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I work in a world where the next “event” is always coming. There is always another lesson to prep, a service to plan, an event to brainstorm, and a calendar to create. There’s a frantic pace to what we do in churches.

That’s why over the years I’ve noticed something. As I started this blog back in 2017, I started to ask around about how my peers were developing student leaders. And do you know what I found?

Leadership development was an important part of what these incredible ministers wanted to do, but there were usually three things that held them back, and I think the same three things are true for all of us.

Developing Leaders is Important, but Not Critical.

The truth about leadership is that if I’m a good leader, then I can generally fake it until I make it. A strong leader can plan, execute, adapt, and perform in the moment. So if I’m capable, the temptation is to do everything myself. In fact, I might enjoy most of what I do, so it doesn’t always even feel like work. That means I may agree that developing leaders is important, but I can survive without it.

And so leadership development gets pushed down on the list somewhere between cleaning out the youth ministry closet and washing the church van. It’s something we know needs to be done, but it’s probably only going to happen occasionally.

Developing Leaders is Messy.

I mean, seriously, have you ever dealt with people? Some of them just wear you out. They have a different sense of humor, or a different set of priorities. They don’t prioritize the way you think they should. Some are just downright flaky.

Worse than all of that, sometimes after you invest in developing someone, they leave. All that time poured into them is now wasted because your organization doesn’t get the benefit.

I saw this happen in a previous position. As I helped students grow as leaders, their schedules became more and more packed because other people started to see their potential. As a result, the time I had with them to help them develop and grow was diminished.

Developing Leaders takes Time

Finally, one of the biggest struggles in developing leaders, whether it be students or adults, is the time investment. I can train a group of students in a workshop, but that limited investment doesn’t pay off fully without months and months of real life experience.

The same is true for me, and for you. I’m not the leader I was 10 years ago. I’m not the leader I was 5 years ago. I’m (hopefully) growing. I hope I’m taking steps so that I’m not the same leader I was 1 year ago.

How can I expect anything different from the students (and adults) I lead? Training take time. Developing leaders is more of a low and slow process, not microwave.

So, what’s your greatest struggle when it comes to developing those around you? What holds you back? What steps do you need to take today to move forward?

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