Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work

Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work

Now I want to look at how Jesus developed leaders.

He never held a class, he never put out a sign-up sheet, and there wasn’t even a Starbucks in Galilee. But the eleven men he poured his life into changed the world. So here are my observations on the Jesus Leadership Pipeline:

Jesus spent time observing potential leaders

He spent time interacting with potential leaders in a variety of situations before tapping them for further development.

Jesus handpicked his leaders

No one self-selected into his group. Anyone could follow Jesus, but his inner circle was by invitation only.

Jesus taught leadership along the way

Rather than classrooms, books, and exercises, Jesus used birds and lilies and farms to teach leadership. Leadership development was a natural outgrowth of hanging out together.

Jesus put his students into difficult leadership situations

He constantly challenged them to lead beyond their comfort zones. (“How are you going to feed the crowd?” “Walk on water.” “Go do miracles.”)

Jesus did not give his students a leadership template to follow; he gave them a mission to complete

His final leadership instruction was to “Go make disciples.” He left the how, where, and when completely up to them.

Jesus taught in public; he debriefed in private

He often debriefed his public sermons in private with his students. They learned as much from the Q&A as they did from the original content.

Jesus treated each leader as an individual

He confronted Peter, he loved John, and he challenged Thomas. In his final words on the beach in John 21, he told Peter that everyone has their own, individualized path to leadership.

Jesus never kicked a leader out

He challenged and corrected his students, but he never excommunicated them. Even Judas left on his own.

Jesus spent three years developing 12 men

He apparently couldn’t come up with a mass program of microwave leadership development. Not only did his program take three years with 12 students, but it was 24/7/365.

So if the Son of God poured every waking hour for three years into a class of twelve handpicked leaders to achieved a 92% success rate, it’s little wonder that we struggle developing leaders in six-week training classes.

The good news is that Jesus gave us a clear and simple pattern for leadership development. The challenging news is that there are no shortcuts.  

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Geoff has served on the leadership teams at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church, and as Managing Director of Exponential. He is the author of several books, including Together: A Guide for Couples in Ministry written with his wife Sherry. Along with writing, Geoff coaches churches and leaders around the U.S. and in Europe. Geoff lives in Denver, Colorado. Twitter: @geoffsurratt