There has been a good amount of focus on “developing leaders” in the last few years.


It has been a welcomed shift in my opinion.  It’s not only helped me be a better leader, but has led to major improvements to our ministry as a whole.

One area that has been growing is my focus on developing my volunteers and my students as leaders.  I help them to identify their gifts and talents.  I spend time with them to help them grow those gifts, and I provide a space where they can practice them.  I challenge them to think in different ways, or at least from alternate perspectives.  We develop goals and figure out steps to accomplish them.  I invited them to dream and vision cast for the ministry.  It’s been wonderful and has become one of my favorite aspects of what I do.  Even just writing about it here gets me all smiley and excited.

I came upon a step in leadership development that can easily be overlooked.  Or maybe it’s forgotten.  Or maybe we convince ourselves that it’s not a necessity.

But the fact is that it’s incredibly necessary, and skipping this step can lead to the unraveling of a lot of the development work we’ve done.

We fail to launch them.

I suppose it’s understandable.  We work so hard to build these people up.  Tons of hours of investment make it a lot harder to them go, let alone help them out the door.  I would even argue that it’s our inclination to hoard our best leaders.  We want to keep them!  We want to use them!  We have great reasons for doing this of course.  My personal favorite is “but what if something happens to me?  I want someone that can pick up right where I left off.”

But of course that’s all just excuses.  Maybe just don’t want to admit we’re hording.  Or maybe we don’t know how to launch.

Whether it’s students, interns, and even volunteer staff, it’s important for us to recognize that launching is a necessary part of leadership development, and to fail to do so means you are failing to fully develop your people.

Oddly, the leaders may not even realized they want to be launched…  They may not be able to imagine themselves ever leaving your ministry.  In my experience though, failing to send them leads to the inevitable moment where the bottom drops out and they know that they should have moved forward but haven’t.  And they might even start blaming you for that failure.

If we do not launch our leaders, then we are like parents that raise good kids, but then insist they never leave the nest.  It’s like building a rocket perfectly and then being content to letting it sit on the launch pad.

We must dream with our leaders.  We must help them see what it would be like for them to go out from our ministry.

I pray that our ministries and programs become known as a catapult.  A slingshot.  A canon.  I don’t just want to help people grow.  I want to help them go.

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About The Author

Jonathan is the director of youth ministries at the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pennsylvania. He has worked in professional youth ministry for more than 16 years, including churches in New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. He has spoken and/or led worship for multiple camps, retreats and events around the country. He took karate in high school because he thought it would help make him cool. He was wrong. Jonathan and his wife, Carolyn, have two beautiful daughters, Kaylin and Julia. He loves golf, can juggle two balls skillfully, and does a halfway decent impression of Kermit the Frog. He's also a big fan of the Oxford comma. Follow him on Twitter @jonhobbstweets.

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