Among people who make their first-ever visit to our website, each week several dozen fill out a short profile which includes checkboxes for stuff they’d like to hear more about when we issue a relevant report, new book or event. The top choice? Consistently it’s “leadership development” (see well buried green check at right).
Curious about why, we sent a short survey to people who had checked that box. Here’s what 483 respondents told us:
If any one word describes the entire survey findings about leadership development, it’s organic. While few used that specific word in our many open-ended questions, most spoke of relational, fluid, and flexible content and format. They also view leadership development as something that happens most through the purposeful relationships of mentoring, choosing that over an activity they do or content they teaching.
And few suggested a one-approach-fits-all idea. We asked three parallel open-ended questions about the kind of experience that best helps with leadership development (1) for themselves, (2) for their staff and ministry leaders, and (3) for their congregation. The answers differed noticeably.
The format they prefer for leadership development is in-person gatherings (peer groups, small groups), with print coming second, web-based training coming third, video coming fourth and audio (podcasts) coming fifth. These choices changed a little by age, with the youngest respondents opting for print as first choice, followed by in person tied with video.
Where do they find suitable material to use? When asked “Has your church developed its own curriculum or leadership development process for developing potential staff?” 28% said yes, a percentage that didn’t change much with church size. Which groups are served by that leadership development system or process? Staff and ministry leaders came first, followed by the congregation.
We asked what percentage of their church’s annual budget is allocated to leadership development. Granted that’s a hard question to answer precisely, since few churches name it as a specific line item. Of those who answered, 1% was the most named. That may sound low until you think about your church budget and look at 1%. If the budget is $200,000 that’s $2,000. If it’s $2 million, then 1% is $20,000. In addition we asked, “Does your church have paid staff dedicated solely to leadership development?” Overall, 10% said yes, but that clearly increases with size. Among megachurches (attendance of 2,000 and higher), 46% said yes.
Respondents are most interested in improving leadership development with their lay leaders, followed by staff, followed by the entire congregation.
Interestingly, only 85% of the responses came from the U.S. plus 6% from Canada. The remaining 9% came from other countries, reminding us that leadership development is a concern of Christian leaders everywhere.
Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 21 books on various aspects of church health and innovation. Recent blog posts include What’s New in Young Adult Ministries, Questions Raised by Executive Pastors, Looking for Lean Staff Churches, Downtown Churches: How Visible?, What Is Your Church Learning about Outreach?, What Are the Most Urgent Questions Tomorrow’s Church Must Face?, Nigerian-Based Church Comes to North America and Today’s Co-Pastor: A Slightly Growing Trend.