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Building God's People
by Chuck Wooten
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A column by

Chuck Wooten

Title: Building God’s People

A dear friend recently blessed me with a copy of Rick Warren’s bestselling book, the Purpose Driven Church. As I usually do before I dive into a book, I take the time to read the jacket covers, front and back, all the introductions, acknowledgements, and accolades. I opened this book and began reading the inside sleeve. Just as I approached the bottom, a sentence jumped straight off the page and penetrated deep into my spirit. It said, “If you will concentrate on building people, God will build the church.” How profound!

You see, although I’m not personally called to plant churches, I have been called to build up and strengthen ministries. The very heart and soul of the process I use is people development. In example after biblical example, there are vivid illustrations of how God selected people for various tasks, and then step-by-step He ordered them on a path of development to accomplish His purpose for their lives. A wonderful example of people development is Jesus’ work with His disciples. He chose them, then all throughout His ministry; He developed and prepared them to carry out the Great Commission. Let’s go back even further to the life of Jesus. Before His ministry on earth, He spent thirty years being developed.

Leaders cannot overlook developing their people, yet all too often, they do just that. We live in a quick-fix and instant gratification world and it’s very easy to take our people for granted and consider them fully qualified. We also have a tendency to mistake training for development. If you take away nothing else from this column, please know this: Training and Development are apples and oranges. Let me explain:

The training EVENT: In order for people to function in a job, they need skills. Knowledge-based training provides those skills. Now, before a person achieves a level of skill needed to do the job, they already possess certain behaviors, habits and attitudes that will determine how well they will do that job. Let’s use your physician as an example: He may be very skilled in treating most any physical condition, but if he isn’t motivated to show up for your appointment, he is of no value to you. This kind of poor attitude and behavior can and will derail any organization, including your ministry and impede your success of reaching the unchurched.

Another decisive difference between a training event and a development process is the way in which they’re delivered. Typically, training is completed by attending a class, or seminar. This is what I lovingly refer to as, “drinking through a fire hose.” For days you are force-fed reams of information. When it’s over you walk out, head swimming and loaded with knowledge, fired-up to change your piece of the world. Literally within hours, your retention of that knowledge begins an out-of –control decline. The “forgetting curve” of training is radically larger than development.

So, if we can agree at this point that training and development are different, let’s carry it a step further. It’s a fact that certain skill training is necessary to any ministry because people need to know how to do their jobs. When you make the quality decision to couple a development effort with your training, it will really make the training investment pay off. Without development, the return on training is very limited.

The development PROCESS: Development is a process because it uses proven techniques that are successful and repeatable. It’s important to spend a little time exploring them. The first thing I’m led to do is put this topic of developmental technique into biblical perspective. In Romans 10:17, the Apostle Paul asserts, Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (NKJ). We know that in this passage, the word “hearing” is a continual, present-tense verb. That means it is to be done over and over, or repeated often. In other words, over time, the more you hear the word of God, the stronger your faith develops.

In a world-class development program, designed for world-class ministries like yours, I use a technique called, spaced repetition, which carries the same intent of Paul’s instruction. It involves exposure to the same material on a repetitive basis, over time, until it becomes a new, productive habit, attitude or behavior. Look back at your life. Almost everything you do now with any kind of fluency, you learned by repetition. Tying your shoes, driving a car, spelling e-n-c-y-c-l-o-p-e-d-i-a are all examples of how you developed…over time.

Another aspect of development that is closely related to spaced-repetition is the multi-sensory technique. For example, we know from research that some people are better visual learners; they have to see what they’re learning. Others are primarily auditory learners. They learn best by hearing the material. The materials I use fully engage both senses. Development is achieved by both the written and recorded word. When used together, it’s a powerful approach that is unmatched in getting positive results.

The final technique I’ll talk about is another glaring differentiator between training and development. It’s called practical application. I believe most of us will agree that people learn by doing. I know I do. When you attend a training course, you take in information, attempt to commit it to memory, get tested on it, then a majority of it gets “dumped” to make room for the next chapter, lesson, etc. In my development programs, as participants learn, they actually apply what they’ve learned, real-time in their daily tasks and responsibilities and as they do, new, productive habits are created and real improvements results in their work. As they achieve successes, new, productive attitudes are created. It works every time.

I’d like to leave you with a couple of questions: If you could fix any area of your ministry that is causing any level of organizational “pain,” what would it be? What if there was a way to not only eliminate the pain, but launch your ministry into new levels of excellence and productivity forever, would you be willing to investigate it? I hope this article generates curiosity. It should. I believe we’re all called to advance God’s Kingdom and we cannot do it if we remain the same and tolerate those painful areas instead of developing the cure. God’s plan for your ministry is to operate with ever-increasing levels of excellence. I believe you cannot achieve that by trying every new “miracle of the week” or by accepting the status quo. Real change is needed and there is expert help available.

As I close, I can’t help but wonder what our existence would be like if Jesus would’ve selected His twelve disciples and accepted them as “fully qualified” and not invested in developing them to carry on after His time on earth was finished? How would our Church look now, I wonder?

I welcome your questions about this and any other topics concerning how to improve your ministry organizationally. I will publish your questions confidentially with biblically-based responses so that we create a forum of caring, sharing and improving…all for the God’s glory!

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