By Michael Fletcher

It happened again. As I sat at my keyboard to write this chapter, I saw an e-mail from a pastor of a large and fast-growing church I had met while mentoring a group of pastors on leadership development. The contents of the e-mail were familiar: “We need to learn how to create a leadership-development culture in our church. May my team and I travel to your church for one day to learn about this?” Yesterday, I spent considerable time on two phone calls about the same topic: how to build better leaders faster. The first was a conference call with a number of pastors who, at the end of the phone call, requested a two-day meeting for their group. The second was with the facilitator of a group of top churches of a certain denomination. This is routine, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. (Trust me, I’m not being humble. I wish I were humble.) It has everything to do with what I am calling the leadership crisis.

According to a World Economic Forum survey, 86 percent of respondents say there is a leadership crisis in the world today. There simply aren’t enough trained leaders to meet the political and economic challenges the world is facing today. In a recent Forbes magazine article, leadership author Mike Myatt outlined this leadership crisis and actually called for a new leadership movement to solve the problem. Beyond economics and politics, a simple search of the Internet yields numerous articles predicting a leadership crisis in nursing, public school principals, pharmacy, higher education, and so on. And this leadership crisis is not just a secular problem. Ask any pastor. We simply have more needs inside and outside the local church than leaders to meet those needs, and everyone feels it. As I travel the world (our network of churches has operations in sixty-three countries), consult with churches here in the United States, and serve as a mentor with Leadership Network, it seems everyone is asking the same question: “How do we train better leaders faster?”

Growth requires that we add new leaders. Continual growth requires a continual supply of leaders. The megachurch and multisite movements have proven this point. Additionally, leaders in smaller churches understand that, to move forward, they have to develop a growing team of leaders. The problem is, very few have a well-thought-out leadership-development pipeline, and even fewer have a true leadership-development culture. To fill the roles of staff, churches simply hire from other churches. Therefore, when it comes to building the leadership potential of the individual members of the church, most churches are too busy scrambling to find volunteers to fill slots to even think about leadership development on this level. The church cannot afford to simply pilfer one another’s staffs and ignore the massive leadership potential in the pews. Eventually someone is going to have to train some new leaders!


The local church must concern itself with training leaders on two levels—staff and members—and the second can feed the first. Hiring pastors and key staff roles from within is the very best policy. If you use the character, chemistry, and competence metric for hiring staff, it only makes sense to hire almost exclusively from within. Since the person was built inside the house—discipled, mentored, trained, developed—the character of the individual is well known. Further, leaders in the house likely had their hands in the formation of that character, since true leadership development includes the often messy but necessary interaction of life upon life. Leaders trained inside the house grow up breathing the culture of the house. You don’t have to send them through a ten-week “learn our DNA” program; they are a product of that culture. They don’t just know your vision, they are part of it. They own it. When leaders are built inside the house, their gifts and callings become apparent, their strengths and weaknesses obvious. You are able to evaluate them by what you have gleaned from personal observation as it relates to their competency, not just what you read in a résumé or discerned from a few interviews. Simply put, you know what you’re getting when you hire from within. One very powerful benefit from hiring almost entirely from within is what we call the upward draft. When a church member is in a key leadership role and then brought onto the paid staff, the change creates a vacuum of sorts and pulls other leaders up to fill that former position. This, in turn, creates another vacuum, which pulls up others into higher roles of leadership. In one ministry role after another, this readjustment goes all the way down through the ranks.

When leaders are built inside the house, their gifts and callings become apparent, their strengths and weaknesses obvious.

A true leadership-development culture feeds off the excitement created by the upward draft. This is especially true when the role being filled is a pastor or director slot. The people in the church are being led by someone they think of as “one of us,” and the idea that one day that could be me becomes much more than a dream. Or we could just pilfer staff from some other church and send the message to our members that no one here is good enough to fill these roles.

At the time of this writing, we cut about 120 payroll checks per month, including weekenders (those who only work on the weekends). Of those, 113 were built inside the house. Of the four people on our lead team, three started as janitors—and that includes me. As a result, the vast majority of our staff has been thoroughly cross-trained. One pastor served in housekeeping, led worship, served the youth, and worked as a personal assistant before becoming a pastor. Another worked as a janitor, served in children’s ministry, youth ministry, and outreach and evangelism before he joined the staff as an administrator and then as a pastor. And I could go on and on.

In fact, we don’t hire for specific professional roles, such as children’s pastor or youth pastor. We build and hire pastors and put them in various roles to help further develop them in their calling.

Michael Fletcher led Manna Church from 350 to over 8500 members by focusing primarily on effective outreach and leadership development. Under his leadership, Manna Church has planted, or partnered to plant, over 75 churches worldwide and is engaged in a “multiply” strategy with a vision to plant an expression of Manna Church near every US military base in the world. Michael and his wife Laura, love endurance sports, both with over 25 marathon finishes. In addition, Michael enjoys triathlon (3 Ironman finishes) and Laura competes in ultra-marathons. They have 8 children, 19 grandchildren, and live in Fayetteville, NC.