One key finding of faith development is that it has the potential to grow throughout adulthood. Adult activities must be created to challenge an individual’s faith to grow. The development of faith is nurtured by encouraging Christians to understand and interact with other’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. The author Dennis Dirks, one of the contributing authors to the book, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, states, “The insights of faith development theory have much to contribute to the Christian leader and the process of Christian education. Its principles enlarge our understanding of the human psychological aspects of spiritual development” (83). With all of these theories, there are positive aspects that can be used to help in teaching, however there are also weaknesses and limitations. The Bible must be the final determining factor as to how development of faith is measured. This must be based on sound doctrine and biblical imperatives.
I must determine how does this information help me to guide and instruct individuals? I must determine what my purpose and goal of teaching is in light of this new learning. I must find what my intended leadership style and teaching style is in light of this new learning. Every person is unique in the way they learn and this is true for how people lead others. It is important for one to review their personal style for its strengths and weaknesses. One should continue to nurture the strengths in their leadership style. The weaknesses should be evaluated to determine what needs to be changed and how to accomplish that task.
One step I took to better my ability to lead is to have a mentor that has gone this way before to help me. I have a spiritually healthy mentor. My mentor, Reverend Cynthia Thomas, has encouraged me just as Paul encouraged Timothy. “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12).
As a leader one must first ensure their life is an example of Christian character. In teaching others, we must first model to them what is acceptable behavior. Joseph M. Stowell, the author of Shepherding the Church states, “First on the list is his speech – what he says about other people, what he says to people, what he is not willing to say, and what he is willing to courageously proclaim” (111). It is important that my speech is godly speech. It is also important that I know when to speak and when to be quiet. People are looking for people that are trustworthy to share their personal concerns and situations. If they feel you are a busybody, they will not trust you with their information. I try to make sure that even when requesting prayer for someone, I do not give more information than is needed so as not to release sensitive information that was shared with me. As the leader of a women’s cell group, I must show myself trustworthy if I am to have those I lead trust in me. The women share very personal things about their lives and relationships. They must feel comfortable to share without fearing they will hear that which they shared being gossiped about from others.
I also believe it is vital to mentor and show others how to live for Christ. We cannot expect a new believer to understand how to walk until they are taught how. The next step is to show them how to duplicate the process. I believe this is missing in some of our churches. New believers are being led to believe all they have to do is “get saved” and that is all there is. This is simply the beginning of the process, not the end. Robert E. Coleman, the author of The Master Plan of Evangelism states, “Surely if the pattern of Jesus at this point means anything at all, it teaches that the first duty of a church leadership is to see to it that a foundation is laid in the beginning on which can be built an effective and continuing evangelistic ministry to the multitudes” (36).
I believe that no amount of programs or activities will take the place of well-trained believers. Jesus calls us to disciple others. This is the vital point of my leadership style. Whether it is in my Sunday school class, Junior Church or as the leader of a Cell group, I want to ensure all are trained in righteousness. I also understand that others will not follow my lead, if I am not doing what I am asking of them. I believe it is important to lead by example. This is what Jesus did with his disciples.
Jesus took aside his twelve disciples and showed them how to pray, how to “be” what he was calling for them to be. “It was an indispensable part of their training, which in turn they would have to transmit to others. One thing is certain. Unless they grasped the meaning of prayer, and learned how to practice it with consistency, not much would ever come from their lives” (Coleman, 72). If I want my students to know how important prayer is, I must show it to them. I also must teach them why prayer is vital to their lives.
I am still developing my style of leadership, but on these points I believe I am following Jesus’ example, as he would call for me to. I am first an example to those that I lead. I show them by my life how important it is to study and live the word. I also stress to those I lead the importance of sharing with others. I give them assignments that allow them to test the things they have learned. I believe this is in line with what Jesus did. He taught his disciples and then he sent them to do what they had learned. I can also take the new learning and use it to see if I am preparing lessons that are appropriate for the age group I am teaching. Am I being aware of the different learning styles and making sure all are receiving the information in a way that is understandable by them?
My desire is to be a leader that is in line with the example given through the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus was creative in his messages. He used things that people were familiar with to share important messages. I must be willing to do the same. I must be creative in my teaching style and be willing to use the things that are common to people to explain the deeper things. Jesus calls us to follow him as he followed after his Father. So I call others to follow me, as I follow after Jesus with the intention of going into the world and preaching the Gospel. Understanding ones purpose and setting goals to obtain that purpose is the first step to realization. After the purpose is understood, one must then understand and learn how to accomplish this goal. Once one has developed the strategies to accomplishing the how, it is time to understand one’s personal commitment and dedication to the purposes. When one has completed that task, it is with the help of the Holy Spirit that one can be a vital contributor to the mission of the church, which is to reach the lost and equip the saved.
Anthony, Michael J, et. al. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.
Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell Company, 2005.
McBride, Neal F. How To Lead Small Groups. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpress, 1990.
Mintools.com/Christian Education Ministry Overview. 2006. 14 September 2006.
Mintools.com/Christian Education Ministry Philosophy. 2006. 14 September 2006.
Rheenen, Gailyn Van. Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies: Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.
Stowell, Joseph M. Shepherding the Church. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1997.
Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.