image credit: CreationSwap User Matt Gruber (edits mine)


There’s a buzz going around about ‘releasing people to _____.’ You can insert any of the following words in that blank:

  • lead
  • serve
  • start projects
  • launch ministries
  • do their job

On the surface, this sounds noble. It sounds like you’re fighting the dreaded “micromanagement,” a 4-letter word in churches, businesses, and any organization trying to move forward. Micromanaging is not the way to create a culture of healthy growth for leaders. It does not produce future leaders, nor leave current ones thrilled by any stretch of your imagination.

“We’re releasing people to _____” also sounds like you’re intentionally giving leaders the chance to lead, ensuring that you don’t box people into a  proverbial box…or a glass case of emotion, if you prefer. No leader worth their weight in homemade laundry detergent (it’s cheap…trust me) wants to be boxed in…so “release them to _______!”

My concern

I have concerns about this line of thought. Though it sounds noble, I’m afraid that in many cases this is just a mask for ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’ or ‘I am not really willing or able to put time into developing leaders.’ Instead of truly being a noble move, it covers over deeper issues of incompetency (I don’t know what I’m doing, myself), inadequacy (I’ve not been trained at all, myself), or insecurity (I’d rather people not know that I don’t know how to lead them).

Turning someone loose to lead doesn’t mean you abandon them. If you want them to help fulfill the vision for your organization, leaders need direction, oversight, and development. “Management” may not be popular, but it’s vital.

Let’s be fair

It’s organizationally unfair to “release someone to serve” if they haven’t properly developed. It’s not fair for the individual, who’s been thrown in over their head. It’s also not fair for the organization, who now has a leader in place without the necessary tools, and who’s not trusted to lead.

It’s okay to “release people to _____,” but don’t neglect development. Spend great care developing your leaders. The time, money, and resources you spend on development will reap huge dividends.

In the small group world where I operate, I’ve said this phrase, too. I have nuanced it like this: “I’m allowing group leaders to be the shepherds of their group.”

But I didn’t do a great job of developing leaders over time. So that’s going to change.

With our newly implemented coaching structure, combined with our leadership development pathway, we’ve made some major changes. Instead of having trainings as isolated events, they’re connected, increasing in depth through each step. This allows us to take a new leader from “I have no idea what I’m doing as a small group leader” to coaching other group leaders into deeper spiritual health.

We want to be able to “turn leaders loose” in good conscience, trusting them to lead their groups with great effectiveness. To do this, we’ve got to do our part of helping them develop.


Ever heard the phrase, “We’re releasing people to _____.”?

Ever seen it as an excuse for laziness?

* image credit: CreationSwap User Matt Gruber (edits mine)