Growing Leaders Like the Future of the Church Depends On It

Written by Bill Whitt
May 15, 2023

We are on the verge of a major crisis in pastoral leadership. Each of us must start developing future leaders with a sense of urgency.

Last week, I shared that 42 percent of pastors have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. This week, I have another sobering statistic about pastors that we must confront — 1 in 4 pastors are planning to retire before 2030, according to the Barna Group.

  • What’s worse, Barna found that 75 percent of pastors say it is becoming harder to find mature young Christians who want to become pastors, and only 45 percent of pastors say their congregation puts a significant priority on developing the next generation (down from 69 percent in 2015).

We are on the verge of a major crisis in pastoral leadership. Each of us must start developing future leaders with a sense of urgency. Here are a few simple ideas that can work in any church.

Five Ways to Raise Up Future Leaders
Ask God For The Eyes of Faith When You Meet New People
  • When Jesus met his disciples, they were not A+ students of theology, leadership, or any ministry practice. Still, he lovingly developed the potential that he saw inside each of them.
  • It’s easy to write people off who are not up to par yet. Instead, why not allow God to give you a vision of what they could be if all of their God-given potential would fully bloom. It’s almost as if you are time traveling in your mind to see the fully-developed leader inside everyone.
A Cup Of Coffee Goes A Long Way
  • The deepest level of life transformation almost always happens through one-on-one relationships. Inviting someone out to coffee each week is a small investment that may change a life!
  • It is important to connect as one real person to another. These times show you truly care about the person and that they are not just a “project” to you.
Affirm What You See
  • Be on the lookout for what God may be doing in this person’s life, and be ready to affirm what you see. These simple and short conversations can change the course of a life!
  • It is best to be specific when you affirm a person’s gifting. Note exactly what they have said or done and why it may indicate they are uniquely equipped to serve in God’s kingdom.
Time to Start Discipling!
  • At this point, the friendship can begin to morph into a more purposeful discipling relationship. The Center for Church Renewal offers great resources that can help you disciple people at every stage of maturity.
  • As the relationship goes on over time, you can move from discussing theology to leadership strategy to counseling practice to ministry technique. It may even be best to let the person being mentored lead the way, as they discover what they are passionate about.
Practice, Practice, Practice
  • Look for opportunities at your church where the person you are discipling can start using his or her gifts. For example, they could teach the youth or preach at a young adult group. These are great places for them to get feedback, gain real world experience, and grow in confidence.
  • This is the part where many churches chicken out. No one is perfect in the beginning, and the cost of “turning over the reins” feels high. Do you know what has an even higher cost? Not turning over the reins!

I got my start in my 20s when a pastor asked me to join him for lunch once a week. Later, he asked me to preach, and he helped me create my first sermon. I’m pretty sure it was terrible, but everyone starts somewhere, right? I’m so glad he gave me a chance to find my calling in life! How can you begin helping someone find their calling today?

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