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Process Items-An Introduction

24 February 2014

Since 1981, Dr. Bobby Clinton, has directed the Leadership concentration in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and served as professor of leadership.  Before and since then, he has been a student of how leaders are formed and how their leadership skills develop.

In his years of study Clinton has identified what he calls “Process Items”.  Process Items are events, people, situations, or relationships that significantly contribute to the shaping of a specific leader.

In investigating and plotting the leadership growth of well over a thousand leaders, Clinton has been able to categorize these into 52 categories with “like properties and functions”[1]

The purpose of this is far from theoretical (although it also has a highly theoretical justification).  Knowing process items can be used retrospectively as well as diagnostically.  By that I mean that a man or woman can look at their life history and see the events, people, situations, or relationships that God has put into his or her life and see God’s hand in shaping them.  This should be of interest to Christians, both current leaders and potential leaders, because it is possible to see what God has being doing to shape one.

But just as important is the way that process theory can affect how we look at current events.  As we go through life, there can be a lot of confusion.  There can be difficult decisions.  It is easy to get distracted or discouraged by “what life throws” at you.  But knowing these process items can help us to see the sense in many of the senseless things that happen to us.  We can see how God is currently bringing events, people, situations, or relationships into our lives to fashion us into the leaders that He wants us to be.

My goal over the next several weeks (perhaps months) is to go through many of these “process items” and describe them both theoretically, but also practically…how have I or those around me seen these work out in our lives.

I could list them all out with a one sentence definition and be done with it. But I don’t think that is at all helpful.  It becomes one more piece of relatively useless information for us to stick away somewhere in either a physical or mental file and seldom (if ever) retrieve.

My hope is that by slowing us down, I can help you to begin to ask the questions like: how have I seen this lived out in my life?  Has this been my experience?  Is God doing this in my life right now?  How should I react to it?

Much more than intellectual theory, my purpose is to encourage you:

  • To encourage you to see God’s active involvement in your life both currently as well as in the past.
  • To encourage you to consider that perhaps God is calling you to be more of a leader than you have previously seen yourself.
  • To encourage you to look at the people around you with expectant eyes:  how can you help THEM to see God’s active work and development in their own lives?

Process items won’t be the only thing I write about (my ADD keeps me from staying on one specific track too long!).  But my main goal is to go through most of these process items, while at the same time interspersing them with other insights and challenges.

And so with that brief introduction, let’s begin…next time I will post the first of the Process Items in our look at Clintons 52 Process Items in the Life of the Christian Leader.

[1] All quotations come from Bobby Clinton, Leadership Emergence Theory: A Self-Study Manual.  Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publications, 1989.


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