September 13, 2023

Creating a Culture of Leadership Development (with Sandals Church) – Episode 313 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

creating a culture of leadership development with sandals church

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Empowering Next Generation Leaders (Part 2)

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As Boomers retire and more and more Gen X pastors leave ministry, raising up the next generation of leaders is one of the most pressing challenges facing churches today.

We’ve seen leadership development modeled in scripture, from Moses and Joshua to Paul and Timothy. But how can churches today effectively create a culture of mentoring and investing in the next generation of leaders? 


Developing the next generation is not just about having a program—it’s a mindset.

In this episode, we’re joined by Executive Pastor Dan Zimbardi and People and Culture Director Tim Hawley from Sandals Church (Riverside, CA) to discover how their team has created a successful leadership development model to raise up the next generation. 

Join in as Dan, Tim, and I discuss:

  • How Gen X is contributing to a lack of leaders
  • Sandals’ “ROGO Way” approach
  • The wins and challenges of developing young leaders
  • Four P’s for leadership development

How to Structure Your Staff to Develop Next Gen Leaders

At this free webinar, Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson will empower you with the systems and strategies to confidently structure your church for future impact.

Developing the next generation is not just about having a program—it's a mindset. [episode 313] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet If you're a church that wants to invest in young leaders, make it a priority and start now. Don’t wait until you have it all figured out. [episode 313] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet If we want to empower next generation leaders, we have to equip them, but we also have to invite them along for the journey. [episode 313] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet The biggest mistake we can make is removing barriers in front of a young leader. [episode 313] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet
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Do you ever feel like 24 hours in a day is just not enough? Between your ministry and your life at home, managing your time as a church leader can feel impossible. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, our friends at BELAY can help. BELAY is a staffing organization that has spent more than a decade helping busy church leaders like you manage their productivity and accomplish more. From accounting services to administrative support, BELAY has vetted U.S.-based specialists ready to fit your tailored needs.

Since time is the most valuable resource we have, BELAY wants to help you maximize it by offering our listeners an exclusive free download of their newest ebook, The Power of Productivity. This insightful resource is filled with practical tips, helpful assessments, and so much more. Start making the most of the time you have each day and lead with BELAY.

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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. We’ve seen development modeled in scripture from Moses and Joshua to Paul and Timothy, but how can a modern-day church create a culture of mentoring and investing in the next generation of leaders? On this week’s podcast, you’ll hear from a church that’s created a leadership development model to do just that. If you’re new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, stop before you listen and go to to subscribe to get the episode show notes in your email. When you do, you’ll get resources to support each week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide and access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s to subscribe. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s a word from Tony.

Tony (00:55):

Do you ever feel like 24 hours in a day is just not enough? Between your ministry and your life at home, managing your time as a church leader can feel almost impossible. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, our friends at BELAY can help. BELAY is a staffing organization that has spent more than a decade helping busy church leaders like you manage their productivity and accomplish more. From accounting services to administrative support, BELAY has vetted U.S.-based specialists ready to fit your tailored needs. Since time is the most valuable resource we have, BELAY wants to help you maximize it by offering our listeners an exclusive free download of their newest ebook, The Power of Productivity. This insightful resource is filled with practical tips, helpful assessments and so much more. Simply text unstuck—that’s U-N-S-T-U-C-K—to 55 123 to download The Power of Productivity for free and start making the most of the time you have each day and lead with BELAY.

Amy (02:07):

Well, welcome back, Tony, and to all of our listeners. I’m excited to continue this series that we started last week with Tim Elmore on Empowering Next Generation Leaders. I’m looking forward to today’s conversation, but Tony, where have you been lately?

Tony (02:21):

Yeah, so, I was fortunate. My Emily and I are empty nesters now, so she was able to join me on one of my trips to work with a great church up near Asheville, North Carolina.

Amy (02:30):

That’s nice.

Tony (02:30):

And, Amy, we’re having more of these conversations now with churches that are considering launching their first multisite locations and that’s fun because that’s a sign of the fact that churches now are experiencing some momentum.

Amy (02:49):


Tony (02:49):

With, you know, with the pandemic and everything else over the last few years, we weren’t hearing that as often, but now several churches have been reaching out to help for help related to multisite strategy. So, yeah, it was fun, great church in Asheville, North Carolina, and if you’ve never been to Asheville, it’s a very unique community. I would encourage you to check it out at some point.

