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Identifying and Developing Young Leaders in Your Church

One of the responsibilities of leadership is not only to lead but also to identify, inspire, motivate and develop future leaders. Helping others see the potential of their own leadership – even when they may not see it themselves! – is an incredible privilege we have as leaders.

Face it, you have not always been the leader you are now and at some point you were given an opportunity to step forward in a new way. Someone saw something in you that made them think you were worth investing in. And now you get to pass that on and do the same for someone else.

And remember, all leaders are temporary. Whatever role you’re in now, you won’t be there forever. Your time will come to an end with a new opportunity or a new position and someone will need to take your place. What better way to ensure that your successor continues your work in the direction you’ve set than to raise up that leader yourself!

But how do you identify who these potential leaders could be? Especially if you’re at a small church it may just come down to a numbers game. You may ask yourself, “Is there even a pool of people I can draw future leaders from?”

We’ve also seen the impact of the pandemic and remote work on the global job market. Churches aren’t exempt from this. Almost every pastor I speak with is looking to hire but struggling to find the right person for the role.

Every church is going to have its own criteria for what makes a great leader. You’ll have expectations on spiritual state, ministry experience, church involvement but even within a group of people who check all the same boxes there are still some people who are ready for leadership opportunities and some who are not.

So how do we identify the ones who are ready?

I’ll say right off the top that there is no foolproof method in this. Part of the art of leadership (as opposed to the science) is going with your gut, knowing when failure is okay and understanding that sometimes you will invest in a leader who will not take the investment seriously. You have to be okay with this and understand that over the long haul a commitment to investing in future leaders is undoubtedly worth it.. even with some bumps along the road.

So here are the three indicators that tell me someone is ready and willing for some serious leadership investment. These are things that trigger my leadership antennae and tell me that they are ready for a new opportunity where they can grow and become more effective as a leader.

Show Up

This is the biggest one for me. I look for people who simply show up. People who come early, stay late, come to the team nights, take the training opportunities and are a constant presence at your church or with your team.

Showing up should not be taken lightly and it’s a key piece of advice I give to young leaders. You will learn so much simply by being present and it’s the biggest signal for me that someone has leadership potential.

Don’t neglect the powerful potential of simply showing up.



Step Up

Some people will show up.. and show up.. and show up.. but the reason they’re showing up is because they want to be part of the family. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

But when it comes to identifying potential leaders at some point you want to see people step up into new opportunities. Taking initiative, expressing curiosity about learning a new skill or just wanting to be involved in a new role is another big trigger in telling me that someone is ready for a new leadership opportunity.

Showing up is how we build the family, stepping up is how we build leaders.



Grow Up

After showing up and stepping up what I’m looking for now is people who grow up to confirm that a continued investment in them as leaders is worth it.

Growing up means taking ownership and responsibility, not just filling a role. Helping rethink how we do what we do so that we’re more efficient and more effective. I’ve even seen young leaders be the ones who are best at identifying other young leaders – this is a great example of growing up!

Of course the greatest example of growing up is how we grow in our faith. You should be expressing and living out more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, serving more in the areas of your spiritual gifts, deepening your dependancy on Christ and becoming more effective at sharing your faith with others.

Whether you’re a worship leader or a pastor part of your responsibility as a leader is to identify future leaders within your own church and help develop them into their God-given potential as leaders for the kingdom. Imagine the impact of developing leaders who can continue to develop leaders this way but starting out this way will get you headed on the right track.

Look for potential young leaders who show up, step up and grow up!


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