Simple Strategies for Raising Up New Leaders


The need to develop new leaders is vital to the future of individual congregations and the church as a whole. Church consultant and author Kay Kotan suggests some simple, organic approaches to identifying and equipping new persons for ministry roles in your church.

Leadership development comes up nearly every time I work with pastors and churches. I have come to understand that we can only grow our churches in proportion to how we grow our people. To take the next step, you could say, we can only grow our churches in proportion to how we raise up leaders.

So often in churches we are so eager to get someone to say yes to fill in a required blank on a form that we skip over the most important part. We skip over fully equipping the person for the ministry. Equipping comes in a variety of forms. Yes, we need job descriptions for all ministry positions. People need to know what to do and what is expected of them. But what is even more important is mentoring people into ministry positions.

How we raise up leaders speaks volumes about who we are as a church. Invite people into leadership wisely and carefully.

The five-step model of mentoring

One of the simplest and easiest processes to use in equipping people is this:

  1. I do. You watch. We talk.
  2. I do. You help. We talk.
  3. You do. I help. We talk.
  4. You do. I watch. We talk.
  5. You do. Someone else watches. You talk. I move on ….

So, imagine using these steps in mentoring someone to lead a small group. Week one you are just watching what I do. After the small group, we talk about what I did and why I did the things I did. I also assign a part of the leading to you after explaining what to do. In week two, I lead the lesson and you do the prayer and check-in. We talk afterward about how things went, pointers, and so forth. We also talk about how you can help next week with the lesson. For week three, you do the lesson and I help with the prayer and check-in. After the small group, we talk about how things went, pointers, and so on. We also talk about how you will lead the class next week and I will be there to watch and support. For week four, you lead the class on your own while I watch. Afterward we talk about how it went, pointers, and who you will begin mentoring next week to lead a small group. For week five, you have someone else watching you and you talk with them afterward, just as we did in week one. I then move on to mentoring someone else and walking through these same five steps.

The five-step process model to mentor and equip is easy to understand and easy to implement. Yet, it is so very powerful! People will feel as though you have invested in equipping them. And the reason they feel that way is because indeed through this five-step model we have invested in them. This model promotes confident leaders because they are empowered with know-how and the expectations have been modeled for them. Another person has come alongside them, invested in them, and supported, nurtured, and encouraged them.

Here is what I see in you

Another helpful tool in encouraging people to step up is to use the “ICNU” process. Again, this is a simple process to understand and execute. Train your staff and leaders to consistently look for traits in people for leadership and serving. When a staff member, leader, or pastor notices spiritual giftedness in another, they approach the person explaining “here is what I see in you” (ICNU). You go on to explain what giftedness you see in that person and how they might be able to use that giftedness in ministry.

For example, you might share with Sally that you just love watching her with other people. She is one of those people who never meets a stranger. She is always so friendly, upbeat, and with a smile on her face. You go on to share with Sally that you see the spiritual gift of hospitality in her. You think she would be a great addition to the hospitality team. You ask her to think about it and pray about it and you will call her in a couple of days. Indeed, call her back in a couple of days to check in and see about her desire to use her gifts in ministry.

This is a one-on-one process that is authentic, personal, and specific to giftedness in relationship to ministry. This is a recommended process over the “cattle call” process of calling for volunteers from the pulpit, in a newsletter, by way of a clipboard, and so forth. Those other approaches are impersonal and don’t always allow people to connect with their giftedness. They most often are ineffective, too. It also doesn’t help people identify their gifts through the eyes and experiences of others like the ICNU process does. Personal invitation is always personal, specific, and working alongside another. Remember, you will never recruit well until you first identify well.

Notice people whom God is “working on”

Be on the lookout for people who are growing in their faith and participating regularly in not only worship but also service and ministry. Who is practicing their spiritual disciplines? Who are positive role models? Who does the congregation already see as a Christ-centered leader?

I firmly believe that those asked to lead need to set examples for others and be role models. If we allow people to lead who are not positive role models for living out their life as a mature disciple, we are only setting our churches up to fail. Not only are these leaders the models for your congregation, but they are also Christian models for the community. How we raise up leaders speaks volumes about who we are as a church. Invite people into leadership wisely and carefully.

This material is excerpted from Gear Up! Nine Essential Processes for the Optimized Church (Abingdon, 2017) by Kay Kotan. Used by permission.

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About Author

Kay Kotan

Kay Kotan is the founder of You Unlimited, a credentialed coach, church consultant, speaker, and the author or coauthor of more than 35 books. She is a former Director of the Center for Vitality for the Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and served on the Missouri Conference's Healthy Church Initiative Executive Team. A recent book is Being the Church in a Post-Pandemic World: Game Changers for the Post-Pandemic Church (Market Square Publishing, 2021) available on Cokesbury and Amazon.