By Steven Ackley
Leadership development was the model of Jesus, it was the call of Paul to the early church, and it is necessary today if we desire to effectively mobilize people and grow churches. We must be committed to identifying and raising up leaders in our churches, especially among young adults. Here is one pattern that is helpful in our efforts to raise up leaders: identify, develop, and deploy.
Identifying potential leaders can happen in a number of ways. Everyone you identify will need to be developed, so don’t go looking for the perfect person that you can plug in immediately and who will make your job easy. Keep the whole process in mind.
You may have a profile of the leaders you want to develop. This is great, but be sure that your profile isn’t unrealistic for your context or so refined and advanced that few will ever make it into your leadership pipeline.
You may also identify potential leaders through conversations. Talk with people in your church and community about young adults who are already investing in different ways that you may not know about. Ask young adults who among their peers is serving and leading or is not serving and leading that needs to be.
I’ve found that being direct with young adults is often effective. This may include shoulder tapping: tapping a young adult on the shoulder, actually or metaphorically, and asking them in what capacity they are currently serving. This is a simple way to identify potential or current leaders who need development.
You may also cast a wide net in your church: asking broadly for those who want to serve. Now, this is my least favorite, but it may be necessary or helpful in your context. This approach typically lacks appeal and leaves much room to ignore the call. But if you are a great vision caster who can inspire the masses to take steps forward, this may work well. Be sure you are ready to receive what you get and immediately enter them into a process of assessment. Make the next steps clear and attainable.
After you identify potential leaders, you must have a plan for development. The most important part of this process is to have a target in mind for the type of person or qualities that you want to develop people toward. This may include characteristics of godly men and women, characteristics of Jesus Himself, or characteristics that your church has identified. Be sure it is clear. Without this essential piece, you’ll be aiming for nothing, and, most likely, that’s what you’ll achieve.
Keep in mind that development requires time, a plan, and patience. Not everyone will grow at the same pace, nor will they all be naturally bent toward some qualities. Be patient in the time and plan you have for development and sending through your local church.
The final step in Jesus’ development process of His disciples was to send them. This part gets tricky and requires clarity in our local churches. Sending may mean engaging young adults serving in kids ministry, but it may also mean sending them to an unreached part of the world to help spread the gospel and start churches. No matter what sending looks like, know that this step must be clearly articulated as the goal of the raising up leaders in your church. Otherwise, young adults will be convinced that it’s just for them to be a better version of themselves, which is not the goal.
Raising up leaders among the young adults in our churches is crucial to the health and success of your church. In your efforts to do so, you must identify, develop, and deploy leaders so that the mission of God is furthered and the local church and Kingdom grow.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.