A frequently-used business term related to human resources is “succession planning.” Basically, business leaders are encouraged to identify and prepare individuals who can become the new leaders when the current leaders change roles or leave the organization.
Succession planning is not a new concept. Moses groomed Joshua, Elijah prepared Elisha, Jesus commissioned Peter, and Paul mentored Timothy. (See Deuteronomy 31:7; 1 Kings 19:19-21; John 21:15-19; and 2 Timothy 2:2.)
So often in kids ministry, we are so busy filling volunteer slots with what often seems to be a scarcity of willing adults that we don’t think we have the time or energy to consider succession planning. In reality preparing for our exit can become a natural part of our ministry.
- Identify potential leaders. Observe the volunteers in your ministry. Do other volunteers look to them as leaders? Do they offer solutions to problems and positive suggestions for continuous improvement?
- Share responsibility with potential leaders. Sometimes we give potential leaders too much responsibility, too soon. Instead, invite volunteers to serve alongside you. This allows you to mentor and observe them in various leadership situations.
- Give potential leaders responsibility. Once you’ve shared responsibility, consider delegating some leadership tasks to potential leaders. Approach every ministry and leadership task with the question, “Could someone else do this task as well as or better than I?” Stay close in case the volunteer requests your advice. Resist the temptation to take over, causing volunteers to feel defeated.
- Let potential leaders lead. When you go out of town or when you’re sick, place potential leaders in situations where they have to lead in your absence. This could be facilitating a meeting for a group of volunteers or serving as the kids worship leader in your stead.
- Provide feedback. Be sure to tell potential leaders what they did well and coach them on areas in which they need to grow.
Preparing others to step into your leadership shoes doesn’t have to be an added task that you don’t have time to accomplish. Instead as you lead, develop others to lead.
Remember what Jesus told the apostles after he washed their feet? “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15) Jesus made succession planning part of His ministry, and so should we.
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Ministry Publishing, Nashville, TN. A graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Landry is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. Landry also teaches children at his church in Middle Tennessee.