My copy of Larry Osborne's Sticky Church contains margin notes and underlines on almost every page, and Chapter 16: Finding and Developing Leaders is no exception. Although the emphasis of this book is on small group leadership, it is clear that a number of principles carry over into other areas of ministry leadership as well. As Osborne says, "Tell me the quality of your leadership, and I'll tell you the quality of your ministry, program, or small group" (p. 123).
One of the greatest challenges to finding and developing quality leaders is that too often the pool is so underpopulated. So what do we do? Do we take the first willing heart even if that person lacks the desired qualifications? Maybe it is better to seek out leaders with years of experience even if it means sacrificing relational connection. I wonder if the Campus Crusade staff at Ohio University were asking the same questions about me the summer before my sophomore year of college.
The first small group I ever led was in the freshman dorm I had lived in the previous year. Experience? Zero. Bible knowledge? Sketchy. Intimidation? Off the charts. But a had a real, growing relationship with Jesus Christ, what I think Osborne means by "spiritual warmth" (p. 124). That and a desire to show a group of freshman guys some of the things I had discovered only a year prior from God's Word shaped my early leadership career.
Should I have been asked at the time to pastor a church? Absolutely not. But in terms of leading a small group "one of the great strengths of [Osborne's] sermon-based small group model is that it demands a less skilled and less biblically literate leader" (p. 125).
Under-qualified leaders can be coached, trained and developed. Others are simply unqualified for leadership and need to be avoided during the selection process. Osborne's advice is to avoid modern-day Pharisee "God-Talkers" (pp. 126-7) and those for whom gray areas are always black and white (pp. 127-8).
Interestingly enough the place to find good potential leaders is not always intuitive. Osborne notes (rightly) that "surprisingly, one of the worst fishing pools for recruiting successful small group leaders is found among those who previously held a leadership position in another church or served in a parachurch ministry" (pp. 129-30, italics mine). Not only does this seem counterintuitive but when the reasons are misunderstood there is great potential for hurt feelings. Leadership selection isn't about making friends, it's about developing quality leaders.
Selection by definition means choosing the best from among a group of potential candidates. Therefore Osborne suggests that the posted sign-up sheet, the bulletin announcement or plea from the pulpit are not necessarily the best recruiting tools (p. 131). Neither is the 30-page job description (p. 132). Instead, "simply tell them what they will be required to do. Then step back and let life happen" (p. 133).
Finding and developing good leaders in ministry is no easy task. I'm thankful for the practical wisdom that Osborne shares not only in this chapter but throughout the book. May God bless those who read and use this book in their own small groups and ministries that we might all become "sticky" and make a greater impact on lives for Jesus Christ.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Sticky Church at your local or online Christian bookstore or enter to win a free copy a reader of this review (see this posting for details).