Raising up new leaders is key to sustaining growth in any ministry, but few future leaders are eager to accept the responsibility.
Set realistic goals and be clear and reasonable about your expectations.
Good leaders look for and cultivate leadership qualities in their team, even when met with resistance.
Future leaders often don’t feel prepared to lead and find excuses to avoid opportunities. Allowing future leaders to remain stagnant may seem easier than prodding them to action, but their blessings, along with your sanity, might be left behind.
Don’t wait for someone to tell you when they’re ready, or you may find yourself near burnout or elevating the wrong person, for the sake of getting the job done.
Allow God to highlight who in your ministry was created to lead, and bear in mind that He is likely to point out Davids - the least likely, least confident, youngest and wildest. It’s easy to identify the Sauls - people of stature, poise, confidence, education and influence. They often are the ones that expect to be tapped for leadership and can seem like the obvious choice.
You’ve likely already learned the pitfalls of elevating the Sauls in your ministry.
Be willing to take a risk on a David, and you may find a loyal, dedicated, charismatic roughian, who attracts many new people to your ministry, while handling much more responsibility than you expected.
Once you’ve identified future leaders, test your discernment with several trusted advisers. Go outside your circle to get the perspective of someone who knows them well. Talk to the people already being ministered to by the individuals you are prepared to elevate.
Hold your choices loosely and allow the godly counsel of others to confirm or reject your candidates.
Those who pass the first test can then be given a task to test their ability and willingness to follow instruction, meet a deadline, problem solve and manage a team. Let them head up a cleanup project or choose a curriculum for an upcoming class. Take one thing off your plate and see how they handle it.
By taking time to confirm your selections with trusted advisors, and testing them in a real-world situation, you’ll gain the confidence necessary to nurture your reluctant future leader past their objections and delay tactics.
By believing in them steadfastly, having faith in their calling and ability that comes from a place of experience, you’ll lend them your confidence, so they can rise up.
God highlighted David as the future king of Israel, many years before he was called upon to take the position. Your Davids won’t be ready to jump into a position of leadership either.
Cultivation is the process of drawing them close and downloading to them what they need, to someday take the responsibility you plan to turn over to them. You may choose whether or not to tell your future leaders your plans, depending on their personality, commitment level, or the fears they have to overcome.
If they are in a position to become your intern or apprentice, that’s a great path to leadership. If they are more of a peer, you can invite them to start joining you more often as you do your work, spending relationship building time, while ministering together.
Regardless of the way you frame it, the time you spend cultivating your reluctant future leader is critical to developing their sense of loyalty and conferring to them your ministry DNA. When it’s their time to lead, they will know how you would do it, and you know they can be trusted to be your extension.
Jesus spent three years with his reluctant future leaders, and when He thrust them into leadership, they still weren’t fully prepared, but they eventually rose to the occasion. It may take only months with those you are seeking to become leaders, but more likely it will take a year or more of purposeful cultivation before your future leaders are ready and be prepared that you may also lose some along the way.
Don’t worry if someone you’ve been cultivating for leadership bails on you entirely. Your investment in that person wasn’t in vain, it’s just that you won’t be the leader who gets to enjoy the fruit of that effort. Remember that you’re building God’s Kingdom, not just your ministry, and send that person off with your blessing.
The time will come when you’re ready to turn your first protégé loose, which would be a good time to let them know your plans, if you haven’t already. Explain how God identified their leadership calling to you, confirmed it with many wise advisers, and reveal your strategy in cultivating them throughout your relationship, to the point that you’re now confident in their ability to lead.
Next, your reluctant future leader will need a project and a push.
You may be confident in your future leader, but most likely they aren’t yet confident in themselves, so be sure they have every tool and resource necessary, help them assemble their team, and empower them to make all the decisions that are needed to complete their task.
Be careful to select a project that is challenging but is at the same time attainable, so their first leadership experience can be a positive one. Set realistic goals and be clear and reasonable about your expectations.
Letting go of any aspect of your ministry can be stressful. The best way to resist the urge to retake control, is to serve your new leader. Place yourself under their leadership by joining their project team and take direction graciously. This will allow you to provide a safety net on the off chance that everything goes haywire.
Stay close, but don’t hover.
The idea is to give your new leader a sense of support, not where it is perceived as surveillance.
By supporting them through service, you illustrate to your team a valuable aspect of leadership and Christian living, which is submitting to one another. It will also give you the opportunity to work alongside your team, which may give you a fresh perspective.
Once the project is complete, be quick to celebrate the win with your new leader and their team. Hopefully, it will be a positive experience, and they’ll be ready for your next challenge, so be ready to have their next assignment on deck.
Raising up reluctant future leaders can be a challenge and will take time, but you can be at various stages in these five steps with several people simultaneously.
Over time, if you make duplicating yourself in this way a part of your ministry strategy, you’ll always be launching someone new towarda their leadership destiny.