Identify and Develop Emerging Leaders


Further the mission of the Kingdom of God by identifying others who can serve in a leadership role and help them develop the skills needed to lead well.


  • Assignment 1 // Read Matthew 28:19-20a & 2 Timothy 2:2 and Answer Questions

  • Assignment 2 // Read Involve by Will Johnston and Answer Questions

  • Assignment 3 // Read Identify by Will Johnston and Answer Questions

  • Assignment 4 // Read Invest & Empower by Will Johnston and Answer Questions


Matthew 28:19-20a (ESV)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The last command that Jesus gave before ascending to Heaven was to go make disciples. He was telling the people he had personally invested in to turn around and invest in others, teaching them and showing them who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him.

2 Timothy 2:2 (ESV)

“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful [people] who will be able to teach others also.”

Thirty years later the Apostle Paul–first century church planter, author of much of the New Testament, and the person responsible for bringing the message of Jesus to much of the known world–wrote a letter to his protege Timothy, instructing him to pass on to others the things that Paul has taught him about Jesus. What we see in

Paul’s letter to Timothy is four generations of discipleship and leadership development: Paul investing in Timothy who invests in reliable people who will in turn invest in others.

This is God’s strategy for sharing the good news of Jesus and restoring the broken relationship between God and the world: that we, His followers, would invest our knowledge, experience, skills, gifts, and wisdom into other people and encourage them to turn around and do the same with others.


  1. Who have been influential leaders and disciplers in your life? These could be bosses, mentors, pastors, teachers, professors, small group leaders, ministry team leaders, coaches, or anyone else who had a role in developing you as a leader and a follower of Jesus.

  2. What were some of the characteristics that made those people great leaders?

  3. What do you think about the idea that you are a critical part of God’s plan to reach the world with the love of Jesus?


Read Involve & Answer Questions

If you want to identify potential leaders, the first thing you must do is share leadership responsibility with others.

Let’s say you lead the parking team for the first service. Ask one of your team members to handle scheduling, another to train new recruits, a third to plan fun outings for team building, a fourth to collect and share prayer requests. Your job as a leader is not to personally do all of these things but rather to ensure they are done.

If you don’t have someone to delegate each of these kinds responsibilities to right now, don’t worry! The point isn’t that you have to delegate everything all at once but rather that you begin the process. Sharing responsibilities in this way has three key benefits:

First, you no longer have to carry the weight of leadership on your own. At times, especially when you first begin to share those responsibilities, it will seem like more work to keep everyone coordinated and everything on track, but in the long-run your load will be much lighter.

Second, people will be more engaged and more committed if they have a significant role to play. It’s pretty easy for someone on the parking team to think, “Anyone can direct cars. If I don’t show up or I step off the team, it won’t be that big of a deal.” But if that person is responsible for team morale or scheduling, he or she will feel a far greater sense of ownership and commitment to the team.

And third, sharing responsibilities will help surface potential leaders. Those people who readily take on additional responsibility and actually follow through with it are some of the first people to consider as potential leaders.

Note that when we’re talking about delegating, we use the term “responsibilities” rather than “tasks.” When you delegate a responsibility, you delegate ownership. You could delegate to someone the task of making sure the team signs a birthday card each time someone’s birthday comes up. Or, you could delegate the responsibility of boosting team morale, and the person you delegate to is responsible for figuring out how to do that. He or she might write notes to each team member, plan a dinner party, or make sure that everyone’s birthday is celebrated.

Delegating a task ensures a very particular job gets done, but it doesn’t create near the level of ownership and is not as effective at helping someone develop. Often, you will begin by delegating tasks and as people show themselves reliable and capable, you can begin to shift to delegating responsibilities.


  1. What inhibits you from delegating responsibility? Why?

  2. Where have you experienced poor delegation in the past? What were the causes from your perspective?

  3. Name a time a leader has delegated a responsibility to you. How did that make you feel? What did that affirm in you and why is this valuable?