Amy (03:13):

I’ve actually been working with several churches, Tony, that through the pandemic have actually moved not from maintenance, like into preservation or life support, they actually leveraged the pandemic. And they are back on the left side of the life cycle of the church, and they’re in strategic growth. And the primary thought on their mind is now building systems and strategies, which is exactly what we feel in that stage, right, when we move from just momentum growth into strategic growth. So those are such fun conversations, you know, and for churches to realize all the work that they’ve been doing these last few years has really put them in a place again to of momentum and reaching more people. So really encouraging. Well, let’s jump into today’s topic. Tony, why don’t you share where we’re going in today’s conversation?

Tony (04:00):

Well, as you mentioned, Amy, we’re continuing to talk about empowering the next generation of leaders, and today’s conversation’s gonna be a lot of fun. Dan Zimbardi and Tim Hawley from Sandals Church are joining today’s conversation. If you’re not familiar with Sandals Church, their original sending location is in Riverside, California, in Southern California. But, now, they have 14 locations throughout the state. And I met Dan, who’s their executive pastor, a few years ago, and it, early on in our conversations, I just sense this guy is passionate about leadership development, especially when it comes to the next generation of leaders. And then, Tim, it’s an interesting role. He’ll explain it in a moment, but he’s the People and Culture Director at the church. And so, I, I think he may be the first person I’ve ever encountered with that title at a church at least.

Amy (04:59):


Tony (04:59):

So that’ll be fun to hear more about that. And the reason I reached out to Dan was because I was with him and the lead pastor of Sandals Church, Matt Brown, at a gathering last fall. And during that, during that event, Dan talked about our generation, Amy, Generation X and that the fact that maybe we haven’t done well raising up and empowering the next generation of leaders. And Dan was kind of suggesting maybe our generation shares some of the blame for that. So because of that, I, I reached back out to him to see if he could join us for this conversation. And so with that, here’s my conversation with Dan and Tim.

Tony (05:48):

Hey, Dan. I reached out to you to talk about empowering next-generation leaders based on a comment that you made at a gathering of large churches last fall. We were there together, and I know you and the team at Sandals are very intentional about raising up and empowering next-generation leaders. But at that gathering, you suggested that our generation, Gen X, so I felt you pointing the finger at me that, our generation has done kind of a poor job of empowering future leaders. So, first of all, am I misquoting you? And if not, can you kind of unpack that a bit?

Dan (06:25):

You are misquoting me, Tony. I’m, I’m deeply offended. No, I’m just kidding. No, you’re, you’re right. Yeah, you, you got the quote, right? Yeah, I’ll unpack it. I, I think that if you just look at the data, and I know you’re, you’re a data guy. What membership is down if you look across the key metrics, right? Key metrics are down: membership, attendance, church closures, baptisms—across the board. And I’m talking in sort of meta trends; the, the church isn’t doing well. Obviously, there’s some churches are, but across the board the church isn’t doing well. And so I, I, I would start there. And, you know, I think the big question that a lot of us talk about is why. You know, what’s, what’s the number one, two and three issues? And I, I think it starts, in my opinion, it starts with a real leadership vacuum that exists in the church today. You’ve got a lot of baby boomers who have retired or are retiring. You’ve got a lot of Gen X pastors that have, are just worn out from the last three years, and they’re, they’re transitioning out. And what we’re finding is there’s not a, a large group of really talented young leaders to come and assume the responsibility for this, this void of leadership in the church. And so, I think the, the data proves it out. If you live in work in the church world, like, like we do, we work with lots of churches, some that are doing well, many that, that aren’t. Oftentimes, I’ll leave a meeting and say, “Man, this is a leadership problem.”

Tony (07:58):


Dan (07:58):

You know, there’s, there’s not a strong leader or leaders leading this church forward. And so, you know, we can give them more tools and resources and strategies, but if you’re not a good leader, it’s very difficult to execute upon those things and see improved results. And so, I think it’s, it is the issue of the day. I, I do believe that a lot of it falls to us Gen Xers. Just a, an a funny little story: We’re getting ready to send our second oldest to college. We’re leaving in a couple of days to, to drive her out to her school. And, yes, you can send me a, a case of, of tissues, Tony.

Tony (08:36):

I’ve been through this four times, Dan, so I know what you’re talking about.

