Identifying and Building Future Leaders

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Developing versus harvesting future leaders is a committed process. It is easy to take note of experienced, mature leaders and simply assimilate them into your ministry, program, or church. Yet what the body of Christ needs is for the development of future leaders to become of great importance to those who shepherd the flock. Take care to note: even if you are working to integrate a natural leader who has previous experience–it might take time to for them to understand the culture of the ministry and the style of leadership that is valued. Of equal importance, is the fresh joy that comes with developing potential leaders, as they come alive with the challenge of ownership and responsibility. There is something exciting and unpredictable, yet remarkably inspiring with watching new leaders begin to serve the church you deeply care for.

As I have worked with teams, building future leaders–four first steps seem to stand out :


  1. Know what you are looking for. The best place to look for new leaders is to ask yourself, “Who already lives out the vision of the church, is currently serving as a worker somewhere, and who naturally thinks about the future  and development?”


  1. Take notice. Once I have noted individuals who fit those qualities, I develop a six week small group series. Each of these 90 minute gatherings include interaction with a leadership book (For example: Inside the Magic Kingdom) for the purpose of creating an environment in which we can verbally process roles, situations, key concepts of leadership, and scenarios. I prefer using a secular parable-style book which allows for genuine management questions to prevail over a theological analysis of leadership alone. Our goal is not to mimic another ministry model, or follow the latest megachurch success–instead our goal is to improve our thinking about how to work through systems, processes, people issues, and ministry concepts. This group meets in a home environment and is meant to be interactive. Each potential leader that I invite to this group is asked each week to communicate three to four keys that they learned from the week’s reading. I ask them to make application points for either family, the secular arena, or in church ministry. I am always seeking to find out one thing: “What is the application?” The goal is  to see if individuals I am interested in building as leaders can critically think through how to apply concepts which build good systems, ministries, and relationships. By the third week, you will be able to take note of who is a leader, who is a manager, and who is neither. The second half of our time together moves past the book and into, “What is God teaching you?” My main purpose in this time is to find out if individuals are growing spiritually as they should or simply plodding along in their spiritual lives.


  1. Test it. Give the individuals who have demonstrated leadership ability in the small group series a short term leadership task to see how it goes. Let them own it. Cast the vision for it. Verbally walk through any lack of clarity–and then back away. After a set amount of time–regroup and process the task with them, either for additional clarification or any helpful feedback. You are looking for leaders who are able to think, decide and do.


  1. Find the right slot. Once you have had time to invest in the potential leader, they have been trained and tested–your greatest responsibility for them is to place them correctly within the church. Do not jump to the most urgent or unfulfilled role within your ministry that needs help. If you place someone who has no heart, skill, or passion for a position–they may serve sacrificially for a season, but they are not going to thrive. Make sure that you place individuals in correct roles which match their ministry passion and skills.


Question: What creative ways have you invested in your leaders, both upcoming and current? What resources do you like to use for these times?

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