Key Objectives of a Leadership Farm System

For those who are following the current Blog articles about a Farm System will understand that you start in the harvest where an individual “becomes a disciple and then a disciple -maker.” From there they go on to a place where they are meaningfully engaged in a specialised ministry, reflecting God’s unique gifting and calling on their lives. For many this will be worked out in the local church but, for some, this will mean being a pastor, a church planter or a movement leader.

If you haven’t read the Blog “Discipleship is the start of what we do not the end”, I encourage you to do this. It is here that I outline the steps of a Farm System.

Sowing Disciples

Most church leaders I speak to are disappointed with the DNA they see in their people but why are they disappointed? You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). You can’t sow a seed substitute and grow the real thing (Luke 8:11; 1 Peter 1:23). We must settle for nothing less than a community of disciples who are motivated from within to live and even die for Jesus – and to pass that on to others.

This DNA is built on the greatest commandment of all “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength”, the second greatest commandment “to love your neighbor as yourself” and the Great Commission “As you go, make disciples…”

The key ojectives of this stage are:

  1. Listening to and obeying Jesus (John 10:4-5). – Developing through Spiritual Connection
  2. Sharing: passing on life to others (John 20:21) – Developing through Doing
  3. Connecting with others – confession (James 5:16) – Developing through Accountability

Growing Leaders

In the Leadership Development Process (LDP) stage, coaches use a simple set of tools to provide a specialised journey for each potential leader. Potential leaders will receive:

  1. ongoing personal assesment
  2. regular coaching
  3. guidance in character development
  4. direction in practical ministry experience
  5. leadership skills development
  6. a systematic self-directed approach to growing in Biblical learning.

The majority of the LDP is devoted to both developing proven ministry skills and also  developing life‑long spiritual disciplines in the leader. To advance from the LDP the leader must have worked in a specific ministry area in a local church and started and reproduced that ministry, demonstrating competence in ministry and leadership skills.

Each potential leader/pastor/planter will be developed on three levels:

  1. character development.
  2. cognitive learning.
  3. skill acqui­sition.

This model of leadership development balances the learner’s growth in the use of their heart, mind and hands. In the LDP stage, the potential leader is immersed in ministry skill training which takes the highest percentage of time and energy, but charac­ter development, while taking up less actual time, is in fact more important and must take a high priority both in the minds of the potential leader and the coach.

Cognitive learning is emphasized less in LDP and is restricted to a general understanding of Bible interpretation and reading of books relevant to their ministry skill training. Most westerners have enough trouble being obedient to what they already know without giving them more information.

Initially the potential leader needs to concentrate on deepening their character in the midst of learning ministry skills. Issues of obedience, faithfulness and service need to be proven before a great amount of cognitive understanding is introduced into the process. The potential leader is provided with a real‑life orientation for processing their cognitive learning, making them a more attentive and discerning learner. Knowledge without godliness can be dangerous to both a leader and those entrusted to his care.

Training in the LDP may appear informal to the potential leader and the casual observer, but it is important that it be intentional and strategic in the mind of the coach.Potential leaders don’t need to enlist in a systematic program. In fact, it is often preferable if they don’t. There are many inherent traps for someone who sees him/herself as a future leader, pastor or church planter rather than as an obedient disciple. It is much healthier for someone to see themselves as being trained for ministry in the local church. If leadership rises naturally, it is easier to develop the leader’s moti­vation without cluttering it needlessly with unhealthy ambition. When leadership does rise naturally in a church, the congregation has less hesitancy to entrust the new leader with authority, because they have already proven their faithfulness. This is a key reason why home‑grown leaders are the best kind!

The key to a successful Leadership Farm System is flexibility of design that allows leaders to develop at varying levels and speeds. To force all leaders to develop at the same rate would slow the entire process down and needlessly limit the number of leaders being produced. To maintain any momentum, ongoing cultivation of leaders must occur at all levels. For this reason the LDP is tailored to the individual and yet standardised to ensure consistent, well ­rounded development. New potential leaders may be introduced to the journey at any time, and within a short time, proven leaders will be produced. There is no need to wait until the next class opens to begin the process, and highly motivated individuals need not wait for others to grow to the same level.

For this process to work effectively, it is very impor­tant that the coach has clear objectives, criteria, and tools to guide them. The delivery criteria employs what is called “Just‑In‑Time” training. Even though ministry skills are usually listed in a logical order, the order does not need to be fol­lowed. In fact, the advantage of “Just‑In‑Time” training is that the skills are introduced as the need becomes evident. When the potential leader is ready to learn a certain skill, and the environment is suitable, the skill is introduced. This form of individualised, on‑the‑job training will maintain a balance be­tween obedience and learning.

Because leadership is influenced by people, certain church environments are more conducive to this model than others. Without an opportunity for potential leaders to influence a small group/team of people, this strategy will have no means for implementation.The LDP is a process which can help cultivate and develop the group/team leaders into positions of greater influence. Some will grow into each new level, while others will find a level where they serve best. There is no reason to promote leaders out of their area of effectiveness.

Small groups/teams which are cultivated and reproduced are the bare essential for the implementa­tion of this strategy. It is in the formation of a group/team and its multiplying that the developing leader is able to demonstrate the necessary qualities of a reproduc­ing leader.

This process has been specifically designed not only to help develop the potential leader, but also to allow the coach to maintain along range perspective during the leader’s development. It is important that the evaluation process does not end with the leader’s activity, but looks through them to the group which they influence and then reproduce. Often an individual’s talent and hard work can cloud the evaluation process and cause a nearsighted evaluation. When this occurs, the potential leader’s growth is stunted and reproduction can be forfeited. The right tools can help prevent this. It is not enough that our potential leaders be talented and busy, they must also be strategic disciple-makers. Anything less is a violation of the Great Commis­sion.

For further information on a “Farm System” contact Colin Noyes at colin@disciplingasyougo.com

Authors: Robert Logan. Neil Cole, Colin Noyes

2 thoughts on “Key Objectives of a Leadership Farm System

  1. I have been a church health consultant for over 20 years and a pastor leading and teaching others for over 40. While the LFS sounds promising, and perhaps can work for some very dynamic churches, its major premise that “most westerners have enough trouble being obedient to what they already know without giving them more information” has major flaws, mostly that of producing less-than-knowledgeable local church staff and pastors that have no systematic theological knowledge or underpinnings that protect and guard the Church. I am not insisting on seminary training (or as some would say “cemetery” training) but such training does help guard against repeating the same theological errors that have plagued the Church through the ages.

    I am a fan of discipleship and what LFS offers, but to think that all of biblical training can be done in such a system neglects the importance of necessary academic training for our pastoral leaders. Biblically informed teaching and learning is still necessary and required for a biblically illiterate nation. LFS may assume that is built in to the system but can be avoided or neglected.

    Just some thoughts!

    1. Hi Carl. I appreciate your thoughts on the LFS and I agree to an extent. Here are my thoughts: 1. The LFS will only work with healthy churches and they don’t have to be dynamic (in the contemporary sense). It also works with simple church movements. 2. The LFS doesn’t negate theological education it just doesn’t attempt to develop leaders who can preach but are not disciples of Jesus. There is enough teaching without life change in the church and you only have to work as a consultant to realise that. 3. Discipleship is a step by step journey that introduces people to Biblical understanding but doesn’t move on until this truth is being worked out in the life of the disciple, leader, pastor/planter.

      If you have been following my blog articles then you will know that what I’m trying to do is work from a pre-Constantinian position and my LFS insights try to line up with that era so what you read may not have a modernity feel.

      Thanks again for you insights. Helps me to stay close to Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

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