Leadership Development Systems for Missional Communities

In this series of posts, I am going to unpack the strategy and structure of leadership development we have implemented at The Austin Stone for missional communities.  I’ll be looking at:

  • Introduction
  • Discipleship and Leadership Development
  • Identifying Leaders – Two Different Methods
  • Questions to Ask When Considering a Leader
  • The Basic Qualifications for Leadership
  • Basic Training for Leaders
  • Ongoing Training for Leaders
  • Caring for Leaders


When I mention the phrase “Leadership Development Systems” my organic/missional church friends generally want to gag, and my mega-church friends typically light up with interest.  I tend to be a systems-oriented thinker with a passion for movements, so I have done my best to learn from both worlds, and synthesize my learnings into something that utilizes the best of both.

One of the most critical things I communicate when I’m talking with people is that systems don’t make disciples, people do.  Systems are helpful to reinforce key ideas, provide structure and accountability, and give tangible next steps, but they are never a replacement for the investment of your life in a few.

In addition to that, systems cannot create a healthy culture, but can be very helpful in reinforcing it.  I have found that what most people think is a “systems” problem is actually a culture problem.  Their church doesn’t have a value for discipleship, stories aren’t told about the lost being saved, and leadership development is not holistically practiced at every level of the organization. A killer system, when practiced in an unhealthy culture, will not produce effective results.

We certainly don’t have everything figured out at The Stone, but I think God has been kind to grant us a healthy culture of reproducing discipleship, and systems that reinforce that culture to continue replicating those values on a broader scale.  My hope is these posts give you some insight into how we have created those systems.

What would you say about systems in the missional church?


3 responses to “Leadership Development Systems for Missional Communities”

  1. In the troubled churches we tend to serve the systems have become ends in themselves rather than the means of disciplemaking. Oddly, most of these churches adhere to evangelism and discipleship as aspirational values, but they have no actual systems in place to insure that these mission critical functions actually happen. But in these same churches the God-given mission is replaced with the mission of keeping the systems running: making sure there are enough resources and leadership to keep this system (e.g., Chrisitain ed.) or that system (e.g. Small groups) going. But they never put the “Why?” question to themselves and audit those systems in light of their answer.

    The systems need to be in place, and they need to be well run. But if they lose connection with the mission, they become ends in themselves and therefore probably need re-engineering or to be discarded.

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