Dan (08:40):

Yeah. I’ve only got one under my belt. This is my second one. So, but it’s funny; my wife has been on the, the college’s forum for parents. And as, as all these parents are getting ready to send their kids to school, and it’s just outrageous watching what parents of my generation and your generation, what we are, what we have done and are doing to, to coddle young, young adults, you know? One of the, one of the best ones I saw recently was a, a parent asking, “Can I sleep in my child’s dorm room the first night? Because they’re, they’re afraid of being away from home, you know? And this’ll be like their first time.” And so I, I think our generation just has not done a good job to prepare the generations that are coming up. I think there’s multiple reasons for that. Maybe that’s a conversation for another day.

Tony (09:27):


Dan (09:28):

But, you know, Matt Brown, so, so my boss, the founder of Sandals Church, said something not too long ago, so profound around this: That the biggest mistake we can make is, is removing barriers in front of a young leader. Like, I get this image of walking over, Tim’s up against a challenge, something hard. I’ve got young Tim with me here, and me walking up and literally like picking up the barrier that he’s in front of and just moving it outta the way so he can keep going. That’s a mistake; that’s a problem. And that sort of exemplifies what I think has happened in large part with, with Gen Xers. You know, we’re, we’re just, we’re removing barriers. We’re not creating opportunities. There’s a whole lot to all of this, but yes, you got me right. That’s what I believe.

Tony (10:13):

Well, and you mentioned Tim, and it really brings some unique perspective because not only is he now managing and leading in the ministry of Sandals Church, but he’s actually the fruit of the development that you’ve done and are continuing to do with young leaders in the church. So, Tim, thanks for joining us for today’s conversation. I love your title. You’re the People and Culture Director at Sandals. So, first of all, I’m guessing most churches don’t have a leader in that specific role. So can you explain kind of your responsibilities and help us understand how raising up next-generation leaders is a critical part of your role?

Tim (10:53):

Yeah, would love to, I first wanna just tag onto the removal of the barriers idea. I’m a, I’m a big Malcolm Gladwell fan, read a lot of his works. One I’ve recently picked up and, and a particular idea that he kind of teases out is exactly this notion of the barriers and the adverse conditions that led to the greatness and the success of people over the generations. And he talks about this idea that over the years, as you know, immigrant families would come to, let’s say America, they had those barriers and adverse conditions that created in them a drive and a work ethic that led to their success. But as that success kind of compounds year-over-year and generation-over-generation, their kids have fewer of those adverse conditions to then be able to grow into the leaders that their parents were. And that really has struck me. It’s like we’re not able to sort of offer the, the environment to create the grit and the vigor to the struggle to create the great leaders that, you know, a few, you know, previous generations were. And so that’s just a huge challenge. And I, anyways, I’ve been nerding out on that recently, and I wanted to tag on that idea.

Tony (12:05):

That’s good stuff.

Tim (12:05):

People and Culture Director: so our vision at Sandals to be real with ourselves, God, others. Our mission as a staff is to deliver life change through real relationships with ourselves, God and others. And so that’s really what my team focuses on empowering our staff to do is to deliver life change to people. Obviously, we know God changes people’s hearts, but we wanna wake up every day with a proactive stance to creating opportunities, environments for people to become real with themselves and God and others. And so, obviously, our team oversees all the, the kind of traditional, operational human resources functions: payroll benefits, employee relations, things of that nature. But, my big focus and our team’s focus is on shaping our culture and on building strategies and frameworks that help support the people within that culture so that they can do their life’s work. And I love that work. It’s my favorite job I’ve ever had. Not just saying that ’cause my boss is next to me, but it has been a phenomenal opportunity, a great, a great thing, and a, a needed trend, or I should say, a needed response to the trends that we’re seeing in terms of employee relations, building teams. It’s shifting from that traditional HR operation to something more robust. And I think our team is really doing that work today. And it’s very exciting.

Tony (13:30):

Dan, I know that in the last couple of years, you and I have probably had maybe a half dozen conversations together, and I believe in every single one of those conversations, somehow you’ve circled back to leadership development. So I know you’re very passionate about this topic. I’m curious, though, what’s driving that for you? Is, is this some personal motivation or is it really more about helping the church accomplish its mission?

