Leadership is a high calling and an incredibly rewarding experience. Good leaders are important to the mission, and we have to be careful and intentional when recruiting and training them.
But it doesn't stop there because leadership is also challenging. Leaders can far too easily burn out or feel frustrated, lonely, insecure, or just plain empty. One of the most important things we can do to help further God's mission is to invest in our leaders after we have recruited and empowered them. This keeps them from ineffective leadership and protects them from falling into the negative traps of leadership. Loving on our leaders is always worth our time. We need to take the extra time to care for them.
I'm extremely grateful to have had great leaders in my life who have modeled this for me by consistently investing and pouring into me. I've never felt like I was recruited and then sent out on my own. There have been many great leaders over me who have intentionally invested in my leadership development, and in me personally. Because of their efforts, I've grown in my leadership, felt cared for, and, honestly, had a lot more fun on God's mission.
Intentionally investing in leaders is both an art and a science. Let's start with the science. Investing in leaders is really our opportunity to disciple them as Christ-followers, which is great news because that's the charge Jesus gave us each to do: go and make disciples. As we look at Jesus' life, we see lots of ways that he grew in his spiritual journey and helped others grow in theirs. One of my favorite references to this is Luke 2:52, where Luke says this about Jesus: He grew in wisdom and in stature, and grew in favor with God and with men. Jesus grew in four ways—mentally (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritually (favor with God), and relationally (favor with men). In order to remember these four types of growth, we can rearrange them to spell out RPMS. Checking in with your leaders about their RPMS is a great way to invest in them.
To check in with a leader relationally, I like to ask about his or her personal relationships. How's your marriage? How's it going with your kids? How are your friendships: Are you staying connected to others who know the real you? Which relationships are most life-giving to you right now? Which are currently most challenging? These questions help us discern and develop the relational side of a leader's life, a part that's extremely important to any leadership role.
Checking in with a leader physically is all about making sure he or she is staying healthy. Now this might sound odd at first, and maybe even a bit too personal, but consider how our health affects our lives. It can actually hinder their leadership and spiritual growth! And realize this—you might be the only person in their life who's asking these questions. So ask your leaders about their physical health. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Do you ever get opportunities to exercise? Do you generally feel energized or tired? Then you get the opportunity to encourage and challenge your leaders in this area. Discussing physical health is a great way to spot oncoming burn out.
It's not just the physical health that's important for leaders to keep going strong; it's their mental health too. Are they getting enough mental breaks? What helps them "turn off" and really relax? Are they plagued with worry and stress? The other important way to invest in a leader mentally is to make sure they're growing mentally. I like to ask leaders what they're reading and whether they're learning anything new. Sometimes I encourage leaders to take special classes or attend conferences. I also love to recommend blogs, websites, and books to read, including SmallGroups.com.