by Thom S. Rainer
Leadership development is one of the biggest challenges for churches and church leaders. Churches often miss opportunities to minister because they don’t have enough leaders ready.
The Apostle Paul exhorted pastors and teachers to train up leaders within the church (Ephesians 4:11-13). Pastors are still called to identify and train the next generation of leaders in our churches. If the pastor doesn’t equip the next generation of leaders in the church, who will?
Churches need an equipping culture. Of course, everyone in our churches should be discipled and all are called to be ministers. If you do discipleship, you’ll be creating leaders. But if you recognize someone with the gifts and calling to vocational ministry, take the time to personally invest in them beyond the discipleship and development of a typical church member.
Members of the Millennial generation are seeking people to invest in their lives. They want to be part of organizations that are intentional about raising up leaders. We will lose members of this generation if we don’t spend time mentoring them.
So, what are some natural ways pastors and church leaders can be intentional about developing leaders?
Develop leaders from the pulpit. What is spoken from the pulpit will become a priority of the church. A pastor’s passions and priorities are ultimately going to be demonstrated in what is preached from the pulpit. Are you using your sermons to equip those who are sitting in the pews to grow in their understanding of leadership?
Make theological training a critical part of ministry training. Every Christian should be theologically trained. Small groups and Sunday school are logical places for theological training to take place. Your church might consider hosting seminars or classes taught by seminary professors.
There is a growing synergy between local churches and seminaries to train leaders through on campus and online education, as well as seminars at the local church. This trend will continue to gain ground in the near future. Pastoral apprenticeships are also a great way to train both theologically and methodologically.
Spend time with those you are developing. Model for them healthy leadership characteristics. Take them with you on hospital visits, serve alongside them on mission trips, show them how to disciple others, and walk with them on their spiritual journey. Help them decipher God’s call on their life and what He’s trying to teach them. Leadership development and discipleship go hand in hand.
Give them a learning path. Recommend books, podcasts, and conferences that will contribute to their development. If the person you’re mentoring is on your staff, offer to send them to at least one conference a year.
Give them opportunities to lead. If you recognize potential leadership abilities in church members, provide opportunities for those gifts and talents to be developed. You might start by having them lead a volunteer team or small group. As they progress in their leadership abilities, give them more responsibility. You’ll begin to see the areas where they excel and where they have limitations.
Be personal with those you are developing. So much of development is about character. Share with them not only on a professional level but on a personal level as well. Share with them how you handle family issues and how to balance work and personal life.
You’ll find in these types of relationships reciprocal learning always takes place. In my informal mentoring relationships, I’ve always felt I’ve learned more than I’ve taught.
Every church should be constantly asking: Is God raising up the next generation of missionaries, pastors, children’s ministers, and theologians in our church? Are we equipping those who will later equip others?
THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.