Dan (13:56):

Yeah, I think it, it’s both. You know, at the end of the day, first and foremost, I want the church to, to thrive for generations to come. I’m not alone in that, obviously. And, and so, you know, wanting that to happen drives a lot of, of my passion. Seeing a lot of how churches are struggling today drives my, my burden, if you will. But you know, there, on a personal side, I think back to when I left corporate America, I was with the company for about 17 years. I was a corporate executive. And when I announced my departure, one of the senior executives at the company and I were having a conversation, and, and I was with this company for about 17 years and starting in my sort of later twenties. And they said to me, they said, “We watched you from a young age and saw that you performed well, and then we would put you quickly into a job that was really ahead of you. And we wanted to see if you would close the gap, and you would, you did. You would typically close the gap pretty quickly on your ability to perform at that level. And then we would do that again. You know, we’d create another opportunity that was ahead of you and, and so on and so forth.” And I’d never heard someone quite explain sort of career mapping and how organizations think about people that, that way. And, and so part of my passion is really around opportunity. And, and I, I’ve had some great opportunity over the years, working with great companies: Google, Facebook, Nike, etc. And I, you know, I, I worked hard for the opportunities that, that I got. I was often first one in, last one out in my twenties and thirties especially. And so a lot of my, my passion is around creating opportunities for people and knowing that when it comes to leadership development so much of the learn, learning is learning by doing.

Tony (15:50):


Dan (15:50):

You’re gonna learn so much by listening to podcasts, reading books, going to seminary, whatever, those important things. But it’s really a, you know, probably a 10% reading/studying, 10% mentoring/coaching, and then it’s 80% opportunity. And, and so seeing young people be given an opportunity starting at a very young age, even as teenagers in the church, and watching them flourish and thrive is what inspires me to, to keep going and, and to doing more. And so a lot of my passion is around the opportunity that I was given to learn how to lead. And now, as I’ve created those opportunities and we’ve created opportunities for other young people, I just, I get so much joy, quite honestly, from watching leaders thrive. When they’re given an opportunity, they’re truly empowered. And, and so that’s what drives a lot of my passion today,

Tony (16:44):

Dan, I think as pastors and leaders, especially in larger churches, are hearing you talk about your experience, there’s maybe a little bit of trepidation in that because what I heard you say is, in your previous marketplace experience, you are getting opportunities to step ahead in your leadership within the organization, and then those above you were waiting to watch you close the gap. And I think, for especially large churches, we have the sense that it has to be day-one, top-notch delivered well, strong leadership is gonna drive that. And I think we’re hesitant to give people the opportunity to prove that they can actually close the gap. It’s almost as if we feel like we need to close the gap for them.

Dan (17:31):

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think and, and the, the bad thinking is this, that, you know, take someone with a, maybe a teaching gift. You know, I think maybe last week, there’s maybe 40,000 people were engaged with the weekend sermon online and, and physically; I think it was last weekend. So taking a, a 16-year-old leader who has a gift to teach and saying, all right, we’re putting you in the main platform next weekend to teach and engage with nearly 40,000 people. Yeah, that would be a mistake. Sure. But there’s so many other platforms and, and levels that that can be created and should be created for people to learn and train and grow. And it’s really about creating opportunities at the right level, at the right time for people. And so, I think pastors just need to start way young and just create opportunities that make sense for where people are instead of thinking, “There’s only one place, and it’s Sunday morning. And if you’re you, you’re not doing that, then there’s, there’s no other place to go.” So I, I think we need to shift our thinking about creating new opportunities at different levels.

Tony (18:36):

That’s so good. Alright. Tim, it sounds like from my previous conversations with Dan, and just, I, I must, I, obviously, I’m a nerd when it comes to churches. And so I’ve been studying what’s been happening at Sandals for a long time, but it appears that you really do have an intentional process for equipping and empowering next-generation leaders. So can you help us get a picture of what that looks like for Sandals?

Tim (19:01):

Yeah, absolutely. Dan has done a lot to guide and direct, and our team has worked closely with him in developing a real framework for how we go about developing people at many different levels, as you guys were just discussing. It starts with our vision. So the acronym is ROGO: real with ourselves, God and others. And it’s the, the framework is called the, the ROGO Way. So this, this is the way, the ROGO Way. And within the ROGO Way, heavily focused on doing, obviously, a, a significant through line of mentorship, and then we have several very intentional programs that we draw our folks into, depending upon their path, their career arc, what’s next for them and their development journey. And one of them is our ROGO Next Gen. And so it’s focused on our, folks in our organization who are demonstrating today senior level leadership potential. And we draw them into a 12- to 24-month program, where over the course of that time they’ll have special projects that are outside of their normal daily work. They’ll be involved in, in almost all of our highest-level executive meetings throughout the weeks and months during their time. Special projects, we that, for example, next month our, our Next Gen cohort is tasked with planning and executing our, our staff monthly gathering. We gather throughout the year to focus on our priorities to inspire our team, and they’ll be leading that. And then the final piece, they have a marketplace mentor that we’re helping pair them with. Someone who’s actually not in many cases working in the church environment but is bringing the experience and exposure that they’ve got in their work world, their marketplace jobs. We’ve had university provosts, other folks of that nature come and spend time with our people to give them some perspective that may fall outside of what they could get each day in their role here at Sandals Church. And so, certainly, developing the next gen is not about only having a program. It’s not a program only; it’s a mindset, but part of getting that mindset to really pervade is making a great plan and having a program to do it within.

