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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

10 May '10

Personal Development

One of the key distinctions of people of deep influence is that they have a lifelong passion for personal and professional development. They are deeply intentional about their growth because they are driven by the desire to have influence for God. That desire motivates them to become the best me they can be. They are as intentional in this area of life as in the others we have examined.




As a young leader I thought I knew quite a lot. Today I know how much I don’t know and the number of things I am sure of are fewer – but my convictions on those things stronger.


The main enemy of ongoing development is often laziness, or choosing to settle for what is rather than what could be. When Paul talks about forgetting the past and pressing into the future, running the race as one who wants to win the prize, he is speaking the language of one who is always reaching for a way to accomplish more and is never satisfied with where they are. This is not about being driven but about being intentional for the sake of our personal and ministry influence on behalf of Christ.


Our mentors


All of us need mentors and the wisest of us have multiple mentors since no one person is capable of providing everything we need. Personally I have set of people I consider informal mentors in my life, each of whom speaks from a different but wise perspective and all of whom are people of deep influence to me.


For me, these are people who I deeply respect and trust and who I learn something from each time I am with them. They are relationships based on friendship and it is a two way relationship where iron sharpens iron. In am convinced that the quality of our friendships – and their depth – has a significant influence on who we become so I choose those friendships carefully and nurture them often.


In some cases I have a monthly phone call with another leader whom I respect and know and simply talk through mutual issues that we face. In the give and take of those conversations both of us usually leave with something new to consider. Again, it is informal and based on mutual respect and a desire to sharpen one another.


In our association of churches (the EFCA) we seek to connect leaders and pastors with one another through a list serve. It could be a list serve for pastors who lead churches of one thousand plus, or another affinity group of churches within a certain size limit. We also have a list serve for executive pastors. When one of the members of the list serve has a question or is looking for a solution to a specific problem they will put it out on the list serve and they have dozens of fellow mentors sharing their perspective or experience. Through the group process of affinity, experience is shared, solutions proposed and relationships established. Many times a good idea will simply go viral within the group because of the affinity groups list serve.


There are many ways to connect with people who deal with the kinds of issues you deal with. The key is to be intentional in making those connections.


Mentors can also be people we engage for a specific issue we are facing in our leadership, or they can be ongoing coaches for a period of time to help us through a transition or simply to help us grow in a specific area. I serve as a mentor to a number of people on a monthly or as desired basis. It is mainly about helping people think through options and to ask the right questions.


Even if it means hiring a mentor to help you grow in a specific area, if that mentor has expertise it is well worth the financial investment if it can launch one to the next level of effectiveness. We often underestimate the value of making financial investments in areas that can help us grow in a quantum rather than incremental way. People of deep influence are always thinking leverage and a coach or consultant can provide significant leverage in a short amount of time. The financial investment is small compared to the expertise and help gained.


Discerning areas of specific growth


Leaders usually have an intuitive sense about areas where they need to grow. And each of us have individual needs. Intentional development means that we don’t ignore those areas and have a plan for how we will press into them. All of us should be able to identify a handful of areas where our growth could make a significant difference in our effectiveness. Once we know what they are, we can look for ways that we can grow in one or two of those areas over the next year.


Consider asking your team from time to time what areas of growth they see for you. They know you well and asking them for feedback honors your relationship and models an open and nothing to prove/nothing to lose attitude. By your very vulnerability you will gain the respect of your team. And it gives you added credibility when you suggest to them potential areas of development. In our organization, personal development is the first and a required Key Result Area annually.