Published: 3 years ago

Why Leadership Development Needs Poetry and Plumbing

This spring I’ve been excited to partner with Lifeway Leadership as they roll out their Leadership Pipeline plan. If you haven’t downloaded their free ebook, go and do that now. Right now. (I’ll wait.)

Later this fall, Lifeway will be hosting their first ever Pipeline Conference, a unique experience that mixes both great training and hands-on leadership coaching. Stick around until the end of the post and I’ll share a top-secret discount code (don’t tell anybody.) Meanwhile, today’s guest post is by Todd Adkins, Lifeway’s Director of Leadership.


Leadership is a mixture of both poetry and plumbing, but unfortunately a lot more is written about the former than the later. The leadership systems and structure of a church are the major pieces of plumbing I am referring to today. For better or worse, they are defining factors in developing a leadership pipeline. Whether the church is small, mega, or multisite, it requires real work. Developing a leadership pipeline is not just reorganizing your org chart and implementing a clear training strategy. You are going to turn over some rocks and deal with whatever is underneath. Let’s look at systems then talk a bit about structure.

Systems are not ungodly. Your systems actually reveal your stewardship and how intentional you are with the people God has placed under your care. Systemization begins with auditing and documenting how you do what you do. Mapping out specific church processes and how they interact and overlap reveals more than you dreamed and maybe more than you feel comfortable exposing. These processes show what you truly value as a church and the gaps between your actual and aspirational values.

Take a look at your processes, forms, training,
 and so forth. In my previous church, I spearheaded the multisite ministry. By the time we launched our third campus, I had learned that if we didn’t have simple systems in place then we were headed for trouble. Nearly every time our pipeline got clogged and we had to take it apart to see what was wrong, the root cause was a systems issue.

Structure determines the working relationship between pastors, staff members, leaders, and volunteers as well as the relationships between peers at each level. Structure provides the foundation on which the systems and standard operating procedures rest. Analyze your church’s ministries. This analysis will determine what type of structure is best for your church. Study the dependency between different ministry areas.

Assess your church’s methods of communication. How your staff members and leaders communicate with
 each other is a key factor in aligning systems and processes. Regardless of how you decide
 to structure your leadership pipeline, alignment must exist across the organization. Some ministries will require more layers of leadership or more volunteers. However the levels, titles, and basic job descriptions should contain a common language.

This will be difficult for many of your people to handle. The upfront investment is time consuming, you are sure to uncover issues that need to be addressed, and the keepers of the status quo will be crying foul. However, if you persevere and walk your team through a full audit and realignment, you will be well on your way to creating a true leadership pipeline and the payoff brings you five key advantages:

1. People identify their next steps.

2. Provides systems clarity for development.

3. Creates pathways for growth and development.

4. Enables diagnosis of where and why your pipeline is clogged.

5. Aligns language and positions across the organization.


It’s me again. You and your team can receive a 15% discount when you enter the code “partners16” on the MyLeadershipPipeline registration page. Tell ’em I sent you!

Looking for more leadership content? Lifeway has released a brand new app that features messages, video, audio, blog posts, and practical tips. Right now you can find six free guest services training videos for your team. Get it on the App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone, or the Amazon Appstore.

And if that doesn’t whet your leadership whistle, here’s the full replay of a recent webinar I did with Lifeway titled “The Role of the Volunteer.” Yes, I know the screen grab looks like I’m in physical pain. No, I do not know how to fix it. No, you shouldn’t point it out. Yes, I’m overly sensitive about it.

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