Using the Servant Leaders Library

“Why Development? From Library Experience

Toward Leadership Excellence” (SL#1)

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D. adapted from SkillTrack® Leadership Materials

Humbling as it may be to read the statement one more time, I quote with agreement: “leadership can be learned, but it cannot be taught.” That is yet another way of saying that leadership is like learning to swim or to ride a bicycle; others may help, but you have to learn leadership for yourself. The responsibility starts with the individual:

  • From the Apostle Paul to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who correctly handles the word of truth.”(2 Tim. 2:15 NIV)
  • Stephen R. Covey– “Seven Habits Revisited: And the endowment associated with Habit 7 renews the process of growth and development; is self-renewal(p.40). ‘Sharpen the Saw’ is the unique endowment of continuous improvement or self-renewal to overcome entropy; it is continuous improvement, innovation, and refinement.” (p.47)Principled-Centered Leadership

If this Servant Leaders Library is helpful to you as you do your own learning, we have fulfilled our mission. The following topics intend to give some guidance in your self-directed development journey: from a library experience toward leadership excellence in Christian ministry.

1. Leadership Development–Why?

There are many good reasons why a Christian ministry leader would want consistently to pursue improvement and development. Why?–because of the benefits of leadership development to you personally, to your family members, to your ministry performance, to your congregation, and to your community. We believe that SkillTrack® Leadership has been making a contribution to these benefits, and that Servant Leaders Today Web site and Library will expand the benefits to many others.
So, let’s explore further the “why” of development:

  • Survival – avoid termination: survival in the workplace may not be an unworthy, if only basic, motive for staying effective in your work.
  • Stability – enjoy tenure: stay in a place of ministry over a period of time so that you enlarge your contribution of service.
  • Effectiveness – competent ministry: there is a sense of professional well-being when you do your several tasks consistently well.
  • Stewardship – larger service: if you are “faithful over a few things,” you will be prepared for larger responsibilities.
  • Satisfaction – making a difference: great satisfaction comes with contributing to the spiritual health of a congregation, its members, and the wider community.
  • Fulfillment – a final reward: nothing is more motivating than to hear from our Lord His own approval, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matt.25:23 NIV)

2. Why Development?–To Lead Congregational Functions

Ministry leaders have the significant responsibility to shape and lead the mission and functions of the congregation. At least ten such functions require the continuous and life-time development of leadership skills and practices.
Six of these are often considered “biblical functions” (marked by *); the other four may be necessary to implement the six, to bring to wholeness the life and work of the congregation.

  • Congregational worship*
  • Education/discipleship*
  • Spiritual disciplines
  • Prayer ministry*
  • Evangelism/witnessing*
  • Church growth and health
  • Ministry/service*
  • Loving fellowing*
  • Mission participation
  • Leadership/administration

3. Leadership Development–Why You?

Throughout society and its workforce, there is an expectation, if not requirement, that employees stay up in their professional work. The “why” of continual improvement is quite often explained to that workforce. Why should not excellence be expected of those of us who labor in the eternal work of Christ, “to show ourselves approved”? Among Christian ministers, who are most likely to pursue leadership development? Our findings include those:

  • who have assessed ministry skills and found themselves wanting;
  • who desire to be more effective Christian leaders;
  • who want to be a worthy example to other servant leaders;
  • who are convinced that leadership can be learned;
  • who open up to new ideas, concepts, and methods;
  • who are willing to participate in skill development;
  • who commit themselves to practice servant leadership.

These same folks may see leadership development as a fabric made up of a life-time of preparation, such as: family and early schooling; practical experiences (the “University of Hard Knocks”); college or university; seminary or divinity school; independent study and reflection; peer-group or mentoring; continuing professional education; and ministry leadership certification. Included in several of these development strategies are electronic resources such as, SkillTrack® Leadership, and the Moench Center for Church Leadership.

4. Three Leadership Development Challenges

My assessment of the challenges facing us have emerged over the last several years of working with ministers, churches, and others who help with leadership training. We have much work to do in all three challenge areas that are identified:

“What is the #1 challenge for comprehensive ministry
leadership training?” For pastors, staff members, and lay leaders to value, pursue, practice, and take responsibility for life-long leadership development?