Tony (21:21):

That’s so good. And I love the emphasis on not just the learning piece because I think that’s where I see a lot of pastors, church leaders kind of stopping the development process. They’re passionate about leadership, and so they’re teaching leadership and very effectively in a lot of cases. But the mentoring and the actual putting it into practice is where the gap is. So I appreciate that emphasis that Sandals has around all those components of what it really does look like to develop and encourage the next generation of leaders. Dan, when it comes to leadership development, it seems like churches that are really winning in this area tend to be multisite churches with several locations. Certainly, Sandals obviously comes to mind. Sun Valley Church in Phoenix, I think six different locations, fast-growing multisite church. Church of the Highlands, all these churches come to mind. And I’m just wondering, do you think there’s something about the multisite model that actually makes it more conducive of an environment for leadership development?

Dan (22:25):

Yeah, I think it, it probably does, but I think it, it really is more about the leadership of the church having a, a, a multiplier’s mindset. That’s, that’s really what it’s about. I think if you don’t have a multiplier’s mindset then it’s very difficult to create a culture sort of in systems, etc., For young leaders to, to be developed. I mean, that’s part of what got that particular church to be multisite was that the senior pastor or that leadership team had a multiplier mindset, right? Not one location, but, but many. And so, and, and even some of the root of that, to be honest with you, is a passion for the, the church to thrive after the current leadership team is gone and, and moves on. And, you know, when I think about sort of success for, for Matt and I and, and our leadership team, a a lot of what I sort of define there is what, what happens after we go. And so often you see churches trend way down, especially when a, when a founder leaves. And, and to me that’s, that’s a marker that there wasn’t succession planning. There wasn’t a multiplier’s mindset to get young leaders to be learning and growing long before the founder or the, the leadership team was, was moving on. And so I, you know, in 20 years from now and, and I’m not in my role, I’m gonna maybe peek in and come to a board meeting and say, okay, what, what do these metrics look like? And if they’re up and to the right, I’ll say, okay, I, I think we did a pretty good job.

Tony (24:00):


Dan (24:00):

You know, and so, and that’s, that’s really my heart. I, I, I really want Sandals to flourish far, far beyond whatever it’s doing today after I’m gone and, and Matt’s gone. And so, it’s, it’s a multiplier’s mindset. It’s a succession mindset. And I think that’s what gets a church to be a, a multisite. I don’t think it’s just the multisite model that sort of causes it, if it makes sense.

Tony (24:24):

Yeah. I love that. Tim, as you’ve been engaging your role and really working with your leadership team to continue to raise up and empower future leaders at Sandals, what are the biggest challenges that you’re trying to overcome and how are you trying to overcome those challenges?

Tim (24:41):

Yeah, the biggest one that I think came to mind leaders have a perspective about how they spend their time and their influence. And you, you guys have actually talked, Tony, on past episodes around the shifting nature over the life, you know, span of a leader and how they use their time and their influence. It may look different over their career arc. And I think that’s the big, the big challenge we’re trying to overcome. We can be very task-accomplishing focused, achievement focused. We want to grow. We wanna reach people. And if our leaders are using their influence to sort of accomplish a lot, execute a lot of tasks and not over time spending more of their time and influence on empowering and building up the next generation, I think that’s a real big obstacle for us. And so to, to kind of combat that, the real only thing that, that can get us to get that mindset changed is to encourage proximity and lots of that proximity from senior leader to the, to the more junior leaders. And there’s no replacement for that. You know, my early days working with pastor Dan, I just remember, and, and this is still true today, but just so much accessibility. I knew, now I have even greater perspective about what all the things are that he was doing then and that he’s doing now. And even today, there’s just so much availability, proximity, a commitment on his part to continue being available and investing in me. And there’s no podcast or, or leadership book or seminar or conference that can replace how meaningful that proximity has been to my growth and to the development. And so he made the commitment to look at his influence differently. And that’s, I think the, the encouragement I’d have to other leaders now. Begin to see your influences not achievement in individual task completion, but, and, and, and your influence is empowering in getting the folks ready to do what you’ve done and, and go where you’ve been.

