Leaders Don't Just Appear

by Matthew Skirton

How are you supposed to feel when handing over leadership of a ministry after twenty years: Relief? Fulfilment? Happiness? Pride? (oops; shouldn't really admit that!) Satisfaction? Bereavement? All of the above?

As I reflect upon (and recover from) two decades of field leadership, perhaps my overriding feeling is one of awe. It has been exciting, rewarding, challenging, often exhausting but, at the same time, awesome to have seen and experienced God at work, transforming lives.

I think back to the early years when our team was very small. We were involved in good ministries, but nothing 'really spectacular' was happening and I was disappointed at the lack of growth in our field. I was also concerned that all the ministries seemed to depend upon me, the field leader. I knew that I needed other people alongside me in leadership to share the load, but I lived with frustration: "Why are no leaders joining our team?" The really mature and experienced people always seemed to be snapped up by other, more developed ministries. I began to realise that no one was going to send us 'ready-made' leaders. If we wanted others to share the leadership load then there was only one thing for it: We were going to have to grow our own!

If you want it done right…

So, we began placing more emphasis on developing our National Missions training programme. Young Moldovans joined us for three months as we came alongside, taught, challenged and discipled them. Many asked to do more and so we developed a second-level leadership programme. Some then returned to serve with their home churches, but others said "What's next?" and started joining our team. We placed more emphasis on building a strong member care team and started to see the team and ministries take off.

Investing more and more in training our staff, we saw that the more we cared for, trained and invested in the people God entrusted to us, the more excited they were to serve with us. We took risks in giving leadership responsibility to people; sometimes we were disappointed when we felt that people 'dropped the ball'. The majority of the time, we were encouraged when we gave people a challenge, entrusting them with authority and responsibility; more often than not, we saw them fly!

Sustainable growth

As we saw leaders developing, so we experienced rapid growth in ministry. More than one hundred people now serve full-time with OM Moldova or are employed in OM-led ministries. The work is still developing and God continues to do exciting things in and through our teams. We have seen this growth as we have taken more seriously our responsibility to invest in people who work with us as we help (and challenge) them to fulfil their potential.

Very rarely are we sent 'ready-made', experienced and gifted leaders to work with us and take on responsibilities. It is wonderful if it happens, but I believe that we need to be proactive in growing and developing leaders ourselves. We need to be intentional in raising people up, coming alongside them, spending time and money on training and equipping them and, importantly, taking risks whilst encouraging them to lead!

There are few things more satisfying in ministry than seeing younger leaders grow, take on responsibilities, grow some more, and finally take over and run beyond us in new and exciting ways.

This blog first appeared on the OM News site 3 Jun 2015


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