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How to Identify Young Leaders in the Church

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Do a quick Google Search and you’ll find volumes written about this next generation entering the workforce. Much of it is written from a negative perspective. The search will tell you that this generation is entitled, lazy, they don’t follow through and they can’t be trusted with real responsibility. This trend has great implications for the modern day church. And while the researchers might be right, I still believe that there are great up and coming leaders in the next generation taking their place in the church today. Two reasons stand out and have convinced me.

#1 God has a mission for His Church. I’m convinced God is going to resource that mission and give his bride the Church everything she needs to see it through, which includes giving the church spiritual leaders.

#2 We need to do the hard work of looking for them. If God is going to do the work of resourcing His Church with the next generation of leaders, then it falls to us identify, develop and train them to take their place.

So, to that end here are 7 things to look for when identifying young leaders in the church:

1. Look for Them

When it comes to relationships you always find what you’re looking for. This is true in any relationship. If you’re married and looking for something to complain about regarding your spouse…chances are you can find that pretty easily. Looking for something to praise regarding your spouse? Chances are you can find that easily as well. Many churches are leadership starved because they don’t have their eyes open. So are your eyes open, are your antenna up? Are the leaders in your church incessantly looking for the next generation of leaders to develop?

2. Encouragement

Often times people become what you tell them they are. Never underestimate the power of your words. The encouraging words of a seasoned leader are fuel that young leaders run on. Sometimes young leaders simply need someone in authority to come along side of them and give them an opportunity and hear the words, “I believe in you, you can do it!”

3. Delegate

Before you begin to empower and release young leaders prematurely, start with delegation. See if they can execute the way you want them to execute…within the unique vision and values of the church. And then evaluate it with them. Do they see what you see? What kind of questions do they ask?

 4. Faithfulness

Do they have a proven track record? Not do they have the longest or most impressive resume. But have they been faithful with the smaller opportunities they’ve already had? If they’ve been faithful with a few things it might be time to challenge them by putting a bit more on their plate.

5. Servanthood

As the Apostle Paul said it in Philippians 2…do they think about others before they think about themselves? Do they think about their position and power that may come as they “move up the ranks?” Or do they put others first? Do they think about their segment ministry only, or the church as a whole? Great leaders always start out as great followers, they understand authority, how to be under it and as a result the spirit to wield it well.

6. Give them Access

Give potential leaders access to you and the circles you run in. Let them sit in meetings you’re in, let them see you make decisions, let them watch what happens behind closed doors. And then talk about it and unpack it. Do they have a leadership bias and filter?

7. Godliness

In the church-world godliness is a prerequisite to leadership. And we don’t get to come up with the qualifications; the Scriptures do that for us. The biblical qualifications given in Timothy (I Timothy 3:1-13) and Titus (Titus 1:6-9) emphasize the importance of character in spiritual leadership. One must have earned the respect of those within the church and outside the church through a consistent and faithful lifestyle. Blamelessness is the over-arching trait that is further described throughout the passage. Blamelessness is not the same thing as sinlessness but is living a life of such high moral standard that to the observer nothing would be glaringly inconsistent with what one professes to believe that would provide grounds for accusation.

Note: Don’t forget that in Romans 12:3-8 the bible defines leadership as a spiritual gift. Contrary to popular leadership ideas floating around out there, everyone is not a leader. While many people can be taught to exercise leadership principles only a few are truly spiritually gifted to be leaders.

Photo Credit: DaveLawler via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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