Training for Leaders That Actually Works

November 11th, 2017

How do you choose training for your leaders that actually works? There are approximately one thousand and one different training materials you can purchase out there, and each one promises to build the team you need. Most trainings are similar in how they approach things. They give information on how to lead, nice anecdotes to connect the dots for you and your leaders, and they end with reflection questions. Honestly, any training you use or buy is probably giving good subject matter. They probably have worthwhile subjects and topics that are essential for you and you leaders.

So why do you find that you’ve spent $400 on a training seminar or convention, only to realize that the breakout session you were so passionate about left no impact on your ministry in the long run?

Let me tell you why – Information will never be enough.

We won’t get better leaders through more information alone. Information certainly has a place, but only as a first step. Information is only good so far as it helps leaders understand the goal or intended outcome as well as the pathway to get there. Once this information has been conveyed, the most important part of the training can begin – actually putting it into action. In order to put information into action, leaders need 3 things: an example of what the expected action looks like, achievable, measurable steps, and debrief after those steps are taken. Let’s start with understanding the example.

Imitable Example

If the skill you want your leaders to know is how to lead a student to Christ, describing how to do it is only the first step. They also need to see it happen in the flesh – not a lab or a role play example. They need to see it actually happen (success isn’t necessary – it can be just as helpful to let them see you fail). Let it be as authentic as possible, but give your leaders a chance to watch you (or someone) make the “delivery.”

Action Step

People need something simple and clear to pursue. Where there is clarity, there is confidence to accomplish the goal. Action steps also need to be measurable. How will they know when they’ve done what they need to do? Finally, the action step needs to be done as soon as possible. Give it a time line. We tend to do very poorly when the timing of doing something differently or new is left vague and undefined. So as you establish vision for how your leaders are to lead and minister, break things down for them. If the goal is to go from A to Z, the next steps are not X and Y; they are B and C. Simplify them, measure them clearly, and set a timeline for their accomplishment.


Without debrief, there is no way of knowing what actually happened. I may see what is expected and have clear steps to get there, but without outside perspective I have no way of knowing what went well and what went poorly. That’s the goal of debrief. We use the language of “affirmation” and “critiques” to debrief. We start by affirming what went well in carrying out the action. Be as specific as possible. “Good job” never helped anyone. I can’t repeat the behavior of “good job.” But something like “you didn’t answer students questions right away – you involved others in the process. That was great!” Is specific and repeatable. The same rules apply for critique. Give real feedback that can actually be used the next time to do the task better. Always be as specific and clear as possible.

We can’t expect people to go from knowing to doing. WE have to help them know how to do what is expected and know how to tweak it for next time they give it a try. I think you’ll find that we are an over-informed culture that is in need of guides to reach our goals. Leaders need people to walk before them and show them the way. Information can only get us so far – it is the modeling and action that will actually make a difference in our ministry.

Dan Koller is the youth pastor at Gun Lake Community Church. Dan enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife (who edits all his content and makes him sound smarter than he actually is) and his two amazing sons. He has a heart for small town ministry and has a passion to help other youth pastors succeed. Dan is also working with Rebuild North America; an organization dedicated to empowering and resourcing children’s, youth, and young adult leaders through coaching, training, and content. 

 You can read more from Dan at https://thesmalltownyouthpastor.wordpress.com

 You can also connect with him on facebook or instagram @smalltownyouthpastor or twitter @smalltownYP

 You can connect with the work he does with Rebuild at http://www.rebuildna.com


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.