The International Missionary Training Network

The intentional shaping of men and women for leadership roles in the Lord's work. This is key part of the missionary's work so that the work is sustainable. This is in addition to the training of pastors for the churches.

Many assume that if a missionary works faithfully, skilled and personable leaders will automatically emerge on the field. Experience tells us that this is not necessarily so. Without carefully designed and implemented approaches to intentionally selecting, developing, training and coaching emerging leaders, missions at the leading edge—on the frontiers of spiritual warfare and disciple-making movements—will falter.

Helpful formal education approaches are available in the home country - such as college, universities, Bible schools, graduate schools and seminaries. However, we here concentrate on non-formal and informal approaches.

  • Non-formal learning includes those programs designed by mission agencies to equip and release their most promising and gifted missionaries for leadership roles within the church or organization. The broad range of options in this domain include workshops, distance education courses, spiritual formation and direction, apprenticeships, coaching, one-on-one evaluation, and counselling.
  • Informal learning: includes all non-programmed interaction with leaders from whom one can learn (which is often the most valuable way of learning), and the wide range of self-initiated learning whereby an individual can seek developmental learning opportunities on their own. This domain includes seeking supervisory feedback, seeking a coach or mentor, on-the-job learning, social media, library research, gleaning from web resources, designing personal learning projects, etc.

Since the early 1990s, networks of mission organizations have partnered to design and implement leader development and training. One key realization was the necessity of integrating the dynamics of intentional spiritual formation with the skills and practices of team leadership.

Leader development typically focuses on the twin objectives of 1) personal development as a leader which prepares a person to serve; and 2) organizational leader development which more specifically equips a person to lead in a particular organizational culture and setting.

Our model for leader development identifies the four factors – profile, assessment, challenge (developmental assignments) and support – that, when combined, make developmental experiences more powerful.

Figure 1: Model of Leader Development


  1. Our model is based on the idea of “intentional development,” that is, actions we deliberately take to influence another’s development
  2. Our model assumes that we have a specific end result in mind. In this case, we are referring to that end result as a “profile,” meaning an overview of the end result of our learning/growing process (see a description of a “Profile” on page 1 of “Curriculum Basics” of this website). 
  3. In order to establish a “starting point” for development, we need to “assess” the learner’s current progress at his/her entry into the learning process. No one is starting at zero and it’s easy for us to waste time, as well as lose credibility, by treating those we are influencing as if they were totally starting from scratch.
  4. Once we have established our ending point or outcome (the profile) and the starting point (based on our assessment), the gap between the two becomes the “challenge” for growth. The motivation to close the gap begins to work in our thoughts and minds inherently at this stage.
  5. Finally, we need to identify the resources required to support (encourage and sustain) the sometimes difficult, and even painful, growth and development processes we need as we work to grow and change.

Some of the essential topics or modules that consistently appear in the best missionary leader development programs include the following, with topics of sample modules:

  • Essential concepts of personal development and leader development. Personal development often includes assessments to provide the emerging leader with greater self-awareness. These assessments include both discovery of one’s Spiritual Gifts (spiritual wiring) and one’s personality-temperament (natural wiring) and how they work together. We believe facilitating self-awareness of both of these dimensions is critical for missionaries working in contexts of spiritual warfare in difficult places of the world.

The following "sessions" are suggestive of the topics that have proven to be essential to help prospective cross-cultural workers move deeper in intentional personal development as leaders:

  • Session 1: Understanding the Developmental Process: Four essentials for successful development
  • Session 2: Essential Steps to Growing as a Leader: Designing your Personal “Thrival Strategy”
  • Essential biblical concepts and principles of servant leadership and the steward-leadership of teams.
  • Session 3: Biblical Essentials for Body Life Leadership: Servant- and Steward-Leadership
  • Application of core biblical concepts of steward-leadership to one’s own leadership style.
  • Session 4: Discovering Your Ministry Identity: How you minister effectively through your Spiritual Gifts in a Team setting.
  • A consistent leader development model integrates biblical principles with a conceptual or research-based model of high performance leaders (such as contained in Kouzes’ and Posner’s excellent book, The Leadership Challenge). This conceptual model has proven effective for numerous agencies in integrating biblical principles with a proven model which features five “key practices” of an effective leader.
  • Session 5: Integrating the Five Key Practices of a leader with the servant leadership of Jesus.
  • An exploration of how the dynamics of spiritual formation integrate with the skills and practices of team leadership (Pat MacMillan’s excellent book, The Performance Factor, outlines a proven process for building teams as well as six characteristics of “high performance teams”).
  • Session 6: Moving from “I” to “We”: Multi-cultural Body Life Teams that minister effectively across cultures
  • Discussion of the role of the organization is providing a safe-place learning environment, and the responsibility of the leader as a life-long learner to take advantage of learning opportunities to maximize one’s own growth and development as a leader.
  • Session 7: Learning to Relate to the Organization: Distilling the Vision and Values of Your Team to the Organization’s Mission
  • Session 8: Evaluating Personal and Team Ministry
  • A Personal Development Plan to guide their own growth and development as a leader.
  • Session 9: Creating Your Personal Development plan to guide your consistent growth and development as a team leader.

Search for training in this area on the Evangelical Training Directory.

Selected Resources:

J. Robert Clinton. The Making of a Leader. 2nd Ed. NAVPress, 1988, 2012.

E. David Dougherty: “Planning to Grow and Change: OMF Personal Development Planning”. Available by email.

Read through the “Mission Leader Profile” as a sample of what a multi-dimensional competency profile looks like in the WEA book by Robert Brynjolfson and Jonathan Lewis (eds). Integral Ministry Training. William Carey/WEA-Mission Commission, 2006,

Paul R. Ford. Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder. ChurchSmart, 2006.

_____. Your Leadership Grip — a three part Spiritual Gifts assessment process. ChurchSmart, 2000.

_____. Discovering Your Ministry Identity. ChurchSmart, 1998.

_____. “Discovering Your Blueprint for Living in Body Life Design.” In Steve Hoke and Bill Taylor. The Global Mission Handbook: Your Guide to Crosscultural Service. NAVPress, 2009.

_____. Moving from I to We: Recovering the Biblical Vision for Stewarding the Church. NAVPress, 2013.

Kouzes and Posner. The Leadership Challenge. 3rd. Ed. Jossey-Bass, 2006.