“The Apostle Paul fostered a developmental culture within his team, across his network, and within each church that he established.”
The Apostle Paul fostered a developmental culture within his team, across his network, and within each church that he established. Several things make this clear. First, he regularly assessed the maturity of the churches he had planted and let them know how he assessed them. Second, he worked tirelessly to train the leaders who would minister within and among these churches. Third, he challenged leaders to both show progress in their own development and to give effort to the training of others.
How do you form such a similar, vibrant training culture if it does not currently exist in your church? At least three elements must be present – vision, example, and flexible structures.
It starts with vision from the senior leader and core leadership team.
Senior leaders must value and envision a developmental culture. As steps are taken to create this culture, they must continue to cast vision, persistently answering the question of why time and energy is being given to training. Beneath this vision must be a fundamental conviction that 2 Timothy 2:2 is a mandate, not an option. Strong churches and sustained movements of church multiplication simply will not happen without training leaders in the context of ministry.
Vision must be reinforced by example.
The church needs to see existing leaders taking their own development seriously. It also needs to see emerging leaders making evident progress as a result of training. And it needs to see a range of its members investing in lifelong learning and experiencing fruit. These examples spur others to imitation.
Flexible structures must be used as tools to aid development.
When Paul invested day and night for 3 years in the training of the Ephesus elders, choices had to have been made regarding times and places for teaching, topics to be covered, and shepherding skills that needed to be modeled. Likewise, today we must create practical training structures which shape leaders while flexing with the realities of ministry. These structures will necessarily be tailored to each situation, but some core elements will hold true in any ministry context. For example:
- Establish a weekly time slot for equipping. What will work? A weekday evening? A Saturday morning? Adjust this as the ministry requires.
- Create mentoring habits. Leaders in training might begin by connecting every other week over breakfast. Then make the time more frequent or less according to need.
- Develop quarterly rhythms to gather and assess the body of work being developed by those who are studying the scriptures together.
- Schedule annual leader retreats to cast vision and reinforce discipline.
Our partners who are working with Antioch School cohorts should recognize that every component of an Antioch School training program fits within these broad structures.
“2 Timothy 2:2 is a mandate, not an option.”
Many things will distract you from fostering a training culture in your church or church network. Congregational expectations may need to be corrected. Ministry needs will demand your time. Developing new leaders will take longer than you planned. Despite this, if you are the leader giving concentrated effort to create a training culture, find courage and resolve in the knowledge that your strategic investment will bear fruit now just as it did in the early church.