One of the Best (But Rarely Used) Ways to Train Leaders

There are lots of ways to develop and shape future leaders. One of my favorites is to use ministry case studies. It’s one thing to study Scripture and talk ideally about how it might apply. It’s another to be placed in a ministry situation and determine what you’d actually do.

Ministry Case Studies

Case studies can be made up, but the most interesting are the ones I’ve actually faced. Any time I face a particularly interesting situation, I write it down. Then, as I’m meeting with a group of developing leaders, I’ll read it and ask them how they would respond. For example:

A man comes to you for help. His rocky, twelve-year marriage has taken a turn for the worse. For the last few years he has grown increasingly frustrated because his wife likes to go dancing and “clubbing” with her girlfriends, often meeting and flirting with guys. He has reacted with sinful anger and name-calling and they reached a breaking point six months ago. She has asked him to move out and he has complied. He would like to pursue reconciliation, but she seems unwilling. They both profess to be Christians (come from Catholic backgrounds), though she no longer attends church and has scorned any of her Christian influences. He has seen a psychologist for his anger issues, has been diagnosed as “bi-polar” and is on medication to treat the condition. How would you help this man?

There are some real benefits to training leaders with these kinds of situations:

1. Leaders become much more teachable after feeling overwhelmed by a difficult scenario. Teaching great content is wonderful, but unless someone finds it relevant, the lessons don’t stick. After you throw somebody in the deep end of the ministry pool with these scenarios, they’re much more likely to remember what they learn.

2. You get to read the flinches that different leaders have. Some flinch more towards grace, others toward truth. Some flinch towards biblical principles, others toward worldly wisdom. Some respond emotionally, others intellectually. Some are frighteningly idealistic, others overly pragmatic. Seeing the variety of responses helps you understand and equip each leader.

3. It helps leaders appreciate the challenge of effective ministry. Young leaders are especially idealistic. They easily forget that effective ministry is often nuanced, textured, and difficult to figure out. Many real-life situations do not have simple answers. These situations bring people back to reality.

4. It’s really fun. If you feel like the time you’re spending developing leaders is getting boring or they’re losing interest, try some case studies. It will be engaging, enjoyable, and memorable.

I’ve developed a longer list here. Feel free to use them, change them, or improve them. And if you have some good scenarios for me, let me know.


How would you handle this one? (it’s a real situation from a pastor friend of mine).

A potential small group leader, with high level ministry experience, comes to you with a potential issue. He and his wife are empty nesters, married for 20+ years, and mature Christians. Often when he and his wife go hiking, they go far enough off the trail that they feel comfortable taking off their clothes and enjoying a nice place naked. Often there is water nearby and they go for a skinny-dip. Some places are known as good skinny-dipping spots and on occasion there will be other people there doing the same thing. He also belongs to a few hiking clubs where skinny-dipping is accepted practice. His wife has sent him off on hikes knowing that there will likely be skinny-dipping in mixed company. She trusts him to behave honorably and he insists that he has not let her down. He and his wife are comfortable with this situation and believe they are acting honorably before God. They do, however, understand that other Christians think differently and want you to know prior to allowing them to lead others. How would you respond?

Published by Luke Simmons

I was born and raised in Denver, CO and lived there through high school. Then I moved to Champaign, IL where I attended the University of Illinois and played on the Fighting Illini baseball team. I was married in December, 2001 to Molly, who I met at the U of I. In June of 2002, we moved to Phoenix and have been here ever since.

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