Much is being written and talked about concerning pipelines in church leadership circles. I hear it in my staffing consulting work from senior leaders, “One of the things we need is someone who could join our team and build pipelines of leaders for the future.”  I see it tweeted, posted, pinned,  I talk about it often, and there was even an entire conference recently about the topic of Pipelines.

Yet the words of a friend who has spent much of their adult life working with college students, and is now an Executive Pastor at a large church out east, keep ringing in my mind. At a recent strategy meeting he said:

“The next generation isn’t looking for a pipe to slide through.
They are looking for a path on which to start a journey”

So convicting. Who wants to be someone else’s commodity?

Three ways a journey into ministry is like a path…

1. We need a guide. We need someone who has walked this path before, and knows how to navigate it. They know where the great views are, and they know where the fallen tree is we can sit down on to rest. They’ve taken others down this path, and while some have turned back in years past, no one has ever died (not yet anyway).

2. It’s hard work the first time. For those of us who are not avid hikers, the first time out on a trail with an experienced person will take your breath away (and I’m not talking about just the views!). Paths get steep, the soil gets loose, and we have to work harder than we thought.

3. It’s a path for a good reason. What sometimes looks like a short cut to the newbie, winds up being a dead end. Many have come through here before and that’s why this path is worn, and its obvious. A great guide will make sure you stay on the path. Just walking the path is hard enough.

A pipeline implies that there’s pressure, and we are all moving at the same speed (hopefully fast). Reality in leadership development is that no one size fits all, and there’s very little that is predictable in the development of the skills that really matter.

While the path is the same tried and true, the time it takes to get to the destination will vary.