5 Ways to Develop New Leaders


Marv Nelson says lending influence to younger leaders is an essential way of affirming and developing them. He outlines five ways you can use your personal influence to strengthen and support emerging leaders.

One of the best ways to affirm young emerging leaders and the best way to let them know you believe in them is to give them influence. Taking cash out of your leadership influence bank account can help give the young leaders a leg up when it comes to growing and using their leadership influence. How do we go about doing this?

1. Give credit.

One of the simplest ways to give influence is to give credit where credit is due. If you are working closely with a young leader, you give that person an opportunity to share an idea. When you implement the idea, make sure everyone knows whose idea it was. When we share that our young leader had a great idea, we share with the team this person is valuable, and we give him or her a voice in what we are doing. Also, the fact that you implemented the idea tells the group that your young leader is also worth listening to because that person has great ideas. The young leader and other young leaders in your church organization will take note of this and feel heard.

If for whatever reason you take credit for the young leader’s idea, you lose a lot more than you gain. The young leader will feel betrayed and used. Young leaders will feel somewhat validated in their ability to lend value to the team but will feel as if their contributions ultimately don’t help them or set them up for leadership in the future. Giving credit where it’s due makes sense with any person you’re working with, but I would say it is even more important for the young leaders you are trying to develop.

2. Celebrate their wins publicly.

Young leaders are going to win. In their areas of leadership, good things will happen. When we notice them, are we celebrating the wins with them and announcing those wins to the larger group of staff or congregants? If not, we should. Good leaders celebrate wins and not just organizational wins — individual wins as well. It’s one thing for staff members to talk about their own wins, but it’s quite another to have the main leaders see a win and announce it on a young leader’s behalf. It validates the young leader and allows the whole congregation or organization to see that what this young leader is currently doing is valued and that the young leader is being recognized.

3. Allow their voice to be heard by the main body.

One of the most affirming and releasing things I’ve experienced was being allowed to preach to the entire congregation of approximately 3,000 people after having just launched a campus church plant for Allegheny Center Alliance Church. My gifts were affirmed, and I was validated as a person. I was given influence and I grew as a result. And it benefited the church as well to hear a younger voice and see that some young leaders have a deep passion for God and God’s Word.

As leaders, we must find ways to give our younger leaders a voice in front of the whole organization or church. Their voice matters and letting them speak proves it, not only to the young leaders themselves, but also to the older generation of followers in our churches or organization. Those who are in the older generations need to get used to a young leader being influential in their lives, and it won’t happen unless the young leader is given a voice before those in our congregations or organization who are a part of the older generations.

4. Speak highly of them.

Due to our influence as leaders, when we speak highly of young leaders in any setting, we are lending them our influence and declaring they have something we need. When we as influential leaders lend our influence in this way, those in the millennial and Z generations feel validated, encouraged, and empowered. It helps alleviate doubts they may feel about their capabilities or calling. Those under our influence also begin to see the young leaders as someone to follow.

Speaking highly of young leaders when they succeed doesn’t take cash out of your influence account. Rather, I would argue it adds cash in your influence account because a young leader on the rise with your recommendation makes you look good. If you had a part in that growth, some of that success will be attributed to you and your influence in the young leader’s life. Many young leaders would wear your influence on their lives as a badge of honor. Not all young leaders will do this, but I guarantee many will.

5. Release dreams that align with organization vision.

As leaders, our dreams and visions are not the only ones that matter. The young leaders in our midst also have a passion for our churches and organization. They will dream and have vision; this is just natural for any leader. When we can help bring about a dream or a vision,  we should, so long as it fits the church or organizational vision. It’s one thing to let young leaders dream and cast vision with you. It’s quite another to release them to develop their dreams or visions. Naturally, this releasing must come with discernment, prayer, and much consideration, but it is necessary in order to make a young leader capable of flying the nest into a more significant role of leadership.

If we trust God, we should trust God’s children with the future. We have the awesome opportunity to develop young leaders and hand off the future to them. They need us, and we need them. When we give them our influence, we are helping them have an easier run and a better chance of success.

This article is excerpted from Unleash: Empowering the Next Generation of Leaders (Abingdon Press, 2018) by Marv Nelson. Used by permission. The book is available at Cokesbury and Amazon.

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About Author

Marv Nelson

Marv Nelson is lead pastor at Indiana Alliance Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Prviously, he served as the College and Campus Plant Pastor at Allegheny Center Alliance Church, a multiethnic, inner-city church in Pittsburgh. He recently coauthored The Anchored Life: Nautical Principles that Help Believers Grow (Emerald House Group, Inc., 2023), available at Amazon.

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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.