When I was a freshman in college, I served a local church as a youth pastor. I was growing in my faith and eager to pour into teenagers. The church was Southside Baptist Church and the pastor was Jerry Key. It was a small church with about 100 people and a handful of kids in the youth ministry. I was mainly responsible to teach on Wednesday nights and help lead student Bible study on Sunday mornings. After Jerry invited me to serve, we discovered two problems. I did not have a car, and because I lived in a dorm on campus, we were unsure how I would get to the church. I also did not know how to tie a necktie and lots of people in the church, at least on Sunday mornings, would likely think I should wear a tie.
So Jerry Key picked me up every Sunday morning and Wednesday night and brought me back to my dorm every Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night. On Sunday mornings, as he drove, he would skillfully tie my tie on his neck and then, while keeping it still loosely tied, remove it from his neck and give it to me to wear.
Not having a car and not knowing how to tie a tie created a great environment for my development. It provided moments of conversations before I would teach and serve students and a regular time of debriefing and encouragement. The Lord used the time in the car, the time with a leader I admired, to develop me.
Effective leadership development combines training, experiences, and coaching. My first role served as the experience, and all the books I devoured (because I was overwhelmed by the role) was the training I initially received. The time in the car with Jerry was my coaching. All three were important for my development. If you want to develop others, you must utilize all three.
The faith is not only taught. Nor is it only caught. It is both caught and taught. The apostle Paul challenged the believers in Philippi to “Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me.” In other words, what you caught in my life, put it into practice. We also have a faith that has been “delivered to the saints once for all,” a doctrine that must be taught. Leadership development requires both teaching and demonstrating.
More than a book, seminar, or conference, the work develops leaders. While teaching and training are important, the work is responsible for the majority of one’s development. Leadership development requires handing responsibility to those you are developing.
The benefit of receiving great teaching and experiencing the pressure and joy of the work is exponentially multiplied through coaching. The coaching doesn’t need to be overly formal. Conversations about how the person is growing, what the person is learning, and about the thinking beneath the activity are immeasurably valuable. My times in the car, as a young leader, with my pastor surely were. Those few moments multiplied the learning of all the other moments.