Read Identify & Answer Questions

When considering who from your team or your group might make a good leader, there are three key characteristics to look for:

The first is someone who is engaged and committed. These are the folks who, as we just discussed, show up faithfully, and are willing to do more when asked or better yet, volunteer even when not asked. The truth is, that someone could have all of the leadership skills in the world, but if he or she is not committed to the team or to the mission, that person is unlikely to be a very good leader. As Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.”

The second thing you’re looking for is someone who is actively pursuing Jesus in his or her own life. As leaders in the church, whether we’re leading a mission trip, a local serve team, a small group, or a ministry team, we’re not only practical leaders responsible for getting things done, we’re also spiritual leaders, responsible for guiding and shepherding the people God has entrusted to our care and for helping them to take next steps in their faith journey.

We want to be tour guides, not travel agents. In other words, we want to be able to say as Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” “Come join me on this exciting adventure, this journey of following Jesus. I’m going there myself, and I want you to come along for the ride!” We don’t want to be travel agents who sit behind a desk with a pretty brochure, explaining all of the great things about an adventure they’ve never taken. To lead people towards Jesus, we have to be moving towards Him ourselves.

Movement is key. We want to identify people who are moving towards Jesus, who are seeking to grow in their relationship with Jesus, who want to know more about God and to begin to live more like Christ. Movement is more important than perceived maturity. When Jesus called his twelve disciples, they weren’t mature, but they were willing to move. The Pharisees were the supposedly mature ones, but they thought they had arrived and were set in their ways. And Jesus had little patience or time for them. He’s far more interested in a willingness to grow than what you already know.

That said, a person does need to have a baseline understanding of who Jesus is and a willingness to live a life that looks like His before we place them into a leadership role in the church. If someone isn’t sure that they believe Jesus is the way to God or has no desire to give up sinful habits, then that’s someone who needs some further spiritual development before we would place them in a leadership role. It doesn’t mean you don’t work with that person, but just be aware there will need to be more spiritual development along with leadership development.

So if you’re looking for someone who is engaged and committed and then someone who is pursuing Jesus, the third thing you’re looking for is someone with…

...decent social skills.

When you’re a leader, you’re leading people. And if someone is not good with people, if she’s excessively awkward or he’s really prickly, that person isn’t likely to make a very good leader.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re looking for the popular kids or the cool kids. This doesn’t mean you’re looking for extreme extroverts, the life of the party, great networkers, or polished public speakers. All of those types of people can make great leaders because people tend to be drawn to them. They’re excellent recruiters. But introverts can often be better listeners, making people feel welcome and cared for. They simply have different advantages as leaders.

Having decent social skills does mean, however, that if someone can’t carry on a one-on-one conversation for five minutes without it being really awkward or without offending the other person, they’re probably not well-suited to leadership.

There is, actually, one more thing to look for. It’s not in the list above because it’s not a requirement, but it is worth paying attention to. That thing is the X factor. As you begin to interact with more and more leaders and potential leaders, you will find yourself thinking, “I think that person could make a great leader” or “I’m not sure that person would be a very good leader.”

Pay attention when you have those thoughts. They’re not foolproof. Even experienced leaders will sometimes think someone just isn’t cut out to lead, and they end up being phenomenal. Or vice-versa, they think someone will make a great leader, and that person bombs. But on the whole, if you get these sense that maybe a person is someone others would follow, then chances are, other people have noticed the same thing.

Again, this is not foolproof, so don’t rely solely on your gut, and those people still need to meet the other three criteria. Those are not optional.


  1. Have you ever been identified to serve as a leader? What is it that you think made you stand out?

  2. Who is an example of a great identifier or developer? What makes them great?

  3. Are there other criteria that you can think of that you would want in a leader?


Read Invest & Empower & Answer Questions

Once you’ve identified someone (or multiple someones) as a potential leader, your next step is to begin to invest in that person, to share whatever knowledge, experience, skills, gifts, and wisdom you have. You don’t have to know everything about leadership or be able to answer every question someone might have before beginning to invest in others. You simply need to be willing to share what you do know.

