I pastor a fast-growing church, and our staff is incredible. We are young. The median age of our staff is 31 years old, and if it wasn’t for our 52-year-old family pastor—who is a rockstar, but busts the curve—our average would be 29 years old. Having a young staff is great. We have energy, excitement, and a willingness to charge hell with a water pistol. Being young also means we often lack experience as we tackle new challenges.
How do we make up for lack of experience and continuous new horizons? We strive to grow as leaders. Leading well is not easy. You cannot drift into becoming a well-led organization or stumble upon being a great leader. It requires urgency, focus, and intentionality. For this reason, our staff does monthly leadership development together. The following outlines our focus at one of those training times: Becoming Knowledgable and Wise Leaders.
Being knowledgeable means that you have information, understanding, or skill that comes from experience or education. Knowledgeable leaders have information, understanding, and skill related to performing their job. Knowledge is acquired. It must be sought after.
Good news! Resources are everywhere! There are books, blogs, podcasts, and constant opportunities to learn from other leaders. If a leader expects to rise with the organization, that leader must continue to grow too.
This requires an ongoing pursuit to learn. You cannot microwave leadership development. In their fantastic book, The Truth About Leadership, James Kouzes, and Barry Posner say this about development:
“You won’t find a fast track to excellence. There’s no such thing as instant expertise. There’s no shortcut to greatness in leadership or anything else. Those who are the very best became that way because they spent more time learning and practicing, not less time learning.”
Leaders who lack the knowledge to perform will forfeit opportunities to lead. This should create urgency. We must guard against the idea that God will make up for our lack of knowledge. Mike Bonem in In Pursuit of Great AND Godly Leadership nails it when he says,
“I am talking about the occasions when leaders take a lackadaisical approach, expecting God to make up for their poor planning or minimal effort. It is the adult version of the student who didn’t study, prayed as the test was handed out, and expected God to give him recall of facts he never learned.”
Great leaders are great learners.
Knowledge is important, but if we want to be godly leaders, it won’t suffice. We need wisdom. This was the attribute required by the disciples for delegating leadership responsibility in Acts 6:3, where it was said to “pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.” Wisdom was the qualification. These were to be individuals, not only capable of organizing and directing the affairs of the church, they needed to be wise.
What is wisdom? The ability to connect cause and effect. That is it. Sadly, it is not possessed by many. Wisdom helps leaders take the knowledge for doing the job and equips them with discernment and judgment for leading.
In ministry, our team needs wisdom for interacting with people. Discerning what to say, what not to say, how to say, when to say, to whom to say, is all wisdom related. Wisdom helps you to read both people and situations. Wisdom is also needed for making decisions. Discerning what to do, what not to do, how should we do it, who needs to be involved are all wisdom related. Leaders are constantly faced with the dilemma of making decisions between multiple good things. This requires wisdom.
How do you become wise? Wisdom is given by God. It is not age-determined. It is spiritually determined. This is why Paul prays for believers to be granted wisdom (Colossians 1:9). Wisdom grows as our spiritual maturity grows. Scripture actually invites us to ask God for it, and He will give it to us (James 1:5). This should encourage all leaders everywhere to cultivate a prayer life where wisdom is pursued.
Some questions for reflection
- How much time are you investing each week to gain knowledge and become a better leader? What resources have you found or heard to be helpful?
- Who are some people ahead of you that you need to begin learning from (even if from a distance)?
- What could you begin doing to create an organizational culture that celebrates and rewards learning?
- What types of decisions and circumstances does your job present which require wisdom? What was the last decision you made where wisdom was needed? Did you get it right or would you like a do-over?
- What could you build into your schedule each day to ensure you are growing in wisdom?
May God raise up leaders marked by both knowledge and wisdom.
Erik is the pastor of The Journey Church outside of Nashville, TN. Erik has written three novels, multiple Bible studies for Threads, The Gospel Project, & Bible Studies for Life, and served on the Advisory Team for the best-selling Bible study: Explore the Bible. He and his wife, Katrina, have three kids: Kaleb, Kaleigh, and Kyra.