accountability of the community. They need the spiritual mothers and fathers, the role models, the friends and the organic ministry opportunities that only the local church community can provide.

We must move from the “factory” approach to the “family.”

From the Factory to the Family

By moving from a centralized “factory” mentality to a pervasive “family” approach to leadership development in the church, the following can be achieved:

If a church denomination or network were to adopt a church-based learning community approach to leadership development, their seminaries and Bible schools could adopt new roles that would support the local learning communities, functioning in these areas:

If we can effectively do this – if we can move from the factory to the family in our leadership development – we will dramatically increase both the numbers and the quality of the leaders we build.

In our next Letter, we will consider some practical ways in which this can be accomplished.

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