Designing Leadership Training

Many Christian training programs for leaders are just simplified versions of academic programs. But are these programs effectively helping leaders to develop the skills and knowledge they need to be effective? Elliston and Kauffman (1993) suggest that one way to decide what type of program might be needed is to think about five types of leaders:


Functions & Context


Type 1 leader

Small group or ministry

Intensive, face to face, not extensive

Type 2 leader

Coordinator of ministries

Intensive, direct and indirect

Type 3 leader

Pastor of the church/district

Less intensive, direct and indirect

Type 4 leader

Regional leader

More extensive, mostly indirect

Type 5 leader

International context

Very extensive, mostly indirect


They make two important observations: (1) Effective churches need to invest the greatest share of resources into training Type 1 and 2 leaders since they are the most likely to reach non-Christians. (2) Designers of leadership training programs need to ask, what type of leaders are to be trained? Each type of leader has different needs.

  • Type 1 and 2 leaders need short hands-on practical training in specific skills and knowledge. Informal or nonformal models of training, modeling and apprenticeships may be most effective.
  • Type 3 leaders often need a formal seminary degree to function in a church setting. It should cover knowledge in management and leadership.
  • Type 4 leaders may need a broader knowledge of theories and their application because they function in so many different contexts.  Nonformal, less structured education models may be most helpful.
  • Type 5 leaders need to consider not only theories but need to develop an ability in theory construction that allows them to modify theories of action when required by different contexts. Informal models, mentoring, and apprenticeships may be the best options.

What kind of leadership programs does your organization offer? And for what type of leaders? Does the design of your programs match the intended type of learner? Do you invest enough in equipping your Type 1 and 2 leaders? If not, what will you do about it?

Source: Elliston, E. J., & Kauffman, J. T. (1993). Developing leaders for urban ministries. New York: P. Lang.

See also: Vella, J. K. (2002). Learning to listen, learning to teach: The power of dialogue in educating adults (Rev. ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.