Can we tawk about the… minor leagues?

Yup, I’m a Yankees fan! Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me talk about Ben Heller and life in Scranton, PA. Last month, Heller was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after making just one appearance for the Yankees. He recorded one out while allowing a walk and a hit – not so good.  Meanwhile, Ronald Herrera was recalled to take his place in the bullpen.

Did you ever think of how cool it would be if the Church had a minor league “farm system?” When we need a pastor, youth leader, wise elder, smart strategist, organized manager … it would be so easy if we could send a scout to the minor leagues.

Not many years ago I was standing with about 10 significant Christian Community Development leaders at a conference and we noted that we were all aging. As we looked around the room of maybe 2000 other leaders at the conference, I suddenly blurted out, “Oh man, who, in this next generation, is coming up behind me to replace me?!” Frankly, that was the day we all agreed that we had not been intentional in leadership reproduction, much less multiplication

The response to that conversation, as the EFCA Urban Ministry Director, was to recruit, coach, resource and deploy leaders out of an EDA ministry called UTOPIA. When I became the president of Center for Student Missions, the first thing I did was design an apprenticeship program. Today I am still coaching young leaders, very mindful that it was exactly what Jesus was teaching his disciples to do in John 4:35.

Reid Carpenter, who founded the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation and was a Young Life worker, says that a leader has five basic characteristics. He calls them the Five Charismata.

5 Characteristics to Develop in Young Leaders – and Yourself!

  1. VISION: I can see. The most important element of which is to bestow love, dignity and respect on others.
  2. SERVANTHOODI am willing to place myself underneath. Others must become bigger and better.
  3. ENGAGEMENTI am willing to cross the lines and go where I sometimes don’t belong…to meet among the poor, rich, black, white, etc.
  4. BELIEF: I know where I came from, who I am and where I am going.  My actions are based on uncompromised truth.
  5. GROWTH: I desire to change, to deepen, to widen, to ascend.

These characteristics must be developed in all of us, whether we are elders in a church, teach Sunday School, lead a youth ministry, serve as a missionary, work as a Christian business person in the market place, or raise children in our family.

Apprenticing is the way that we pass on our leadership to the next generation.  Bill Hull, author and my former boss, says, “apprenticing happens when you watch me and I show you how; we do it together; you do it and I watch you; you do it and someone else watches you.”  

The Language of a Good Leader Apprentice:

  • “Watch me, I’ll show you.”
  • “Listen to me, I’ll talk you through it.”
  • “Talk to me, tell me where you are going and how you will get there.”
  • “Report to me, tell me you did it.”
  • “Here’s what’s happened, what I did right, what I did wrong.”
  • “Rejoice with me, weep with me and we’ll share the triumphs and defeats together.”

Consider who you are influencing through an apprentice/mentoring relationship. If people are watching you and learning anyway, why not be intentional about it and reproduce yourself? Young leaders need to watch and participate in strategic planning, evangelism, teaching and so many other disciplines that make up a leader.

Turn around brothers and sisters and ask, “who will replace me in what I’m doing?”  If no one’s there, look for someone and be intentional in following the apprenticeship model prescribed by the Apostle Paul, when he made Timothy an apprentice and said, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

Together we’ll build a “minor league farm system for Christ’s sake and the expansion of His Church where God sends us.

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Dan Reeve

Dan Reeve has been engaged in ministry for decades. He has served as pastor, urban mission director for the EFCA, President of the Center for Student Missions and as a Church Re-start consultant. Dan and his wife Kimberly recently moved from Brooklyn NY to Newark NJ where they have become the stewards of the John Sydenham House. They have three married daughters and six small grand kids. Dan’s passion is the Church, preaching and leadership development. He believes that community and personal transformation happen best when the Church, the people of God are present to make Christ Followers.

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