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5 Tips for Developing Potential Church Leaders

It’s not enough to recognize potential leaders in your church; you need to begin to shape and mold them into people you can trust to shepherd others. Whether you’re trying to grow your pool of ministry leaders or you’re raising up leaders as part of your mentorship program, developing the leaders around you is one of the pastor’s most strategic objectives.

Here are five steps to help you equip people to lead:

1. Build relationships with future leaders

Jesus’ whole three-year ministry was about equipping his disciples to lead the church. This required them to spend time with him, see him at work, and get feedback and input. While you may not commit to a three-year discipleship program for new leaders, it’s important that you commit to more than occasional coffee dates.

As much as you’re able, open your life up to these developing leaders. Invite them over for meals and allow them to attend ministry meetings that aren’t too sensitive. Look for opportunities where you can bring them along as you complete tasks throughout your day. This allows for topics to crop up naturally, and for these leaders to learn from you as you minister to others.

Your initial investment in future leaders will be your largest expenditure of personal time. The intention is that they will, in turn, invite others into their lives to develop more leaders.

2. Lay out expectations for church leadership

You don’t want to tie up your leaders in a bunch of red tape, but you need to clearly communicate ministry expectations. These expectations should include the time and financial commitments the church may require, pay (if applicable), purity, and other areas that you feel are important to communicate up front.

You don’t want to get bogged down with too many specifics. However, once you start putting together an expectations document, it’ll be easy to think of more things you probably should communicate to new leaders.

3. Create or find a biblical curriculum

Almost 1 in 5 people say they never read the Bible, and only 45% claim to read it more than once a week. Biblical illiteracy is a problem in the church, and it extends to many leadership teams. It doesn’t matter how gifted they are, a church leader who doesn’t have a good grasp of the scriptures isn’t too helpful.

Host classes that walk potential leaders through biblical teachings, and doctrines that are particular to your church or denomination. Classes should include an Old Testament and New Testament survey to help everyone identify, and seek to fill, gaps in their Biblical knowledge.

4. Challenge them with unfamiliar jobs

If you’ve ever seen the ‘80s version of The Karate Kid, you remember Mr. Miyagi’s teaching style. He would get Daniel to labor over tedious and difficult jobs like waxing cars, staining fences, and sanding floors. Beyond creating muscle memory around the activities, those jobs helped to develop self-discipline and weed out feelings of entitlement.

If someone’s been raised in the church, it’s easy to for them to attach specific value and meaning to high-profile positions. But church leadership is about service. It’s important for potential leaders to find meaning in serving, and not expect attention or credit. Groom your future leaders to be humble and self-sacrificing.

5. Discuss mentoring scenarios

There are few opportunities where potential leaders can observe you while you mentor others, but it’s critical for them to learn strong mentorship skills. Develop these skills in new leaders by creating pretend church-member profiles and talking through different issues and scenarios that could come up in mentoring sessions.

You will not be able to replicate every potential issue or mentoring scenario they’ll encounter. But by exploring various scenarios, you can teach them how to think in various situations—and that’s a priceless skill. A great place to start is talking them through questions you’d ask if someone was dealing with trauma from past abuse, intimacy struggles in a marriage, or anger issues.

Leadership development is so important

Placing ill-prepared leaders in the church can be disastrous, especially for the people they are responsible for discipleship and mentoring. New leaders may feel frustrated and unequipped to help the church community. Plus, poor leadership can stunt the growth of an otherwise healthy church population. Develop leaders strategically, and be intentional about helping them grow. Ultimately, you’re looking to create a leadership model that can be easily passed down from leaders to members, and help your church community flourish.