Developing people is one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of ministry. It’s challenging because committing to the long-term growth of a person is not instantly gratifying or guaranteed. And it’s rewarding because when it takes, it can be unbelievably life-giving and potentially even world-changing.
Despite the nature of the risk vs. reward question of whether or not to commit to developing people in your ministry, I believe it is a must.
In my efforts to grow as a developer of people, I’ve come across three different methods for development—critique, content, and coaching. Here is a brief description of each method and what I believe is the most profitable way to develop people.
I think that for most people, criticism is the most natural way to try to develop people. Personally, I find this being the method that comes easiest. Telling people what you see in them and in their actions that needs change or improvement is so easy. We do this every day. We tell the coach or player what he/she should do through the television. We tell the newscaster our opinion about their angle on the story. We tell our spouse what we think about the neighbor’s new effort to spruce up their yard, and many other critiques that we make of others every day.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that critique is an important part of the development process. We ought to do for others something similar to what 2 Timothy 3 says that the Word of God does for us—teach, rebuke, correct, and train. The problem with this method as our sole means of developing people is that most of the time, our efforts stop here.
Development consisting of only criticism will feel like one of the early episodes of a season of American Idol. Nothing but painful feedback leaving people dejected as they hear all their shortcomings with no direction toward what to do to improve their current status. Critique may be a part of development, but it is not sufficient alone.
I’ve said before that most people will default to critique when it comes to development. However, there are some who will naturally give themselves toward content distribution as their primary means of developing people.
If you are reading this, there’s a good chance that you are one who enjoys taking in fresh content on a regular basis. In many ways, we’ve all become content junkies, ingesting tens of thousands of words and hours upon hours of content each day through a screen. It’s been said that the amount of information in the world is doubling at an unheard of speed. Content is not hard to find. And in the same vein, it’s not hard to send.
Though I believe content is also an important part of the development process, for many who seek to develop people in their ministries, it has become a cop out. Because of the convenience of content, we have allowed content distribution to be the extent of our development efforts. This too falls short when left unsupported.
The term coaching has been all the rage among ministry and business leadership resources. The idea of coaching often brings to mind an angry little man in sweats with a whistle around his neck screaming at the top of his lungs in order to motivate a player to do something better or different. While that is often the imagery associated with a coach, here I mean something a bit different.
A coach is someone committed to the long-term success of an individual or team and who has been tasked with helping shape the growth of those people toward this outcome.
For everyone who has had a terrible experience with a coach, let me say this—don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Coaching is an essential component in the development of people. The people you lead in ministry need someone to help shape their growth. The people you lead in ministry need someone to see the potential in them and help draw out what they themselves haven’t yet seen in themselves. The people you lead in ministry need someone committed to their impact, influence, and success. As important as these things are, coaching alone can lack some important components of development.
A Three-Fold Method
Here’s the classic Power Ranger moment. When these three methods combine, we find development at its finest. A lack of critique will develop someone into arrogance, thinking that they are always right. A lack of content will develop someone into ignorance, thinking that they know all there is to know. A lack of coaching will develop someone into negligence, unable to see or believe in a better future for themselves.
When it comes to development, I believe the best method is when critique, content, and coaching are all components of the ongoing efforts to help shape the growth of an individual or team.
At the end of the day we all face two choices when it comes to the development of the people God has entrusted us with. First, will we try? And second, how will we do it? I hope the first question has and always will have an obvious affirmative answer. And I hope the second question becomes more clearly defined for you as an opportunity to bring out the greatest in those you develop through critique, content, and coaching. We must develop people and we must do it well. Not only do our ministries need this, but so does the future that each of those we develop will help shape.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter.