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Creating a Climate That Develops Leaders

Some people claim they can predict a weather change by their body aches.There is no doubt climate and environmental conditions affect us physically and emotionally.

Organizations have climate and environment that directly influence the ability to build people and develop leaders. Applied to churches, we can say a healthy climate or environment provides nurture and empowers our activities, programming, strategic planning, and vision. The result is healthy people and quality leaders.

Here's a checklist of five key components for evaluating your church's climate.

Clearly Define the Objectives

Christians and Christian leaders grow best in a climate of clear objectives. Outline clear objectives for each activity. This will provide a sense of direction, optimism, progress, anticipation and motivation.

Without objectives, activities lead to frustration, burnout and confusion. People never learn to be intentional and focused in life and ministry as Christ was. The uncertain church schedules more activities and is likely to develop fewer leaders.

Establish clearly defined objectives and you will find that direction, intentionality, and purpose lead to effective ministry.

Develop Gift-Focused Ministry

Believers develop best in a climate of gift-focused ministry. Help people discover, develop and use their God-given gifts in appropriate ministries.

The practice of seeking willing volunteers rather than competent servants, is a mistake. Jesus didn't ask for volunteers to be apostles. He appointed them based upon their heart, their gifts and His mission. (See Effective Church Leadership, Kennon Callahan, San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1990, pp. 165-167 for fuller development of this point).

People serving in their area of giftedness tend to be more fulfilled, contented and effective in life and ministry. Helping people discover, develop and use their gifts in ministry has the greatest positive influence on both the person and the church. Quality and effectiveness of ministry increase.

Using assessments, discernment of leadership, experimentation, and confirmation of others, you can create a climate where people discover and develop their gifts.

Entrust People With Significant Ministry

Entrusting people with vital ministry, central to the church's success and mission, creates a climate of high motivation and morale. People challenged by a task or cause bigger than themselves tend to rise to the challenge. They feel like owners, having responsibility and influence in the organizational mission.

This climate nurtures people willing to sacrifice for the good of the group. They desire to learn and grow. They work to increase their effectiveness and thus the effectiveness of the group.

Author Jim Belasco tells the story of Dr. Cooley, a famous surgeon. One day, he followed Cooley on rounds and, en route to the operating room, saw the surgeon stop to talk to a man mopping the hallway. The surgeon and janitor conversed for nearly 10 minutes before Cooley dashed into the operating room.

Curiosity raised, Belasco commented, "That was a long conversation." Then he asked, "What do you do in the hospital?" The janitor replied, "We save lives." [James A. Belasco, Teaching the Elephant to Dance: Empowering Change in Your Organization (New York: Crown, 1990). Stated in George Manning, Kent Curtis, Steve McMillen, Building Community: The Human Side of Work; Cincinnati, OH: Thomson Executive Press, 1996, p. 79).

To this man, mopping was a significant task. He was part of the life-saving team.

Often based on his gifts and resources, each person has a different sense of what is significant to the organization. Creating a climate for building people means linking each person with a task he perceives as significant to the group's success. Each person discovers he is valued for who he is and willingly gives what he has to advance the group's mission.

Give People Authority and Autonomy in Ministry

People tend to grow and increase in ministry and leadership competency in proportion to their authority. When authority is limited, ministry and leadership competency will be stunted. Kennon Callahan says, "In any organization, the higher the delegation of authority, the higher the level of competencies and the more leaders the organization helps to nurture forward."

Highly competent people must be given a higher degree of authority in the church or they will go where they feel valued and can contribute. A church can actually increase its leadership pool by giving people authority and autonomy in ministry.

Callahan continues, "People tend not to continue participating in organizations that stifle their own growth and development." Leaders often fear what could happen if someone abuses authority. Consequently, they tend to delegate more responsibility than authority.

We must understand, leaders always risk being hurt whether they give authority or not. In granting authority along with responsibility, they cultivate an empowering climate in which people are more likely to serve actively and handle authority responsibly.

When we give them authority we tell people we trust them. Trust forms the basis for better relationships, greater openness, and increased people development. Taking the initiative and risk to trust another person despite uncertain consequences deepens the relationship and helps to build the organization.

Arnold Tannenbaum of the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research studied a variety of organizations. He observed, "the more people believe that they can influence and control the organization, the greater organizational effectiveness and member satisfaction will be." [Tannenbaum, A. Control in Organizations. (New York: McGraw-Hill), 1968 stated in James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers), 1987, p 163].

Leaders who delegate, reward talent, and build powerful people, become more powerful leaders.

Give Visibility and Recognition

When leaders recognize a person's contribution, the entire organization sees what is valued and learns from others. Through recognition, people gain the strength and courage to carry on in stressful and difficult times. They withstand hardship if they have experienced the joy and fulfillment of being recognized for past accomplishments.

When people serve without recognition, they tend to lose motivation, feel taken advantage of and are more likely to quit. Recognition communicates progress. It challenges and motivates people to achieve even greater things. It reinforces positive attitudes. In this climate, people come alive and interest grows in others who want to become part of the team.

What is your church's climate? Is it conducive to building people and developing leaders? Most churches can do better. Determine that you will create a climate that grows believers into effective disciples and leaders.


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