What do you want to be when you grow up?
It’s a question we often ask children when they begin to learn about different kinds of careers. I can still remember shopping one day with my daughter when she was about five years old. She matter-of-factly told me she wanted to be a Walmart greeter when she grew up. While she made the choice later to be a music teacher, we still remind her of her inner desire to welcome shoppers.
Eventually, we all make decisions about our career paths. Sometimes we choose them and sometimes they choose us. The work you do today may not have existed when you were a child, or maybe you weren’t aware certain positions were even attainable. I’m not sure I saw myself in vocational ministry, but the Lord continues to surprise me with the direction and path He has planned for me. Proverbs 3:5-6 has guided me when making those choices. I’m often reminded of the writer’s words, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.”
As I’ve walked along the path of my ministry calling, some of the markers of my education have not only been in the classroom but in the classroom of practical ministry and learning from others at conferences. It’s when I’ve sat at the feet of those who are trusted experts and practitioners that I’ve gained information, formed relationships, and received new information that has helped me along my leadership journey. We often call this leadership development, but I also think it’s a form of discipleship.
In the New Testament world, disciples joined a rabbi. They often left behind the life they knew, and they spent all of their time learning from the rabbi. It’s similar to a child going to college where he spends a concentrated time learning a trade, a skill, or receiving a specific degree. It was a full-time occupation. The disciples were not fans on the sideline, but they were the players in the game.
Being a disciple was not only learning the skill, but there was an expectation that they would someday become a rabbi and, in turn, teach others what they had learned. Disciples learned so they could “make” disciples.
If you are a disciple today, there is still an element of learning from others in order for you to lead others in the same way. This is often done in the context of what we call leadership development. Whether it’s attending a conference on biblical theology, watching a webinar on a particular subject, or taking an online course that will give you additional knowledge, there are several reasons you should consider the importance of your personal leadership development. Here are a few:
Leadership development gives you new knowledge to face current issues and stretch you out of your comfort zone. It’s difficult to keep up with cultural issues that continue to change. Leadership conferences offer me the opportunity to stay relevant. Whether it’s tackling a difficult subject such as gender identity, conflict resolution, or ministering to women with mental illness, I know that for me to be effective in ministry, I need to learn from those who have spent time learning and working in those fields.
Leadership development gives you the opportunity to strengthen an entire ministry team. Some of the most effective times I’ve spent with a ministry team is when we’ve attended a conference or event with several breakouts. Because I know I can’t attend all of them, bringing a team, learning together, and then sharing the information with one another builds a stronger team that becomes passionate about not only being disciples but making them.
Leadership development can inspire a new generation of younger leaders. If you are looking for ways to involve younger women, invite them to attend a leadership conference. Not only do they get to spend quality time with you, but they will receive encouragement and practical instruction that will help them develop more confidence to lead. I’ve often made it the practice to never attend a conference unless I have a younger leader who is by my side. Pay for her conference fee, eat meals together, and introduce her to others who will connect her to various subjects.
Finally, leadership development opportunities allow you to be on the receiving end of ministry. If you’re a ministry leader, you are most likely the one who is making sure everything is in place. You’re handling all the details and planning each step along the way. When you attend a conference, you can actually be still and be a participant. It’s good to not always be the one in charge. You probably pour out a lot, so take a moment to be on the receiving end!
If you’re looking for some leadership development opportunities, Lifeway Women offers several ways you can get the training you need. Check out our You Lead conferences, Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum, Lifeway Women Academy, or simply sign up for a free webinar! We’re here to help you on your leadership journey. Don’t sit on the sideline watching others. Be a disciple and be a woman who not only enjoys learning but steps into her own leadership calling.
About Kelly King
Kelly is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide to Leading Women in the Local Church and contributor to the Lifeway Women’s Bible, as well as the Lifeway Women Advent and Easter studies. In addition, she is the cohost of the MARKED podcast for Lifeway Women. She has a Master of Theology degree from Gateway Seminary and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Ministry degree.