Tuesday, April 15, 2008

REAL Leadership

Like many churches, at River of Life we believe it is very important to encourage continual growth and development of our church leadership and volunteer staff. We endeavor to provide ample opportunities for learning and development to take place. In addition to our other efforts, one of the things we do with our Leadership Team (Directors of departments) is to read and discuss various books together on a somewhat regular basis.

One of the best experiences we have had in this regard was reading and discussing the REAL Leadership series by John C. Maxwell. I highly recommend these books to other churches looking for an easy and fun method of promoting further learning and development among their church leadership.

The series consist of four short and very readable volumes. The series is called "REAL" because the four books cover one of the following important topics: relationships (R), equipping (E), attitude (A), and leadership (L). Each volume is a gift-sized, hardcover book of about 100 pages. There is also an unabridged audiobook available on CD for the entire series. (Links included at the end of this post).

These are perfect for church leadership development for many reasons. Below are some thoughts on why I really like and recommend these books.
  • Excellent Content. The books contains many of the major points and highlights of John Maxwell's other books on leadership and related topics. The main themes are simple, yet very important concepts that all leaders should learn. The four main themes are well suited for our purposes because they, in effect, develop better leaders by building better people. Integrity, character, and relational issues are taught as the main basis of effective leadership.

  • Applicability. While the books are not intended exclusively for a Christian audience, the concepts are consistent with biblical principles. Several Bible stories and verses are used to illustrate key points. I have personally read each of the books at least twice and nothing has stood out to me as controversial and/or inappropriate for a church setting. Unlike many other books of this genre, pretty much every point is relevant to church leadership issues in some way, shape, or form.

  • Readability. The books are brief and simple but packed with great information. They are written and a reading level that is suited for pretty much any experience and education level. They are easy to read but, at the same time, not insulting to one's intelligence. Some books of this genre can get pretty technical and boring, but that is not the case with the REAL series.

  • Enjoyability. Our church leaders literally loved these books. They enjoyed the many memorable illustrations linked to many of the main points. One will learn a great deal from these books yet be very entertained by the stories at the same time. Because of the outline-like layout and excellent organization of topics, these books also serve as good reference material. We have encouraged our Leadership Team to revisit all four of these books each year on their own. Several have done just that because they enjoy the books so much.
We actually read the books in the following order because it seemed to follow a more natural progression: Attitudes, Relationships, Leadership, Equipping. The order does not make a huge difference, though. Another good idea (and cheaper for large groups) would be to purchase the audiobook format and listen to a chapter or two together in each team meeting. This could be particularly effective if some fill-in notes were created in advance.

Whatever format is used, I hope others will check out these books. You cannot go wrong. The information from these resources are applicable to everyone at any level of leadership and for any member of the staff or volunteer staff. For a church that may not have done much (or anything) in the way of leadership training and development, this series is an excellent resource with which to start.

Links to REAL Leadership series resources:

Relationships 101 - Book
Equipping 101 - Book
Attitude 101 - Book
Leadership 101 - Book

REAL Leadership: The 101 Collection - Audiobook

REAL Personal Growth Self-Evaluation Quiz - Free online resource

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