Plenty of churches and resources talk about how to develop other leaders within your church. And there’s no doubt that it’s important for you to pour into volunteers and younger staff members to fulfill their potential within your ministry.
But don’t neglect your own personal and professional development. It’s all too easy to focus on the growth of others while staying static yourself. Making progress in your own leadership takes time and intentionality, but is well worth the investment in the long term.
Why Professional Development is Important
Too many leaders forget to continue learning and honing new skills. Working in a ministry is time consuming and requires a great deal of personal sacrifice. However, your professional development is never a selfish end. It allows you to be a more valuable member of your church.
Learning from experience is always worthwhile. However, you can sometimes save your ministry time and frustration by learning from the experience of others. Take the time to absorb other leaders’ collective knowledge and put it to good use in your own church.
Not only that, but pouring into yourself can help prevent burn out. By finding new and exciting ways to keep your work fresh, you avoid getting stuck in a rut or remaining frustrated with the same repeated issues. Your ministry is better served by you staying invested for the long term.
How to Find the Time for Professional Development
Even if you acknowledge that professional development is important, it’s still difficult to find the time and space to make it happen. There’s an undeniable tension between the value of leadership growth and the reality of pursuing it among a busy schedule.
If you’re serious about the future of your ministry and leadership, you must be intentional to find the time. Talk to your senior pastor about carving out some time during your work. This might only be once a week or month, but hopefully they’ll understand the value and help you find the time.
Even if you need to reserve your personal time after work for continuing education, be sure to set aside blocks on your calendar to ensure it actually happens. Realistically, there will be busier seasons when you need to put this on hold, but don’t put it off forever. You owe it to yourself and your ministry to become a better version of yourself.
5 Ideas for Ministry Professional Development
1. Read Books
Reading books is one of the most effective ways that you can expand your leadership abilities. It allows you to grow new skills, develop more empathy, and widen your perspective.
Books are chock full of collected knowledge and experience. In the few hours it takes you to read a good leadership book, you’ll absorb what it took the author years to learn. It’s no coincidence that the phrase ‘Leaders are Readers’ has become a catchy cliche.
Here’s a list of a few books that you might consider reading:
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
- Didn't See It Coming by Carey Nieuwhof
- How to Lead When You're Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins
- A New Kind of Leader by Reggie Joiner
- Timeless by Brian Dodd
This is just a short list, but there is no shortage of great leadership books out there. I’ve collected a growing list of more than 100 leadership books in case you’re looking for even more ideas.
2. Attend Conferences
Maybe reading isn’t your thing—perhaps you’re more of a visual learner who wants to experience learning first hand. In that case, attending conferences or leadership workshops are for you.
Just like with books for ministry leaders, there is no shortage of good leadership conferences every year. Some are in-person, while others are online. Some are free, and some of the tickets are pricey. Nevertheless, the time and expense of attending these conferences is an investment in your future.
If you’re interested in attending one, here’s a few ideas for some conferences to consider:
- Engage Conference
- Church Leaders Conference
- Orange Conference
- Leadercast Live
- The Global Leadership Summit
- Catalyst Leader Conference
3. Listen To Podcasts
There’s no way to talk about the topic of professional development without addressing podcasts. Similar to reading a book or a blog, podcasts are an efficient and effective way to gather knowledge. Podcast listening is extremely popular because of their accessibility and the wide range of shows.
Unsurprisingly, there is an ample selection of great podcasts specifically for church leaders. The only cost of a podcast is your time. And this time can typically be squeezed into open spaces in your day—like during your commute, while exercising at the gym, or picking up the kids from school.
Here’s a short selection of just a few of the top church leadership podcasts:
- Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast
- Unstuck Church Podcast with Tony Morgan
- unSeminary Podcast
- Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
- Think Orange Podcast
- Church Leaders Podcast
Keep in mind that the podcast landscape is always changing. New podcasts emerge daily, while your favorites might go dormant for a while. Even if one of these podcasts isn’t currently active, you can still go back and listen to the archive of great content they’ve compiled.
4. Get a Mentor
Not every professional development tactic can be gleaned from a podcast or conference. Sometimes, leadership growth has to be personal. This means intentionally seeking out and fostering a relationship with a mentor.
Some churches develop mentor programs within their walls. The same is true for plenty of church organizations or denominations. There are even some ministries dedicated to connecting church leaders to one another.
If you have trouble finding a mentor, start by seeking out people who you admire or who you want to be more like. Invite them to coffee and be honest with what you’re seeking. Let them know how often you’d like to meet and what you’re hoping to learn. Being upfront helps them know whether or not it's a good fit.
A good mentor is vital to your personal and professional development because God created us to be in relationship with one another. Connecting to another follower who is enduring the same challenges and situations you are means that you can learn from one another on multiple levels.
5. Take Online Courses
Maybe you’ve got a Masters in Divinity or never attended college, but you’re never too old to take another class. Luckily, you don’t have to re-enroll in school to learn. There are numerous online courses that could be applicable to your job.
This is especially true if you want to learn how to better leverage new technologies and software for your church. Technology is always changing, and taking a digital class or certification is one of the best ways to keep up.
Because the individual course you take is largely dependent upon your situation, here are a few sources you can check for online classes. These are a mix of free and paid options.
- LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda)
Many of these classes can be completed in just a few hours. Select a few that you’re interested in and work on one every few months. Start with a free option and then see if your church has the budget for you to pay for a premium course. Share what you learn with others.
Are you ready to start investing in your professional development?