Tony (26:45):

I love that. You were reminding me early on, I was just a young guy, kind of one of my first internships out of school. And Tom was the leader of our entire team. I guess there were probably dozens of people that were on the team. Needless to say, as the intern, I was definitely the low man on the totem pole. In fact, so low, that my office was actually a closet. They had, I just, it was a folding table. They found a chair someplace and put me in the closet. That’s where I officed out of. But what always amazed me about Tom is he is a busy guy, lots of responsibilities, but he always was encouraging me to step in the office and just talk about what I was learning, the challenges I was facing and just encouraging me to take my next steps. And so that, that thought of proximity, I know how much it has impacted me and my leadership. And, I love that reminder. That’s something we need to be thinking about as we’re developing young leaders in our ministry as well. And speaking of that, Dan, I have a theory. So I’m gonna test, I want, I wanna test this on you. All right. I think that we may be going about raising up next-generation leaders all wrong. And let, lemme explain why. When we have a young leader or pastor with potential, we make them a student pastor or we make them a campus pastor where they’re responsible in many cases for preparing a message every week. And because of that, my theory is that we’re, they’re spending so much time dev, developing their teaching skills that they be, may be missing out on the opportunity to develop their leadership and pastoring skills. So what do you think? Is it possible that maybe we need to kind of revisit how we’re positioning our young leaders and what we’re asking them to do?

Dan (28:39):

Yeah, I think you’re right in a lot of ways. The, there’s many components to being a good leader, a good pastor. It’s not just one particular skillset. And I think oftentimes churches focus in that particular area or, or lane. I would encourage people to think about three categories of development that would be skill, skills, character number two and then three is relatability. Relatability would be how, how you connect with people, how they experience you. Look, at the end of the day, if you’re in ministry, you’re in the people business, and relating to people and them connecting back with you is paramount. And if you don’t really wanna be around people, with people don’t wanna connect well with them, I’d say be a professor. Don’t, don’t be a pastor. You know what I mean? And so, I would say that those are three areas, and I think oftentimes churches don’t think about, “Hey, we need a real plan for how we’re gonna develop a young leader.” And if, you know, to me that’s a good place to start is what are the skills we need to, to train this person in? How do we need to develop their godly character? And, and then how can we help them to be more relatable, be, be more awakened to themself? Right? And so I, I, I would say that’s a, a, a good place to start in ways for churches to think that that narrow one lane of you need to teach better is, I think, often a, a, a mistake because sometimes you get someone with a really natural, strong gift to teach and you’re, you’re giving someone more experience, more learning in that area, which is good, but, but really they’re, they don’t relate well to people. They’re really hard on people. They run people over. That what they need is to be developed in, in their relatability. Or if they don’t show up on time, they don’t follow up with people, it doesn’t matter how talented you are. Right? We’ve seen many a incredibly talented pastors fail over the last 10, 15 years because of character issues or because how they treat people. Right? We can do plenty of podcasts on that. So I would just think a little more broadly than a particular skill, think in relatability, character and skillsets.

Tony (30:52):

That’s good. All right. Tim, I know this is not part of the Sandals culture because I’ve seen it in Pastor Matt. I’ve seen it in Dan. You’re, you don’t like to brag, but I want you to brag. And this is why I, I want, I want pastors and church leaders that are listening in on this conversation to understand the value to really focusing and being more intentional about empowering next-generation leaders. So with that, are there any wins that you can share from what you’re experiencing at Sandals as it relates to empowering the next generation of leaders?

Tim (31:26):

Yeah. Well, only ’cause you asked, Tony, only because you asked.

