Why you need a leadership pipeline in your church

Editor’s Note: Whether you desire to develop missional leaders in your congregation, grow as a leader, or you’re preparing to pastor, a robust residency program may be your next step. Click here for more information.

In the movie “13 Hours”— the heartbreaking story of the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya — an inept chief is so fixated on rules and protocol he loses sight of the lives at stake. For critical hours, he held his soldiers back from getting into the fight. Ultimately, the ambassador and others died when they could have been saved.

I am convinced the spiritual situation in our communities is analogous to this scene in “13 Hours.” As our culture drifts farther from God, people are living their lives and dying with no gospel witness, no local church reaching out and no hope of rescue.

But there is an army of men and women — who have not yet been trained, empowered or deployed — God has called to serve in ministry. They are being held back from the fight because we do not grasp the urgency of the situation.

Where is this army? They are sitting in the pews of your church right now.

There are high-capacity leaders in every church: business leaders, blue-collar professionals and experts in education, medicine and technology. Some of them were stirred to serve God years ago, but life took them in another direction, and others would be delighted to step into ministry, if there was a pathway for them.


Gavin is a bright and capable young man who lives in a region in desperate need of new churches. When I met him, he was interested in church planting and was being groomed for ministry in a traditional church. He mentioned to me that his elders hadn’t let him preach yet, but he was eager to serve.

“How long have they been training you?” I asked.

“Nine years,” he replied.

“Wait,” I said. “Nine years? You’ve been in training for nine years, and they’ve never let you preach one time?”

“That’s right.”

I wonder how many people died and went to eternity apart from God in those nine years.

In peacetime, it takes years for a solider to advance from lower ranks to higher ones. In the thick of an urgent battle, however, privates can become sergeants in a matter of months, days or even hours.


We need more people in the fight. We need more leaders. And like the inept station chief in “13 Hours,” we are — often unwittingly — choking off the supply of gospel soldiers who could ride to the rescue.

What could you do at your church if you had 20 men and women who knew how to lead people to faith, disciple new believers, walk with people through suffering or start new ministries and churches?

What would your community be like with the investment of leaders from your church who love their God and love their city?

What would the kingdom impact be if leaders from your church went out to start a new congregation?

If God is going to scale up the ministry of his kingdom in your area, it will begin with leaders.

We need to begin training everyday men and women to do the work of ministry: shepherding, evangelism, ministries of mercy in your community, planting new churches, etc.


1. Pray. Ask God to burden you and to stretch your mind beyond the scope of your church’s zone of influence to think about untouched people and neighborhoods in your area. Pray you would feel the weight of your need for churches and leaders, and ask God every day to raise up new laborers for His harvest (Luke 10:2). Invite your church and its leaders to do the same.

2. Make a list. Who’s in your congregation who could, with the right training, begin to lead at a higher level? Don’t look at people as they are now — look at them as they could be. One or two years of investment can make a dramatic difference in people. Remember what you were like as a young or underdeveloped Christian? Look through eyes of faith and try to list a dozen or more.

3. Draft a training plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated. At Family Church, our residency program began with a simple monthly emphasis: one topic, one book, one assignment. You could follow that plan or build your own residency.

Send Network has also created a free online training platform for churches called Multiplication Pipeline. It is designed to train people in spiritual formation, missional leadership and church planting. All the curriculum development and sequencing has been done for you — you just need a group to train and a coach to shepherd them through the program.

4. Leverage the power of your networks. If you are a small church with limited resources and can’t imagine how this could ever happen at your church, think about your larger network, sister churches and denominational resources.

In addition to training resources like Send Network’s Multiplication Pipeline, seminaries now partner with local churches to provide ministry training.

Do you know a church nearby that is developing leaders? Could you learn from or partner with them?

5. Invite people in. Talk to each person on your list (see No. 2). Cast a vision for how you’d like to see God use their lives to change eternity and invite them to join.

6. Begin, and learn as you go. Even if you start with one or two people, once trained, you can deploy them to begin driving back the darkness in your church and region. Others who see the change in them will be interested in an opportunity like that for themselves.

At Family Church, eight years ago, we started a residency program with a simple, but imperfect, plan and seven willing people. Today, we have over fifty students, and half of the ministry staff at our twelve campuses have come from our residency program. Do not despise the day of small beginnings.

The days are dark, and the need is great. Let’s build an army of men and women to join the battle for souls.

For more information on Multiplication Pipeline, visit pipeline.namb.net.

Published August 4, 2020