Three Keys to Identify and Develop High-Impact Leaders


C. Anthony Hunt writes that the development of high-impact leaders is critical to the ongoing effectiveness, vitality, and growth of congregations. Discerning the gifts, passion, and commitment of potential leaders is key.

A church that engages in careful discernment with regard to leadership identification and development creates a leadership climate that maximizes the use of the gifts, passion, and commitment of persons in the congregation. Over time, this process for developing high-impact leaders will result in sustained vitality and growth for the church’s mission.

The development of high-impact leaders is critical to the ongoing effectiveness, vitality, and growth of congregations.

Local church practices that identify and develop passionate, effective leaders are a key to engendering hope, which in turn transforms lives, allowing persons better to know God and to do God’s will.

Three Key Questions

Each year at Epworth Chapel United Methodist Church, where I serve as lead pastor, I work with a leadership development team on the critical task of identifying and developing persons to serve in various leadership roles across the church. Before looking at specific criteria and qualities that might qualify a particular person to serve in a specific role, we ask ourselves three preliminary questions:

  1. Does the person demonstrate a love of God through active participation in the worship life of the church?
  2. Does the person demonstrate a love of the local church through the sharing of their time, talent, and money in service to the church and community?
  3. Does the person relate to and work well with other people and demonstrate that he or she can be a team player?

If the leadership development team answers “yes” to each of these three questions, then we seek to discern whether and where a particular person might best lead. The goal is placing someone in a leadership role where he or she can have the most impact. Here, three matters are weighed — gifts, passion, and commitment.


Discernment around gifts for ministry and leadership is rooted in the premise that each of us is uniquely gifted. At Epworth Chapel, we often use spiritual gifts inventories and other gifts instruments such as StrengthsFinder® to help persons clarify their areas of giftedness. This helps define the areas where the individual might be best suited to lead in the church.


After gifting has been clarified, then we engage in discernment around passion. Here we work from the premise that gifts for leadership alone are insufficient for the development of a high-impact leader. Gifts without passion are simply gifts. But gifts coupled with passion move persons toward actualizing and maximizing their leadership in impactful ways. Someone might be gifted in a particular area but have no passion for using those gifts in the church. For instance, a person might be a gifted school principal in their professional life, but have no passion for being a Sunday school superintendent. We can’t assume that a great public school educator has the passion to lead the Sunday school. In the case of this gifted educator, the church is better served if it helps this person find another area where they are gifted, perhaps church administration or finance, where they also have some passion for working in the church.


Once gifting and passion for a ministry area have been determined, there is discernment around commitment. Here, again, we don’t presume that everyone who is gifted and passionate about a particular area of ministry is committed to serving to the best of their ability. Other commitments — family, professional, or recreational — can prevent someone from providing high-impact leadership in the church, notwithstanding their gifts and passions. For instance, the outstanding educator cited above, who might potentially serve well as a church council or finance chair, might be at a point in their career where they don’t have the time to commit to providing such leadership.

A church that develops high impact leaders by discerning gifts, passion, and commitment will, over time, experience sustained vitality and growth for the church’s mission.

Related Resources

About Author

Tony Hunt

Dr. C. Anthony Hunt is pastor of Epworth United Methodist Chapel in Baltimore, Maryland. He is the Supervising Pastor of the Beloved Community Cooperative Parish and the founder and project director for Hope for the City: Transforming Urban Leaders, both in Baltimore. He is also Professor of Systematic, Moral and Practical Theology, and Dunning Permanent Distinguished Lecturer at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore. Dr. Hunt also teaches on the adjunct faculties at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, and United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

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Discovering God’s Future for Your Church

Discovering God’s Future for Your Church is a turn-key tool kit to help your congregation discern and implement God’s vision for its future. The resource guides your church in discovering clues to your vision in your history and culture, your current congregational strengths and weaknesses, and the needs of your surrounding community. The tool kit features videos, leader’s guides, discussion exercises, planning tools, handouts, diagrams, worksheets, and more. Learn more and watch an introductory video now.