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7 Free Leadership Development Strategies for Church Leaders

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Developing leaders is core to what church leaders do. We constantly look for ways to raise up the people around us … to help them take their next step in the development journey. We don’t always have the financial resources to do what we’d love to do on this front. But don’t let money stand in the way of developing people! Here are a handful of strategies that won’t break your budget:

  • Phone Calls // Is there a church that you could really learn from? Formulate a straightforward question about the area that you want to learn about and then email the church and ask for 20 minutes on the phone to talk about your issue. You’d be amazed how many church leaders will give you the time. Stick to the topic you asked about and time you asked for. (And send a thank-you card to follow up.)
  • Watch for Free Streams // An increasingly popular marketing effort by conferences is to stream parts for free for an “at home audience.” Although the purpose of these streams is to convince you to attend the next conference, you and your team can often pick up some great content between their ads.
  • Road Trip! // You know that church across town that is doing that really cool thing you keep hearing about? Encourage members of your team to visit them. I promise that things won’t fall apart in your ministry if some key people aren’t there for one Sunday. It will be stronger because they will be growing as leaders.
  • Podcasts // Many church leaders host great free podcasts that you can use as leadership development tools. Subscribe to a podcast and listen for an episode or two that are particularly stretching for your team. You could email the audio file to them and then have a quick discussion on what stood out to you! Here are some podcasts to start with:
  • Focused Observation // There are so many organizations doing great work close to where you are. What if you got your team together with their team to see what you can learn from them? Theme parks are great places to see how you can improve your guest experience. Or maybe you know a leader in your church who is an amazing manager. You could ask him or her to teach your team about leadership. (We did something similar with Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles.)
  • Consume Content // Many churches across the country put all their content online. Familiarize yourself with what’s happening at other churches. Read blogs. Subscribe to churches’ email newsletters. Make an online donation to churches you respect and see how they follow up with you.
  • Ask for Conference Notes // Do you know someone who attended a conference that you wished you could have gone to? Reach out and ask for notes from the event. Finding these people is super easy on social media, because people typically brag when they are at conferences!


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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.