There is this interesting dynamic that occurs in nature.  The dynamic of “imprinting” suggests that what we model as leaders is what people will emulate.

Imprinting, in psychobiology, a form of learning in which a very young animal fixes its attention on the first object with which it has visual, auditory, or tactile experience and thereafter follows that object. In nature the object is almost invariably a parent; in experiments, other animals and inanimate objects have been used. Imprinting has been intensively studied only in birds, especially chickens, ducks, and geese, but a comparable form of learning apparently occurs in the young of many mammals and some fishes and insects.

See Britannica article

In parenting this is certainly the case.

As our two children were growing up we read books – in fact, the kids usually could be seen with a book in their lap, under their arm or next to one of us listening intently as we read to them.  Guess what our kids favorite past time is today?  That is right – reading books.

When it comes to ministry and more specifically, leadership, I suggest that what we do is more important than what we say.  Let’s unpack this a bit more…

  • When new Christians come to faith, it is important that they “imprint” upon the Lord for protection, sustenance, and training in how to be a Christ follower.  (Neil Cole)
  • When modeling the practices of spiritual growth and maturity, the spiritual leader transfers those behaviors, both positive and negative, to the maturing disciple.
  • When leading, the leader intentionally and unintentionally communicates what is important, like developing people, leaders who take people development seriously prioritize this behavior.

In ministry this is certainly the case.

Here is a real example from my pastor, Steve Redden of Crosspoint Church and the priority of small group ministry.  When Gina and I first attended the church in 2014, we were immediately invited to a small group.  We enthusiastically participated in that small group that was led by Steve and hosted in the home of another new family in the church.  From the very beginning, Steve communicated his intention.  His plan was to get the group going.  And then sometime around the beginning of the third tri-mester he would begin his transition out of leadership so that he and Denise could begin another small group to connect new people in the church. Little did we know that Steve was preparing Gina and I to take leadership of that group.  Now some years later, after a couple of significant transitions e.g. merging with another group, multiplying our group to help start a new church and assimilating a number of new group members – we are still leading that group.  But back to Steve and what he modeled as Crosspoint’s priorities.

  1. FIRST, the importance of small group ministry.
  2. SECOND, the importance of leadership development.
  3. THIRD, the importance of being on mission

It is hard to get around this fact – People do what people see!

5 questions to discern the mission-critical activities you want to model

  1. What mission critical behaviors are you modeling for the leaders you are developing?
  2. What activities can you delegate to others that are non-essential for you to do yourself?
  3. What activities can you stop doing altogether that will make room for more mission critical activities?
  4. What mission critical behaviors do you need to do more of?
  5. How and when are you going to implement this change?


Join our mailing list to receive notifications of newly posted blogs. This is the best way to stay up-to-date with InFocus' efforts to keep you moving toward your goals.

You have Successfully Subscribed!