3 Indicators You Could Be Developing the Wrong Person

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Originally posted May 29, 2012

Bill Hybels has accurately described the local church as the most leadership-intensive organization on planet earth.

Therefore, for prevailing churches, leadership development is not a function of filling empty slots in an organization; rather it’s an ongoing process of identifying, equipping and releasing leaders to live out their call.

But how do you know where to invest your leadership development time and energy?

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That’s more an art than a science, but at the very least I’ve learned three indicators that I could be developing the wrong person.

• Indicator #1: The person is an agenda-driver
I’ve had conversations with people whom I thought had the potential to be a church elder, only to find out that they viewed the position merely as an opportunity to advance a personal agenda.

If you’re developing a leader, be very wary when you hear things like, “If I were on the board there’s a couple of issues I’d want to push really hard.”

Nothing wrong with strong opinions, but when they’re focused on side-issues you have a problem.

• Indicator #2: The person is enamoured by “prestige”
I was having coffee with a rising leader in the church about future roles. But he kept veering the conversation back to questions of his own profile.

Be cautious when a leader’s primary concern seems to be how much platform time they will have or how it is that they will be identified or profiled in the church.

• Indicator #3: The person tries to wedge church leadership into a crowded daytimer
If you’re developing a leader for broader church responsibilities, be careful if they begin to ask things like, “How much time do I need to devote to this?”

That can be a very legitimate, reasonable question. But it can also point to someone who is living life at Mach 10, and who is looking to figure out the bare minimum investment of time and energy.

Look instead for someone so captivated by the call of God on their lives and the vision of the church that they will move “heaven and earth” to be a part of it.

Keep your eyes and ears open for where God is at work in the lives of rising leaders.

And keep your discernment on “full alert” for these warning indicators.

They could save you, and your church, a lot of grief.

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. Scott,

    Great list. We are often seduced by talented people that we know in our gut we have no business investing in. It is a tension leaders often wrestle with.

    Thanks for the reminders in this post.

    Praying for your new position,

  2. Appreciate your feedback and encouragement Brian.

    This post was fueled by one too many occasions when I found myself clearly pouring myself into someone who simply wasn’t prepared to make a leadership contribution to the church.

    But as you well know, there’s just nothing like it when you can mentor someone with the right heart for leaderhip!

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