Protege: Developing the Next Generation of Church Leaders
In Protégé, we want to share what we’ve learned over last decade and honor the pursuit so many ministry leaders have to make great impact possible through their mastering their craft and living out their calling. My hope is that as you read this book, it’s in as sense a way to open the door to your own protégé experience, where you will learn crucial things for your craft, your calling, and your essence which is rooted in Jesus, that it would change who you are becoming, and that it would contribute to the overall development of what the next generation of leadership looks like in the church.
The Protege Backstory
What is a protégé? It is someone who desires to master their craft through the mentorship of another. A protégé is driven to excel to the best of their ability. They know they can’t do it on their own, and they don’t want to do it on their own. And why do they want to excel? Because they believe what they’re doing with their lives can make a real difference…and because they believe they were born to do it.
But, there seems to be a significant gap between this strong desire to grow as a ministry leader and the ability to access the developmental investment that is needed. Here lies the great dilemma in developing the next generation of leaders, the dilemma every protégé must face if they want to close this gap in their own growth path, and the dilemma every mentor must face as they invest in the next generation. That’s the tension I felt. And, that’s why I started what we called the Protégé Program. I found myself asking the question, how are young ministry leaders going to be developed if we don’t step in and do something about it? For me, personal investment was key. It’s possible that I could’ve grown, even achieved a decent level of competency, without mentors investing in me over the years. But what I know for sure is that without them I would not be the man I need to be to do what I do. This is why Protégé Program was born.
A Leadership Experiment
In 2005, I initiated a leadership experiment that went far beyond my expectations. And I believe that the fact that it took on a life of its own reflects the broad need ministry leaders have for investment. We designed a customized, holistic development plan that served young [in age and experience] and future ministry leaders. We got dozens applicants every year, but unfortunately had to turn many down because we were only able to select 12 annually. Over the course of this two-year journey, I came alongside protégés to help facilitate a personal, customized development plan for each of them. I served as a growth catalyst for their character formation, helped them navigate the complexities of relational leadership, coached them in areas of mission, team-building, and organizational leadership, crafted unique learning experiences to sharpen their craft of communication and stretch their theology, challenged them to become entrepreneurial leaders who overcome the fear of failure and cultivate a life of initiative and risk, and much more. Real transformation and growth became an evident reality in their lives. Now, we want to take what the protégés experienced and expand it.
Customized, Personalized Development
We of course realize that not everyone has access to the kind of customized, personal development that the Protégé Program offered, nor can most people pause their entire life and enter a two-year leadership development program to receive this kind of investment. That’s why my wife Cheri and I wrote this book, Protégé—as a way to help ministry leaders co-design their own protégé journey as well as gain insight into developing other protégés. In essence, we put the DNA of the Protégé Program inside this book. I believe every young ministry leader [in age or in experience] deserves to receive the development they’re looking for. I also believe that the best mentors are always sharpening their development skills, and are looking for new and effective ways to invest in their own protégés. This book is for a ministry leader who is young and looking to grow. This book is for a person more seasoned in leadership skills who is looking to pass on that knowledge, experience, and wisdom to emerging leaders. Basically if you want to grow or help people grow, Protégé is for you. And you know, we’re almost always doing both—trying to grow and trying to lead others toward growth.
A Holistic Calling
The thing with people in ministry is that we don’t see our work simply as a job but rather a calling. So, this journey is not about only attaining skills, but it embodies more holistic dimensions of development, such as character formation, cultivating intimacy with God, navigating relational struggles within our ministry lives, living on mission more effectively, and so much more…all this can be like an obstacle course that we’re trying to break through in order to reach the end goal…which is impact and transformation. How do we navigate this obstacle course? What are the answers to life-changing questions such as
• How can you access mentors and coaches in your life and receive investment that is unique to you and your growth needs?
• How can you figure out how to live in the relational tensions and demands you face everyday, and how do you strike a healthy balance that serves you and the people you serve best?
• How do you gain practical tips on how to improve your communication skills and preaching?
• How can you rethink what it means to be missional?
• How can you grow not only in your leadership skills, but more importantly, how do you grow into the person you are called to be? How do you grow in character?
• How can you further your abilities to do what you so desperately want to do, which is to connect people to Jesus, and for you to be re-envisioned for why you got into this whole ministry thing in the first place?
• How do you make this dream of bringing heaven to earth a reality, especially when you know in your gut that is what you are called to do?