Some may use the words manage and develop interchangeably.  When it comes to empowering people, those words are quite distinctive.  Developing people actually gives them authority, rights, and power.  On the other hand, a person handles, directs, leads, guides, supervises, or uses one’s power to dominate another when managing people.  Managers maintain systems, processes, and procedures and resolve conflicts that interfere while developers advance the purpose and forge new pathways as they bring out the very best in their people.

As you think about your leadership style, do you have more of a tendency to manage or develop people?  As you consider your church’s leadership culture, is it one of giving away authority and power or one of tight reigns on processes, procedures, and the ”way we’ve always done it?”  Healthy boundaries, accountability, processes, and procedures are all necessary and needed elements of good organizational health and vitality.  Yet, being too management-focused can lead to becoming a bottleneck, disempower volunteers, curb creativity and imagination, and cause some to sit on the sidelines.

When pastors, staff, and ministry team leaders become more people developers than managers, the whole organization will be healthier.  The development approach will keep a church from being pastor-centric, staff-centric, and encourage laity to grow into mature disciple-making disciples as Jesus intended.  Through a development approach, people are identified, recruited, equipped, and deployed for ministry.  Every disciple is deployed for ministry given their gifts, experience, talents, and season of life.  Sitting on the sidelines reporting that “I’ve served my time” or “It’s someone else’s turn” doesn’t even cross the mind of a person who has been developed as a mature disciple.  Churches will no longer hire (or expect) staff to do their ministry for them; they hire disciple developers and equippers.

Yet, when insecure or immature leaders manage people, they tend to feel they have to touch everything and make every decision.  Their need to be needed or their sense of power comes from having full control of the ship.  Nothing happens without going through her/him first.  Not only is this an unhealthy leadership style, but it stunts the growth of disciples and detours the mission of the church. 

Giving power and authority away is scary for leaders.  What if the person doesn’t do it as well as the leader would or drops the ball completely?  Yes, that’s a risk a leader must be willing to take because what if they do an even better job?  When we develop others, the impact of the ministry can be three, ten or a hundred times what it can be as one solo leader.  As a disciple, we are in the multiplication business and to do so we must become developers who empower people rather than managers of people.

If you and your leaders would like to learn more about developing and empowering people, check out IMPACT! Reclaiming the Call of Lay Ministry resources: the book, the small group study, or the webinar.