5 Ways To Develop Leaders Within Your Church


Leadership development is always near the thoughts of most pastors. Whether it’s volunteer leaders to run the Children’s Ministry or lay leaders to organize small groups, the church always needs quality leaders.

In many cases, the first thought is to try and hire someone. A staff position, official title, and salary are bound to attract a leader with proven experience and relevant education, right? Sometimes, yes. However, the search and hiring process can be very time consuming and become even more difficult when budgets are tight. Leadership development of church members becomes not only a part of our call to serve the church but necessary to see it thrive.

However, it sometimes seems like a long and uncertain journey between members in the pew and the caliber of leaders needed in the church. As pastors, though, we know that each member bears the image of God and has a unique calling to serve as an ambassador of Christ. As such, we need to develop a clear path in our churches to help members take further steps down the path God has called them.

Here are five ways to create a clear path of leadership development to raise up staff-level leaders from within your congregation. 

1. Foster a culture of ownership.

When I was an Associate Pastor in Denver, one of the things that we declared every week in our Sunday gatherings was that our church was not simply the non-profit organization in the eyes of the government nor just the staff who were on the website, but rather that the church is the people of the church. Our goal in this was to help our congregation see themselves as the church and to own the ministry.

To begin developing church staff-level leaders within your community, you must first empower your members to see themselves as the church and having the responsibility and authority to serve as such. At its core, this is what discipleship is about – helping people to see their identity in Christ and equipping them to live out this identity. In this case it means helping them see that they are truly ambassadors for Christ, not meant only to tell others about Jesus, but also to be his hands and feet serving as the church is called to serve.

2. Create leadership opportunities within various ministries.

Once you help people see the importance of their personal role in the church, it is important to reinforce this by giving them the opportunity to serve and lead in ministry. In many cases, this may mean giving away ministry responsibilities that are currently held by staff members. In our church, we referred to this as pushing ministry to the fringes. By giving away our ministry (without the fear of being replaced), we built opportunities for church members to explore their own leadership abilities while also freeing us up to expand the ministry or give attention to other areas of ministry.

When Jesus called his disciples, he did not stop with teaching them theology. Rather, as a part of their training, he called them to do what he was doing - to step into his ministry. It’s one thing to tell someone that they are a leader. It’s an entirely different thing to invite them into leadership and show them what they are capable of.

3. Encourage people to consider their calling(s).

It is my belief that God doesn’t simply call us to one thing, but rather to many things. I am called to be a faithful husband, a loving father, a diligent employee, and to serve the church - to name a few of the things I believe God has called me to. That said, I believe there are unique and special moments when God calls us to step into something completely outside of the current path – as the call to ministry often is. In such cases, it is often the people around us that help us discern what God is up to. 

It is all pastors' responsibility to talk with people often about what God is doing in their lives. Tweet: It is all pastors' responsibility to talk with people often about what God is doing in their lives. https://bit.ly/1YuBcPv @VanderbloemenSG

The truth is most people don’t stop to consider what God is calling them to. Life is often too busy, the demands of their life are too loud, and the path that they’ve chosen seems to be set in stone. However, as pastors, we have the unique opportunity to encourage people to consider their calling even if it seems outrageous or unlikely. As members come to see the leadership gifts that God has entrusted to them, it’s important that they at some point are asked to consider why God has given them. For some, it might be to serve as Godly leaders in the workplace, while for others it might mean exploring a calling into vocational ministry.

4. Consider offering paid internships.

While there may not always be an opportunity to bring someone onto your church staff full-time, offering the opportunity of a part-time, paid internship can be a powerful tool in leadership development. Offering pay is just not about rewarding leaders for good work, but rather it is a means of giving people the financial freedom to devote a significant amount of time to your ministry. In that time, interns are given the opportunity to test the waters of vocational ministry to explore a relevant calling, and if that calling is affirmed, begin learning other relevant skills that will help them transition well into a church job.

In similar fashion, residency programs offer a longer and more in-depth training for those who are certain by this point that they are called to vocational ministry. Residency programs are typically six months to a year long and are a full-time responsibility, though in many cases they still only offer part-time pay (while the rest of the funds are raised by support). This gives the called church member the opportunity to learn more about the deeper levels of ministry, including more theology and pastoral care.

5. Focus on the people in your congregation, not the roles you need to fill.

When I was in seminary, my pastor asked me to join the church staff without a specific position. It was a part-time role in which I dove into the heart of ministry, soaking up the DNA of the church. Then, as my giftings, passions, and talents became more clear, I was given the opportunity to serve in those areas.

One of the biggest self-imposed obstacles in striving to develop staff-level leaders from within your congregation will be focusing more on roles that need to be filled than the people God has entrusted to you. If my pastor was more concerned with finding a youth pastor (and shaping me into one), we both would have ended up frustrated and I wouldn’t have found that I am much better suited to recruit and train small group leaders. 

Your church already has leaders among your members, it may just take some work to help them see it in themselves and learn how to make use of those gifts.

How can you begin to develop leaders within your church?