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Leadership development through experiences is thought to be one of the most effective approaches in the development of leaders. Exploring the types of experiences of executive church leaders adds to the body of leadership development research focused on leadership lessons, and reveals the contexts through which these experiences were formed. this study applies a phenomenological approach to capture the essence of the leadership development experiences of several bishops within a single African American denomination. Six major themes emerged as important elements of their collective experience. these findings suggest that leadership development experiences for executive church leaders should include ministry venture creation, the use of relevant and real cases, and mentoring relationships.