Tim (31:31):

Oh, no, I’d love to. I, one is, you know, there’s a real demographic outcome that I think we’re celebrating, you know. Seventy, about 70% of our team is, is millennial or Gen Z. And that’s an outcome that tells us this is an environment that our team feels like they can do their life’s work and thrive in. And that’s very, it’s very encouraging. As we, you know, think about the broader conversation we’re having. Young leaders are having real influence in making important decisions. That’s another one that I think is a huge win. We regularly ask for feedback in our context. That’s one of our, actually, it’s our staff expectation. It’s on the expectations document. Part of our culture stack that says, “Feedback is integral to every one of our roles.” And one of the questions we’ll ask is, how are you experiencing recognition and affirmation on staff? And, recently, a staff member answered that question saying, “One of the times I felt most affirmed and most recognized in my role was when a more senior leader asked me what they thought we should do.”

Tony (32:35):


Tim (32:36):

Relative to a, a, a situation or a, a, a decision to be made. Not the individual’s work kind of being praised or shouted out as a, you know, or, or celebrate their birthday or the milestone or whatever. It was that they were, they were sought after for, for an influential moment and a decision to be made, and that they experienced as recognition. I love that. I think that’s a huge win. And then just the impact to culture, I’d say is the final piece. A couple of our values are unity. So when you have the senior leaders working closely and empowering the younger leaders, there’s just a natural collaboration and trust that’s forming over time that really has a positive impact on our culture. And that kind of ties then into the, the idea of honor. That’s another one of our values is honoring one another. Pastor Matt and Pastor Dan regularly talk about inviting the right people to be at the table and deferring to their gifting. And that doesn’t discriminate over the generations. Folks can be gifted at many different stages of their career arc and progression. And we encourage that. And so that, again, just, it drives toward a, an honoring experience when we’re in the meeting rooms and when we’re on the service platforms on the weekend, and we’re in the lobbies versus kind of that competing and clashing that can so easily happen if there isn’t that deep commitment to honoring one another.

Tony (34:02):

That’s great. And, I love that, just the picture of what could be on the other side of this if we continue to pray and and get intentional about raising up the next generation leaders is fun to hear those stories. Alright. Dan, I let Tim do the brag. I want you to do kind of the encouragement or challenge here at the end of our conversation.

Dan (34:21):


Tony (34:22):

So what encouragement would you give other pastors, other church leaders when it comes to leadership development? And maybe, you know, Sandals has a lot of resources; it’s a large church now. But for other churches, church leaders that are listening, maybe what are some of those first steps that they could be taking to empower the next generation of leaders?

Dan (34:42):

Yeah. Yeah. I’ll, I’ll start on the encouragement side of things. So, I, I wanna talk first to pastors that are discouraged or church leaders that are discouraged. And I, and I have an, an encouragement for, for you. You know, look, and, and, you know, you’ve probably done lots of work and, and study on this, but there is, there’s a lot of discouragement in, in vocational ministry, people pastoring and leading churches today. And my encouragement is that if you get serious about in investing in some young leaders, you’re gonna find great joy. It’s a lot of fun. I tell people, like, probably the favorite part of my job every day is hanging out with young leaders, talking with them, more than teaching them, but learning from them and, and watching them flourish. I, I have this image in my mind, Tony of, you know, I’m at a, let’s say, a soccer match. It’s the championship game. And let’s say Tim is, is playing in this championship game, and I’ve got my popcorn and my soda. And I’m watching, and the clock is ticking down. You know, and it, the score is tied. It’s 1-1 championship game, and Tim is dribbling the ball. I was a soccer player, by the way; Tim is dribbling the ball down the field. The clock is ticking three, two, and Tim scores the goal to win the championship. And I throw my soda and my popcorn up, up in the air. And I run onto the field, and I grab Tim by the legs. And I’m carrying him down the field, and we’re celebrating Tim. And Tim’s, you know, picture is in the paper the next day, right? All your listeners are like, what’s a paper? That archaic reference. But, but it’s, it’s, it’s the, it’s joy. And if so, if you’re discouraged in ministry today, sort of a, a way to counter and battle that back is grab a, a small group of, of young people and just invest in them. You know, give ’em opportunity. Let, let ’em go, and, and then celebrate them. I think it’ll help you to battle through a season of discouragement and find that sort of joy and passion and, and identify that calling again. So I think that’s a, a word of encouragement. Maybe not for everybody, but I think there’s a, a big slice that are discouraged. And I think this will help a lot. In terms of, of next steps, I’ll give you a couple of Ps. I think I’ve got four Ps for you. One, first is just priority. I would say if you’re a church that wants to invest in young leaders, you haven’t really started, make it a priority; start now. Just start now. Don’t worry about the most robust plan. Don’t take two years to write out, you know, what you’re gonna do. When, when I started out maybe seven years ago with, you know, getting leadership development going at Sandals, I, I wrote out like a one-pager as a real simple plan, and I grabbed five young leaders. Tim was one of ’em. And I spent, you know, nine months with them. So start now—priority: first P. Second would be perspective of just having this multiplier’s perspective that you want the church to flourish when, when you’re gone, or when you, when you move on. And the only way that’s gonna happen is if you have the perspective to multiply and invest in young leaders. Three, Tim’s talked about proximity. We had a young leader on our staff do a talk a couple years ago. She called it the power of proximity. You’ve gotta get young people around you and around your leadership table. Your board meetings, your, your leadership meetings, your sermon planning, whatever that is that proximity is key. I, I, I’m creating this rule for myself where I don’t want to go and do important things unless I’ve got a young leader with me. Now, there’s some cases where that can’t happen, but I had a large donor, say, “Hey, I want to meet with you a couple weeks ago about making a, a, a large gift to support the work of what’s going on in the church.” And I said, “Obviously, I’ll be there, but can I bring a couple of young leaders?” And I explained why: I want them to learn by, by watching and participating. And of course, he, he said yes. And so, they came along. When you asked me to do this, I said, “I, I’ll do it, but I’d love to bring Tim, you know.” And so, that proximity is key. And then, the last one is, is a plan. You know, just craft out a little bit of a plan; doesn’t have to be great. There’s lots of resources online. We’re, we’re happy to help. We’ll give you, you know, send you something that you can post for your listeners that that can help as well. You need a little bit of a plan as you’re going forward, but don’t take a lot of time crafting that out. Just, just get started. That would be my suggestion.

