Discipleship and Leadership Development

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


Discipleship and Leadership Development

The Austin Stone is a large growing church. It would be impossible for us to have a leadership development system that relied entirely on a few individual’s capacity to find and train them. At the same time, we have a fundamental conviction that the primary means by which leaders are developed is through intentional, missional community-centered, life-on-life discipleship.

So what’s a guy to do when what is best can’t accomplish what is needed? What do you do if you have 500 people wanting to jump into missional community yesterday, 50 who want to lead, and one person to train them?

For me, I had to grasp that what is ideal isn’t always the most fitting. The simple reality is that we can’t disciple everyone that comes into our ministry scope. Should that prohibit us from sending people out, even if we can’t be fully confident of their character and competence?

I’m guessing Jesus faced some similar issues in his ministry.  He preached to thousands while investing his best into twelve men. Even still, he sends out the 72 in Luke 10 to go proclaim the kingdom of God.

I wrote some of my thoughts on this topic in the post “The Difficult of Balancing Ministry and Discipleship” – the idea that it’s a struggle to maintain focus on discipleship and we often favor ministry.

For The Austin Stone, we’ve actually built into our job descriptions the expectation of discipleship. For my staff team, I actually assess more often their investment in a few than I do their overall coaching of their region. They should be investing the best of their time in a few, then the remaining available time on coaching and leadership in other areas.

Discipleship is the foundation for leadership development, but there is also an element of leadership development that is more “ministry”.

Any time I talk about leadership development, I’m predominantly considering two different lenses:

  • Primarily, leaders are made through intentional discipleship.
  • Secondarily, leaders are made through the systems and structures that help you accomplish ministry.

People make disciples, systems and structures predominantly aid you in accomplishing ministry. We must remain faithful to the foundation of discipleship, but leadership development systems can help a lot!


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