Investing in the Future: Raising Up the Next Generation of Leaders

By Jack Raymond

I am passionate about God’s Church and the future of His Church. Now, I could start this article with countless statistics on how the next generation is more and more disengaged and uninvolved with Christianity and with Christ’s Church. But odds are, you already know this truth, and I do not want to discourage you. Rather, my aim in this article is to encourage you and urge you to get into the game of raising up strong Christian men and women who will make an eternal impact in their generation and in future generations.

In this article, I want to be super practical on how you, as a pastor, minister or leader in the church, can start training, reproducing, and sending young leaders out for the kingdom of God. All of these practices are implemented in our Residency Program at Prestonwood because we, as a local church, care deeply about reaching all generations with the good news of the Gospel.

Here are five simple practices that you can apply to your leadership today to ensure that you are investing in the next generation:

  1. Start with the right people.

The first question we, as leaders, should start with is “Who?” In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about the need for organizations to make sure they have the right people on the bus and that they are in the right seat. Collins calls this principle “Who before what.” Well, the same is true for us in the church. We need to seek out the right people to invest in and raise up in our church.

How do we do this? Well, I want to give you Billy Graham’s advice on how to look for whom to disciple. He said look for someone who is F.A.T. – Faithful, Available, Teachable. You are looking for young men and women who have a lot of potential and who have displayed faithfulness, availability and a teachable spirit both inside and outside of the church.

Read what Paul noticed when he first met Timothy: “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:1–2, emphasis added). Paul saw a faithful, young disciple of whom people spoke well, and who was full of kingdom potential. That is where we must start, too!

  1. Invest a lot in young leaders and ask for a lot in return.

At Prestonwood, we always tell our new residents during the interview process that they should be prepared to work. We firmly believe that God created us and calls us to work, and to work to the best of our ability for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

That being said, we also have a very high standard on our end as pastors and ministers to invest in all of our leaders. This is true especially for all young leaders. You must invest in them greatly. It will cost you time and energy. It just will. There is no way around it.

Don’t believe me? Look at how Jesus invested in His disciples. He was always with them, always teaching them, always sharing with them, and always loving them. Jesus invested everything in His disciples, but He also held them to a higher standard than any of His other followers.

Jesus is our standard for discipleship and for investing in the next generation. So we, too, must invest deeply in these young leaders and call them higher.

  1. Give opportunities to lead, and then provide feedback.

I know you can probably already tell, but I love the Residency Program at Prestonwood. This is where I started my ministry. I had the privilege of serving for three years as a resident with both our Young Singles Ministry and our Pastoral Ministry. And I love the program so much because I love how it gives young men and women, often right out of college, an opportunity to experience ministry firsthand.

When I say ministry, I mean real ministry. Residents at Prestonwood are involved in our staff meetings. They teach in our small-group ministry. They disciple new believers, students and kids at our church. They help plan ministry events and have multiple other opportunities to lead. At Prestonwood, we want to always provide growing Christians an opportunity to lead and to serve.

Now, it may not be a residency or internship program for you, but I strongly advise you to find (or create) opportunities for growing Christians to lead and to serve in your church. And when they lead, remember to coach them, train them, encourage them, and above all, love them.

  1. Be for young leaders and for God’s kingdom.

As you raise up and train leaders, always communicate that you desire what is best for them and above all, what is best for God’s kingdom. Every year Prestonwood sends out young senior pastors, young children’s ministers, young missionaries and young leaders because we know and believe that the kingdom of God is bigger than Prestonwood. And the kingdom of God must come first (Matthew 6:33).

This means we need to help young leaders see that God’s kingdom is so much bigger than what they often experience Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Help them to catch Jesus’ vision of living on mission. Send them on mission trips. Empower them to lead local mission efforts to serve those in need (James 1:27). Remind them that God’s kingdom always comes first.

  1. Provide space to ask questions, to fail, and to grow.

My closing advice is to let young leaders ask questions. Again, investing in the next generation always takes time and energy. You may think that their questions are dumb or unimportant. But trust me, when you take the time to let young leaders ask questions, they will grow faster and go farther than you would ever have thought. Jesus always took time to hear and to answer His disciples’ questions.

And lastly, allow space for young leaders to fail and encourage them to view failure as an opportunity to learn and to grow. The great British writer C.S. Lewis wrote, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

The disciples constantly failed, but Jesus never stopped loving and investing in them. Perhaps, the most well-known failure is Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus before He was crucified. Yet, after His Resurrection, Jesus does not condemn Peter, but He calls him again to go and to feed His sheep. Jesus restores and resends Peter out to do God’s work (John 21:15–20). We must do the same when young leaders fall and fail.

The Church has been losing ground when it comes to the next generation, but I believe that we can turn the tide with God’s help and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am praying that we, as God’s Church, will be set on fire with Jesus’ mission of making disciples and investing in future generations (Matthew 28:19–20).

Jack Raymond serves as Online Community Pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Connect with Jack on Twitter @jackdraymond1.