How to Develop Servant Leaders

Servant Leaders

Have you ever tried to change something in your church, only to be met with skepticism? Or with responses like these?

We’ve tried that before!

What makes you think that this will work better than the last idea?

Why can’t we just do things the way we’ve always done them?

Believe it or not, situations like these shape us more than we know. Resistance after resistance, shut down after shut down—they just stock pile on top of each other until we wake up one morning being the one that is now resisting change.


Change is difficult to implement in our churches because the immune system of our church body knows when we try to transplant foreign ideas. And not only does it detect the new idea, it sees it as bad bacteria, a virus or foreign material—thus resulting in its rejection.

But as a leader, you know that change is not only inevitable, it’s necessary to reach a new generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although the Gospel is timeless, methods aren’t. After all, when’s the last time you saw teenagers or young adults in your church using a pay phone or hand writing a letter?

If you want to raise up the next generation of servant leaders in your church, you can’t just do what you’ve always done. Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean that it will continue to work. The rate of change in our culture has sped up to the point where we are now measuring cultural shifts not by the century or decade, and not even by the year anymore. But now by the month, the weeks and in some cases, minutes.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed or suffering from a paralysis of analysis, I want to suggest three shifts that will change the trajectory of your church so that you can raise up a new generation of servant leaders, or harvest workers as Jesus mentions in Matthew 9:35-38.

Servant Leaders Shift #1: From Destination to Direction

Are leaders developed (or produced) when they arrive at a destination? When they complete a class? When they receive a certification? Or, are leaders developed (or formed) over time when their trajectory is set in the right direction?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your church has a distinct posture on this. For example, your bulletin, announcements, programs, studies, sermon illustrations and events are either influencing your church to be destination focused or direction focused.

When’s the last time you assessed your posture on this? And your church’s posture on this? In my book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your MinistryI unpack this shift and the following ones with stories, principles, assessments and audits.

Servant Leaders Shift #2: From Output to Input

What are the qualities or attributes of a leader, or of a mature disciple? With the pace of life and ministry, it’s so easy to focus on the results, or the outputs of our efforts in discipleship and development, that we often forget what inputs led to the outputs we so desired.

Leaders aren’t born. They’re nurtured and developed. So take time to assess whether or not the things you’re doing to shape leaders (the inputs) are actually producing the type of leaders (the outputs) that God would be pleased with.

Servant Leaders Shift #3: From Sage to Guide

We teach the way that we’ve been taught, we lead the way that we’ve been led, we parent the way that we’ve been parented, and we disciple the way that we’ve been discipled (if we were even discipled)—unless we make a conscious effort to change. As a result, the methods we are using to develop leaders are often unengaging and ineffective for the times that we are now living in.

Thus, in order to engage the next generation, we must move from being the sage on the stage to being a guide on the side. One way that we can do this is by adopting new ways to train, like flipping the classroom. Just imagine if every one of your leaders was not only trained immediately, but also in an ongoing and personalized way in the areas they needed the most help in? Either in a specific skill or in a broader leadership competency? I want to encourage you to check out a tool like, which was designed to do just that.


Thank God that he cares more about the long-term health of your church than you or I ever could.

Remember, the church is His bride, not yours. So may we be good and faithful stewards by raising up a new generation of servant leaders.

This article originally appeared here.