“What is the #2 challenge for comprehensive ministry leadership training?”

For congregations to value, expect, support, provide for, and reward life-long leadership development.

“What is the #3 challenge for comprehensive ministry leadership training?”

For an expanding Christian network to make available development resources: basic and innovative; biblical and practical; specialized and comprehensive; flexible and affordable for all leaders in ministry.  

5. Five Approaches to Leadership Development

The Servant Leaders Library could contribute to many of the approaches to leadership development including, for example, the following five:

  • Need Application: seek specific training when it is needed to perform an immediate leadership task. “I need to learn how to improve my delegation skill in order for every member of our evangelism team to contribute to our assignment.” Action: choose two or three Library articles on delegation, study them carefully, and write a specific action plan for effective delegation to achieve the task.
  • Designed Development: keep in mind knowledge and skills that are needed in the on-going performance of a major function in your ministry role (short-time effort for long-term benefit). “For the next three months I am going to learn by specific study, practice, and reflection the skills of interpersonal communication, especially with church members and small groups.” Action: choose a series of free Library articles and study them carefully, take notes about crucial insights, practice every day, talk it over with others, seek feedback, outline your plan, and evaluate your progress.
  • Life-Long Planning: build your leadership development directly on your several tasks and expectations. “Because I want to pursue excellence in Christian ministry, I will explore resources and tools as a life-long student of servant leadership and skills for my life and ministry.”
    Action: build the development plan on your present position description, but also on the direction you want to go; stay ahead, go beyond what others expect, both in content and method; use this Library and SkillTrack® Leadership curriculum; pursue CEU’s, certification programs, ministry peer-groups, reading, viewing, and listening programs, sabbatical studies,
  • Learn in Order to Teach: all along the way apply your study and development toward the growth and enrichment of others. “I must learn, apply, and develop others in their concepts and skills for ministry leadership.” Action: teaching and training are the staple of most ministry assignments, but to make it happen become intentional and consistent; serve as instructor, coach, and mentor; utilize this Library and SkillTrack® materials but expand your stream
    of resources; research, write, and publish.
  • Academic Studies: you may choose to enroll or continue in academic programs of ministry expansion and development. “I will enroll in seminary and complete a masters degree in ‘Pastoral Ministry and Leadership’ for a life of congregational servant leadership.” Action: begin preparation for this track by diligent study and upper-level grades in high school and college; choose wisely the seminary by seeking wise mentors and guidance; stay active in ministry experiences in local congregations and communities; apply academic study to service and leadership as you go along, not at the end of the degree. Servant Leaders Library and SkillTrack® Leadership both expand and focus on servant leadership and its skills.

6. Leadership Development and the Servant Leaders Library

Skill development practices in the midst of Christian ministry form a stream of experience that may be explored, expanded, and described for establishing a model for learning leadership. This free Library is passive; it may be of passing interest or simply be ignored. But for students and ministers of all sorts–the desperate, the curious, the searching, the growing–the Library may contribute to the phases of self-motivated adult learning, skill development, and servant leadership in Christian ministry. These phases may be experienced
either in sequences or in reality as a cluster:

Phase 1. Assessment: initial condition–Why do I need to learn this leadership skill?

Phase 2. Cognitive: explore a concept or skill until a mental image is formed; instruction is one of the roles of this free Library.

Phase 3. Association: associate the mental image of the skill being learned to knowledge already experienced and understood.

Phase 4. Perception: the interpretation of the information now being received becomes yours; you understand and “own” it.

Phase 5. Demonstration: act on the new information; listen, watch, do, and try again.

Phase 6. Repetition: the action or behavior are repeated, and concept is tested.

Phase 7. Reflection: the performance and results will be assessed; feedback and consensus are measured and merged into the learning cycle.

Conclusion: Why develop as a servant leader? Exploring the Library may move you along other paths of your growth as a servant leader in the ministry of Christ. These topics offer at least some beginning answers to the question “Why?”

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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.

For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at

Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership