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How do we incorporate a developmental bias in our leadership?

YWAM is a grassroots ministry where there are few formulas and no policy manuals. Everything is really based on understanding the values.  So, when you pioneer a new work, you can go and look at what others are doing, find out what they have learned then design a ministry based upon the good practices and policies that you hear about.  However, the general rule has been ‘pray, and do what the Lord tells you!’

A year after getting married in Canada, Rite and I joined DTS staff in YWAM Scotland, staying on afterwards to do whatever opened up.  The vision that caught our hearts was to travel around the nation with a mobile team using our gifts in children and youth ministry, music, drama and teaching. No one was functioning in this kind of ministry so we did the best we could without any mentoring or training.

A couple of years later, the leader of the ministry in Scotland decided to leave the mission and suggested we take over the YWAM national role. Lynn Green, who oversaw the UK at the time, flew up from London, prayed for us and there we were – national leaders.  I didn’t know any other national leaders at that point, and none of them obviously were living close by, so we did the best we could on our own without any orientation, training or even one meeting to give us an idea of what the job entailed! Three months later with staff numbers doubling and no more beds free in the base, we needed room for 15 people somewhere.  By divine connection, I met a businessman who had properties he was willing to rent to us at a very good price; two teams of staff moved straight into Paisley, the nearby city. There were so many opportunities everywhere yet I felt way out of my depth, not really knowing what my priorities should be.  I needed some help!

Mentoring and developing leaders just wasn’t in the vocabulary or job description of the first generation of YWAMers – in fact, job descriptions didn’t exist at all. And because of this, Rite and I weren’t expecting training or input, or even looking for it.  We recognised the need for DTS and SOE, but once you were on staff you had to find your own way.  If a teacher came through, you would glean some teaching and apply it to your life but there was very little hands-on training, apprenticeship, development and mentoring. It was either sink or swim and fortunately we learned to swim. 

Times have changed now and leaders recognise so much more the need for leadership training, internships, mentoring, coaching, debriefing and spiritual direction. I would say to all leaders out there: If you are not spending time developing others you are missing part of your calling.  Jesus came into the world with a clear vision of preaching the new covenant, but he also had a clear assignment to disciple a community of men and women and did so with healthy amounts of time and energy.  He met with them as a group, as individuals, travelling in ministry, eating in homes, and it was pretty much 24/7. Jesus gave us the model and we are to follow in his footsteps.  Right?

Development by multiplication: We had only been in the national leadership for a short time before Loren travelled through. We met as a leadership group where he asked us to introduce ourselves by sharing our name, our ministry and then we were to say, ‘times ten’.  So we obediently followed his instruction. Once we had all shared, he explained that each of us was to have a vision of a tenfold multiplication of ourselves in ministry. I have never forgotten that principle of multiplication and made it my goal ever since to create models of ministry that can be multiplied. If you have a ministry and your desire is for multiplication, then analyse what you have done. Write down your structure, the resources you used, the values, processes, principles and turn them into a curriculum to run a course.  If you have the model in written form others can more easily replicate it.

Development of individual people: People want to be developed. They yearn to see a career path where they are going to learn and have leadership experience. If there is any sense of a glass ceiling in the team, base or campus, they won’t stay long if they do have any sense of ambition or vision. My son was in a job for five years where his boss didn’t give enough development for his management role and he was getting bored. So, he got a different job where his new boss is open for innovative ideas and ready to open up doors for my son to develop.

When I became a national leader, I remember asking the Lord about my priorities. I was surprised at the time at what I felt the Lord say to me, but later it made total sense.  ‘Take a day each month for every team leader you have. Invest your time for relationship, strategy and their personal and ministry development.’  That took quite a chunk of my month but it was well worth it to see those leaders grow and mature.

Developing ourselves: I don’t believe we are meant to stay in the same positions of leadership for more than a decade because we can become too comfortable and be the cork in the bottle hindering growth and development of younger leaders.  The Holy Spirit wants to nudge us out of our comfort zones and encourage us to keep developing ourselves, to keep those learner plates on, so we don’t grow stale and out of touch.  As we seek to move on we can train others up, delegating responsibility and authority to them so they grow too. 

For me it has become a value that in everything I do, I seek to add a developmental bias. Whether it’s a leadership team meeting, a staff meeting, training someone for a new role, delegating responsibility, having a career interview to see clear opportunities for someone – life is one of development. We are called to become the best version of ourselves – enhance our gifts and understanding, develop our skills, grow in our humility and empathy to be the best developers of people we can be.

What are some practical ways of establishing a developmental bias in our leadership?

1.     If you are more of a task-oriented leader where the vision is your focus and you are motivated by targets and goals, then there is a new motivation that you need to learn. Jesus said that he ‘came to serve and not be served.’  Having a servant’s heart is foundational in leadership; it’s important to pray for a love for your people and a desire to see them grow into their full potential. Sometimes we can serve someone the best way by seeing opportunities outside of our team where their maximum growth is possible.

2.     Recruit leaders not staff (generally leaders arrive with potential only).  We need a mentality of seeing who our staff can become.  The Angel of the Lord saw Gideon as ‘a warrior’, Jesus saw Peter as a rock, and Barnabas saw Saul as an apostle. Let’s see our staff as leaders in the making.

3.     Develop vision for your team to grow and diversify.  Right from the start, train up those on your team to take on responsibility for the present ministry while you explore new opportunities. Responsibility brings ownership, helping them develop with leadership gifts.

4.     Spend your time each week with team members to promote the development of who they are and the gifts and skills they need to develop in order to become future leaders.

5.     Give opportunities to your team members to be stretched.  For example, when I was staffing a DTS with Barry Austin, he challenged me to teach in one session. That challenge started me on the road of speaking. He took me with him to a weekend in Ireland where I had the opportunity of sharing my testimony and praying with people alongside him. We can open doors for emerging leaders to be launched.

6.     Be a lifelong learner yourself continually read and learn principles which add to your knowledge and enhance what you can pass on to others. Think through what you do and how you do it so that you can pass on your knowledge and skills with a step-by-step approach. We often don’t analyse what we do well, especially if it’s one of our main gifts. We can just intuitively know what to do. This unfortunately doesn’t help anyone learn from us.

7.     Make a commitment to spend regular time and energy with those open to learn from you.  Sometimes we are barely a half a step ahead of those we are leading yet your servant heart will communicate to your mentorees and they will benefit.

8.     Remember that if you have someone who is able to do 60 to 70% of what your tasks as well as you can, then it’s time to delegate. And remember that delegation doesn’t mean abdication – there is still opportunity of feedback and input.

May you take on this challenge of having a developmental bias in your leadership. You will reap the blessing of seeing much fruit from your labours.


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