There’s a simple, five-step process to investing in someone:

  • I do. You watch. We talk.
  • I do. You help. We talk.
  • You do. I help. We talk.
  • You do. I watch. We talk.
  • You do. Someone else watches.

After you’ve identified someone as a potential leader, your next step is to have them intentionally watch you lead and then talk about it with them afterwards. Discuss what went well and what didn’t go well. Discuss why you made the decisions you made. Ask if they have any insights on something you could have done better. Give them the opportunity to ask you questions. In other words, pick your leadership apart with them. Chances are you’ll both learn something.

Once you’ve debriefed your leadership with someone, your next step is to have them help you lead. (And we should note that depending on the person you’ve identified, you might do each of these steps once or you might do them each numerous times.) That person has probably already been doing something in the group, but give them additional responsibility. And again, debrief it afterwards, talk through what worked and what didn’t.

After that stage is complete, your next step is to hand them the leadership reins, to give them the opportunity to sit in the pilot’s seat and to begin to really get a taste of what it means to lead a group of people. Let them shoulder the bulk of the leadership responsibility for awhile.

Once they’ve gotten some experience driving, you move out of the co-pilot’s seat and into the back of the plane. In other words, you let them lead without getting involved, only giving feedback after the fact. Before long, that person will be leading out on their own, and so they need to know what that’s like before you’re no longer there as a safety net. We would add that if everything seems to be blowing up around this new leader, at that point you should jump in, but if they’re just struggling a bit, part of helping them grow is to let them struggle. You can provide guidance, but don’t lead for them.

Alongside of the investment that you are making in this potential leader, it would be a good idea to also invite them to be a part of this same set of developmental trainings that you are participating in now. The practical experience of working with you, combined with the opportunity to learn from other seasoned leaders, will help prepare that potential leader well.

The final step in this process is that the person you have invested in begins to lead, and the cycle begins all over again when the person you’ve invested in begins to invest in someone else. In order for that to happen, you must empower that person to lead. This typically happens in one of two ways. Either that person goes and starts leading a new team or a new group, or else you hand off the team or group that you’ve been leading to that new leader and you start leading a new team or group or perhaps even step into a higher level of leadership.

There is sometimes an advantage in you as the stronger leader being the one to start something new. It allows the new leader to step into a leadership role in an environment where they are comfortable and with people they already know.

Truth be told, this stage is often the most difficult part of leadership development. Chances are that by this point you have developed a pretty strong relationship with the person you’ve been investing in. You have begun to rely on them to help you lead, and you’re likely decent friends as well. Both you and the new leader may find yourselves not wanting to part, but your willingness to do so is what will allow you to have an exponential impact.

Initially, your leadership will be limited to the 5 or 10 or 15 people who are in your group or on your team, and due to limits that we all face on our time and relational capacity, you won’t really be able to lead any more people than that. Your impact is real but limited. But when you develop someone as a leader and he or she goes off to lead a different group or a different team, you’re now impacting twice as many people, because without you that new leader likely wouldn’t have gotten started or wouldn’t have been as well-equipped when he or she did start.

And then if each of takes on a new potential leader, developing that person and sending them out to lead, you’re now impacting four times as many people as you were initially. And it is often the leaders who are intentional about developing and releasing potential leaders who are then tapped for even higher levels of leadership both in the church and in the workplace. (Of course, we must always keep in mind that our motivation should not be glory or self-promotion but rather to glorify God and see His work and His will carried out.)

It is when we empower others to lead that we begin to have an exponential impact.


  1. Have you ever had someone invest in you as a leader? If so, how did they go about it, and how did it help you grow in your leadership?
  2. What are 1-3 principles that you currently practice have that have helped you grow that you can share with another leader?
  3. What are some ways of investing in a potential leader, other than the five step process listed above?


If this content intrigues you and you’d like to explore it further, check out Developing an Apprentice by Eric Metcalf, Carter Moss, and Nick Plassman.

LEADERSHIP TAKEAWAY (To be completed during group discussion)