Amy (39:19):

Well, that was a fun conversation. Tony, I’m curious what stood out to you from that time with what Dan and Tim shared? Well,

Tony (39:25):

Well, they both shared lots of helpful advice as it relates to developing and empowering next-generation leaders. But here’s what stood out to me. It wasn’t really what either of them said. It was what Dan modeled. When I asked Dan to talk about leadership development on this podcast, this was his response to me. And I wrote, I wrote this down, so lemme read this. Dan said, “I’d love to do it. It’s one of my favorite topics, but I have one caveat. I’d like to do the podcast with Tim. Tim has come up through our leadership system as now our Director of People and Culture. And part of my strategy for equipping is to bring young leaders to as many significant meetings and presentations as possible to help accelerate their development. So Tim’s bright, he’s articulate and would add tremendous value to the conversation and to your audience.”

Amy (40:19):


Tony (40:20):

That’s what Dan wrote. And, again, he’s just modeling what they talked about in the conversation. And the fact is if we want to empower next genera, generation leaders, we have to equip them, but we also have to invite them along for the journey. And Dan was just a good role model for this type of equipping. And Jesus talked about this. I mean, this is how he invited the disciples into ministry early on. He just said, come follow me, and I’m gonna send you out to fish for people. And in essence, Dan was modeling that for us. He’s asked, Tim, come follow me and I’m gonna, I’m gonna share how you can help equip and build into the next generation as well. So I just think we need to be intentional about looking for those “Come Follow Me” moments to raise up the next generation of leaders, Amy.

Amy (41:11):

Yeah. So good. Well, Tony, any final thoughts you have before we wrap up today’s conversation?

Tony (41:16):

Yeah. Most churches today are facing significant staffing challenges. Amy, I know you’re hearing this as well. Both overstaffing and vacancies in key roles are creating problems sometimes at the same time, unfortunately.

Amy (41:31):


Tony (41:31):

And churches are seeing that their organizational structure doesn’t align with their new post-pandemic ministry strategies. So, your structure, by the way, is perfectly designed to get the results that you’re seeing today. So if you don’t like the results you’re seeing, it might be time for a change. And if that sounds like you, I wanna invite you to join me for our upcoming webinar on September 28th. The webinar is called How to Structure Your Staff To Develop Next Generation Leaders. And at this free one-hour webinar, we will empower you with the systems and strategies to confidently structure your church for future impact. And you can register now at the link in your show notes.

Sean (42:14):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Like Tony said, we’d love to have you join us on our upcoming webinar on developing next-generation leaders. To sign up, just use the link in your show notes, and if you don’t yet have the show notes, go to Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

One Comment

  • As a former staff member at Sandals, I would agree when it comes to developing young leaders.


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