Developing Young Leaders

By Jason Mick

Early in the Spring of 2007 – as a 23-year-old just one year removed from college and working as an IT specialist with IBM – I recall getting my first opportunity to work in a church. I was able to exercise this “call to ministry” I’d felt since I was 17, but didn’t have a clue what to do with at the time. I knew that no matter where I went or what I did, I was always called to minister where I was and to the people around me.

This new opportunity to work as a staff member in the church heightened my level of excitement, my eagerness to see God change lives, and my uneasiness about not knowing what I didn’t know. There were so many names, stories, spreadsheets, processes and ministry moments to experience and wrap my mind around that my head was spinning a million miles per hour! Been there before?

There are so many people from that initial experience for whom I’m forever grateful – people who continue to speak into my life, take me under their leadership, and who develop and invest into me. Those people not only shape how I lead in the church but how I lead as a follower of Jesus. Their investment in me and development of me as a Christian impact and influence me as a husband, father, son and leader.

Full disclosure: I acknowledge there are a great number of successful leaders, pastors, authors, podcasts,  Prestonwood Network articles (be sure you’re reading the amazing content), and blogs that provide incredible leadership steps, as well as libraries full of wealthy leadership principles. Hopefully, you’ve read, listened, and are subscribed to many of them!

My hope in this brief article is to speak from a personal and young leader experience while prayerfully invoking a sense of gratitude, enthusiasm, urgency, and increased recognition. You have to develop the younger members of your team, staff or volunteers who are looking to you for guidance. We have been entrusted with the divine responsibility to prepare the next generation of leaders.

Developing young leaders begins with looking to the Lord. Jesus reminds us that “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We must source our wisdom and strength from Him and not ourselves. Rest assured that if the Lord has called you to be a leader, it’s because He knows you better than you know yourself, because He loves you, and because He planned it all before time began. Leaders are people – God’s people, God’s chosen people – chosen to do His will and His work, and to help others to do His work. Pastor and prolific writer Warren Wiersbe stated, “Unless we are prepared to seek the Lord, we are not prepared to be leaders for the Lord. Why should anyone follow us if we aren’t following the Lord?”

The development of young leaders is an overflow from the love of Jesus and a love for the person, and contains the key ingredients of humility, sacrifice and prayer, with a plan for development and investment. While we can educate ourselves with leadership principles and knowledge, we must always remember that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The staff and leaders we minister alongside aren’t projects or objects we leverage to accomplish something, they’re people we invest in and serve alongside to witness God do the unimaginable through us.

Matthew 20:25–28: But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Philippians 2:3: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Recall for a moment those who have invested into your life. Did one or two names immediately pop to your mind? Did a sense of gratitude well up within you?

One of the greatest blessings and privileges we have as leaders are the people we get to work with, the people we get to lead, and enjoying the journey we get to be part of with others. Obviously, your staff is unique to you, but in principle, each team is comprised of staff you inherited, staff you have recruited, and the ages and experience levels vary. Your volunteer base probably looks similar. No matter what our leaders’ experience level or age, we know that ultimately our responsibility is to recognize where they are on the spectrum of their spiritual journey and to shepherd, develop, equip, encourage, and empower them to where they can be. Ultimately, we want to see them just as the Lord sees them, His prized children.

Application & Questions

  • Clearly and continually communicate expectations.
  • Discuss the why’s and empower the how’s.
  • Routinely follow up to encourage, evaluate, and coach.
  • What are some positive things you see that have carried over from your personal development into the development of your team?
  • What is something you need to stop/start doing to better develop your young leaders?
  • If money or resources weren’t an obstacle, what would you do to increase the development of your leadership?
  • Who is developing you as a leader and how are you passing along the wisdom and experience they’re pouring into you?
  • What are some processes or principles that you need to walk through with your team to better equip them?

You may wish to read this helpful article by Carey Nieuwhof, “7 Ways to Build Teams of Great Leaders (When You Feel Like Your Team is Lacking).” (Click here.)

Jason Mick serves as Minister to Students at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Follow him on Twitter: @JASON_MICK.