I’ll never forget when, during my early years at Willow Creek, my supervisor said, “Brett, you have proven that you have some level of the gift of leadership. I’d like to further develop your leadership gifts in this next season together.”
It made me feel wonderful that someone was recognizing my gifts and willing to invest in growing them. And this is exactly what coaches ought to be doing with their leaders — motivating them to develop their gifts. Of course, it shouldn’t stop there. The point of developing their gifts is for them to go and do likewise with their group members.
So how does a coach make this gift development happen? Using the acrostic MOTIVATE will help answer that question.
Model. If you want your leaders to turn around and work on developing others’ gifts, you’ve got to start by developing theirs. This will show them how to do the same with others. Do just what John Wallace did for me: recognize their gifts and look for opportunities to help them grow.
Let’s say, for example, you notice your leader is a good writer. First, you point out the talent you see. Then encourage them to take on a task that involves the gift you’ve observed, like leading a time of worship singing during one of your leader huddles.
Ownership. The job of a coach is to basically say, “You have a gift as a leader, and your group members have gifts. Your job is to figure out how on earth to get those people in the game.” So get them to go to their groups and make the point that the question is not if you have gifts, it’s what are they. Challenge them to ask their group members what they are going to do with them. Merely set the expectation, and watch ownership emerge.
Tell a story that leads the way. Teaching through a story is, 99 percent of the time, the most effective way to help people learn. So write down the stories of what God did when groups started using their gifts, and mail them to your senior pastor. Tell the stories in a Sunday school class. The bottom line is keep the stories flowing so people ultimately will hear what God is doing. Use the power of story to cast the vision for people to serve God in a unique way.
Invite everyone to serve in community. We need our groups to evaluate their gifts and then say, “Okay, what can we do for our neighborhood? What can we do to help serve and help shape our culture?” Then we wouldn’t need things like Neighborhood Watch. You’d have a spiritual community praying in agreement to help coaches, teachers, civic leaders, and the kids in the neighborhood. In my neighborhood, I meet with a couple of guys and we talk about what we can do next, a Memorial Day party, a picnic or something to gather our neighbors together, no matter what their spiritual faith or form. We simply want to make an impact.
Validate their unique contribution. Every single group has something valuable to contribute, so take time to highlight those contributions. Gather every single one of your leaders in the community for a fun get-together and talk about what’s hot, what’s not, and what’s next. First, have them each share one praise for what their group is doing outside the group. Next, have them talk about the problems they are having trying to get their group to use everyone’s gifts. Finally, have them walk away with a plan. It doesn’t have to be a lot of big steps.
Ask them to take a step, a big one. Coaches need to challenge their leaders to trust God and take a step — like Peter when he stepped out of the boat. Coaches need to dare to think bigger than their own little vision or fears — or their leaders’ fears — and challenge them to get out of the boat.
Train them to do neighborhood huddles. Get your groups to come together for this purpose: to figure out what God is calling them to, so they can celebrate. He’s got something for each one of them, and they will begin to sharpen each other as they discuss the question of purpose. Just ask them, “What is God doing? And what does he want to do next?” Open your Bible and share a little devotional and perhaps worship together through music. The key is to make it “local.” You’re taking your big church and making it feel small. I love this picture because I believe this is really the dream God has called us to.
Expect them and their group to grow. If you are encouraging your leaders to develop their gifts and those of their group members — and I mean develop, not just discover — then the groups are going to grow. The difference between developing and discovering is that developing gets their hands dirty. Discovering is more an intellectual exercise. Spiritual gifts are given for the common good of the body. It’s about getting in the game. When this starts to happen, things are going to change — in their lives, in their group, in their little community, and, ultimately, in the world.
The Bible says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard all that the Lord has planned for those who love him.” Take a look at your leaders and their members, and dream about what no eye has seen and ear has heard that the Lord has planned for those who love him. Things are going to change when you change how you’re coaching, caring, and developing your leaders.