It's a conversation that has repeated itself several times over the years for me. The conversation takes different forms, but the theme is the same: Can people grow into spiritual leadership quickly, or only slowly? Can small groups be multiplied quickly, or does it take extended periods of time? Can new small group leaders be released into leadership quickly with the help of quality programmed curriculums, or does slower process-oriented apprenticing and relational training need to happen before releasing leaders?
In short, can development processes be "micro-waved" or do they need to be "crock-potted"? It's a conversation that took place again recently with some leaders in our local church. Did we come up with an answer? Yes and No.
We agreed it seems clear the New Testament gives ample evidence of both philosophies of leadership development. Some people were released quickly and "young" to lead (Acts 8:26-40) and some were mentored slowly and deeply (2 Timothy 1). So what's the right strategy? Probably both.
One thing we did conclude: We need to be intentional about people and leadership development. Intentional enough to have quick "microwave" release hopes and goals, but realistic enough and patient enough to persevere through the reality that much of the leader development process happens in the "crock-pot."
If we expect leadership to happen by just adding water or watching a DVD or whatever, I think we will become painfully aware of the shortcomings of that approach over time. However, going to the other extreme, if we wait it out until a potential leader has "attained the whole measure of the fullness of Christ," we are likely to be waiting a very long time.
So, what do you do? It's safe to say that, with any leadership development process, we should not expect a quick release to be fruitful without the support structure that an intentional relational connection to another more mature leader provides. It's also safe to say that a slow release is not fruitful without the same thing.