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Are You Wasting Time Developing the Wrong People?

Developing Yeast in the Dough Instead of Raising Crops

I’ve spent decades discipling and developing leaders. While there has certainly been fruit and multiplication, for years it seemed that the amount of effort I was putting into training up leaders wasn’t yielding a proportionate harvest. Have you ever felt this way?

In my earliest experiences with starting missional communities and planting churches, I learned that I had to keep my eye on the prize of ongoing leadership development. It had to remain a high priority. We equipped everyone in community in the same way as we tried to raise a new crop of leaders.

Yeast in the Dough?

And we learned the hard way that not everyone was willing or able to lead, and certainly not in the same ways. Instead of trying to raise a crop, we needed to shift our metaphor and focus to finding the yeast that could be worked into and affect the entire lump of doughy community. What do I mean by that?

Well this should not have come as such a revelation to us because Jesus taught just such a thing to his disciples. In nearly back-to-back parables he contrasted the difference between growing crops (the sower in Matt. 13:3-9) and the effect of yeast (Matt. 13:33) in baking bread and how these apply to kingdom principles for growth.

In this second parable Jesus tells us that just a little yeast can change everything and lead to great expansion of the community—or should I say “dough.” He shifts from the perspective of raising crops, where the result is mixed (one of four seeds yield great results), to using yeast, which permeates an entire loaf of bread.

One size fits all trans w-red circleAs we apply this to leadership development, I believe it means that it’s possible to apply a common, one-size-fits-all approach, trying to raise a crop of leaders, but you rarely get the same fruitfulness out of each person.

By contrast, if you look for the “yeasty” people, those who are ready for growth and will in turn lead others to maturity along with them, it produces a far greater result in the long run.

And I can tell you, it is a pleasure giving time and energy to those who desire to be equipped to lead. It’s much easier than trying to develop folks who are not interested, ready, or positioned for growth.

One is a blessing, and the other always feels like heavy lifting.

When we tried the one-size-fits-all approach to leadership development it looked like this:

Stacked graphsSome folks were actually leaning in more and maturing at a faster rate, while some folks, despite our best efforts, were a little further behind or just less motivated.

So what we commonly did was sort of give the entire crop a haircut, so to speak, down to the pace of the slowest growing shoots. “We don’t want to offend anyone or leave anyone behind…don’t push too hard!”

What Happened to Growth?

But then I noticed a couple of things: Now we weren’t really growing or multiplying at a very good rate (moving at the slowest people’s speed) and more importantly, we were starting to lose those faster growing leaders who began to ask, “Is this all there is” I thought we were going to transform our city?!” And often we’d lose them and be left with only the least healthy, lowest capacity folks.

(Now, we love all people, but we’re talking about who we should be giving our best leadership time to.)

Remember, those fastest growing shoots are a pleasure to lead and develop. They do everything you ask and are always ready for more. They’re sponges who grow fast and can be counted on. And they’re a lot of fun to be with and pour your life into! 

Jesus gave the bulk of his time to just a dozen men. Then he sent his 'yeast' out to affect and transform the world.Click To Tweet

Less is More

Jesus gave the bulk of his time to just a dozen men. He developed and discipled them in such a way that he could see them in action, answer their questions and do life together. And then he sent his maturing yeast out to affect and transform the world.

We get to do the same thing.

The next best time to begin investing deeply into those faithful disciples who will act as yeast in the dough of your community is now. Give them your best time and watch the results.

Question: How have you seen your leadership development multiplied by applying the “yeast in the dough” strategy…or not? Leave me your thoughts or questions below. Please share this post before you go…