The trainer vs. the developer

Brandon Andersen » Church Church Leadership Wisdom Coaching Church Planting Executive Pastor

As a ministry leader, your goal is to maximize the gifts God created a person with, not to get them to do what you need them to do.

A tension in church leadership is often between the church being a “people” and being an organization. You want to love and care for people, but you also have to get the job done. A strong link between the two is leadership development, building up godly, capable leaders to lead and love the church. If this is done well, your ministry will be more effective, and often the little things will fall into place (Exod. 18:21–23). If it is this important, how do we embed leadership development practices in every area of your ministry?

I read a recent business article citing that training is the #1 problem with leadership development because it is largely a systems- and standard-driven approach, at the expense of developing people. This is seemingly opposed to the role of a ministry leader in the church.

God gives people gifts to be used in the church for his kingdom purposes (Rom. 12:6–8). The ministry leader—whose role is to equip them for the work of ministry—is a steward of those people and gifts (Eph. 4:11–12). As a ministry leader, your goal is to maximize the gifts God created a person with, not to get them to do what you need them to do.

19 differences

The difference between training and development can be subtle in practice, but it makes all the difference. Here is a list of differences that will help distinguish between training and development, from a ministry perspective:

  1. A trainer thinks there is a one best way to do things and strives to determine what that is.
    A developer knows that people maximizing their God-given gifts is always the most effective way to do ministry, and creates a framework to enable that.
  2. A trainer focuses on the quick fix.
    A developer focuses on the long game of building leaders who will serve for years to come and even raise up leaders to fill their own roles.
  3. A trainer thinks the best system in the world will love people well.
    A developer knows that loved leaders love people well, not systems.
  4. A trainer is an administrator first and leader second.
    A developer is a leader first and an administrator second.
  5. A trainer motivates with expectations.
    A developer motivates with vision to exceed expectations.
  6. A trainer has a ceiling to their influence because everything depends on them.
    A developer has limitless potential because they can replicate themselves.
  7. A trainer gets his influence from his position.
    A developer gets her influence from personal interaction.
  8. A trainer creates a program.
    A developer creates a culture.
  9. A trainer will build rigid, one-size-fits-all systems and jam people into it.
    A developer will build an adaptable system with a clear goal, and give flexibility for people to use their unique gifts within it.
  10. A trainer focuses on the micro details of today.
    A developer works on a ministry and not just in it.
  11. A trainer looks for skill first and calling second.
    A developer knows it is far more effective to train someone who is called, rather than the exhausting practice continually trying to motivate those who might be skilled but are not self-motivated.
  12. A trainer will work hard for years and make little progress.
    A developer will grow in influence and scope because of the leaders they have developed.
  13. A trainer is focused on the task.
    A developer is focused on the person.
  14. A trainer desires volunteers to feel accomplished when they execute what is asked of them.
    A developer desires to have joy-filled volunteers, using their God-given gifts to do more than they ever imagined possible.
  15. A trainer tends to think their system is best because it makes sense to them.
    A developer surrounds themselves with people with different gifts who will help shed light on blind spots.
  16. A trainer has business relationships with their leaders and always know how their ministries are going.
    A developer has real relationships with their leaders, and always knows how their entire life is going, so they engage personally and develop the whole person.
  17. A trainer dictates where the team is going and exactly how to get there.
    A developer casts a vision for where they are going, and mobilizes people to come along with him and dream together how to get there.
  18. A trainer sees failure as a problem that needs to be fixed.
    A developer sees failure as an opportunity for further growth. However, repeated failures are a problem because they show lack of gifting.
  19. A trainer leads from behind a structure.
    A developer leads from the front as the primary carrier of the vision they want for their ministry.

Development is discipleship

Leadership development reaches its height when the goal is discipleship.

The commission of Jesus to go and make disciples is what drives the church (Matt. 28:18–20), and leadership development is an essential part of making disciples. When we see the fruit of leadership development it should remind us that Jesus builds his church, is growing his church, and will always build leaders through the church to make disciples.

I pray that we would all seek to develop our people to love serve and care for his church.

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