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A new podcast for church leaders.

Finding Future Church Leaders Within Your Church

Key Takeaways:

  • The future church leaders are already within the church.
  • Church leaders should shift their focus from hiring specialists to becoming people developers.
  • Investing in the development of future leaders is crucial for church multiplication.
  • Creating a culture of discipleship and development is essential.
  • Practical steps include asking questions about who you are developing and investing time in raising up the next generation of leaders.


This week on the Intentional Churches Podcast, Erin and Doug are joined by Jeff Bennett, VP of Multiplication at Stadia. Everyone is wondering where their next leader will come from, and we discuss the importance of looking within your church for potential leaders. This requires a shift in mindset from hiring specialists to becoming people developers and the importance of creating a culture of discipleship and development. 

Where are we going to get future leaders in our churches? Everywhere we turn, we’re having a hard time finding people to hire. There seems to be a hiring crisis in ministry.

Jeff agrees this is a common question amongst church leaders. The fact that leaders are asking this question is a good sign because they are noticing that the pipeline is drying up, and they’re realizing something has to give. He has pastors coming to him all the time asking if he knows candidates. It’s almost like they think he has a vending machine of ready-to-hire leaders waiting to be snatched up. So his response to them is that they are already within their church. They’re in your congregation. They’re in your small groups. They’re in your student ministry. That is where the future church leaders are coming from. 

Doug adds that the way we think about this at Intentional Churches is that future church leaders actually come from the relational reach zone. The people you’re reaching evangelistically are potential future leaders, including your students and kids. 

What are we seeing nationally around this concern of finding our next leaders? 

Doug shares that he’s a living example of someone who was developed from within a local church. He’s from a small church in a small town. He was reached as a teenager and that church developed him. It was his youth pastor who told him that full-time Christian work and being in ministry is something you could do for a living. He doesn’t know where the breakage happened. Maybe it’s our addiction in church leadership to the silver-bullet mentality, but somewhere along the line, we stopped developing students in places like camps or in Bible colleges and started hiring experts from outside our church. There are two specific places we should be looking for leaders: youth ministry, and the people in your church right now who are already leading in the marketplace. There are great leaders in our churches who need to be challenged to take their skills, experiences, and talents that they’ve learned in the marketplace, in education, or in other places, and apply them in the kingdom. If we had this mentality before trying to hire from outside our church, it could solve the leadership pipeline issue.

Jeff shares that he believes that the lack of well-prepared leaders is the single most limiting factor in church leadership and church multiplication. He says that staff hires have become about putting on a great event on the weekend. They’re not people-developers, they’re event producers. Not only does he believe we’ve got to grow leaders up from within, but he believes every leader we need to begin fulfilling our church’s part of the Great Commission is already within your church. You see this in the church at Antioch in Acts 13, they have leaders they developed and sent out. And there’s nothing to indicate in the book of Acts that the church in Antioch was an outlier or was special. We have every indication that if this was the norm for the church thousands of years ago, it can be now. But a lot of times we don’t think like that. 

Erin says that the way we think about hiring and leadership in our church has become so focused on excellence that we have forgotten the gift of development. We have been so focused on creating an excellent product that we have forgotten the people development side and the relational side of what it means to be a church leader. 

Doug agrees and shares that he’s guilty of this during his time as an Executive Pastor. He says they hired specialists to produce events that created the need for plug-and-play volunteers. They didn’t have an eye toward the transformation of the individual’s hearts. They assumed the events they were producing would change people’s hearts. This is what we’re fighting for at Intentional Churches–we’re in the “transformation of the heart” business,

Jeff adds that something that seems to scare pastors is the idea of handing out authority and titles before we hand out responsibility. There’s a perceived danger of going after people in the congregation who are not staff members. But as congregation members are developed and discipled, you will start to realize you can trust them with more responsibility and with more authority as well. 

If church leaders have a staffing crisis, what questions should they spend time reflecting on?

Doug shares that he wants every church leader to stop thinking about the program and the other staff members, and he wants them to ask the question, “Who are the people I can point to in the last year or two that I have invested in?”

Jeff shares that from a church planter’s perspective, he would ask, “What are your church’s multiplication dreams?” You know that you can’t do it yourself. You’re going to need others. And what he finds is that most pastors have thought about it, but they’ve never communicated it to their leadership team or from the stage on a weekend. One of the first steps they need to take was not to keep it to themselves. Share it. 

Doug says that Intentional Churches has a tool called the Acts 1:8 model. Basically, it represents that the multiplication of church campuses or church plants is really the byproduct of a root-level proposition where every believer in your church is committing to the Great Commission as a personal mission statement. In doing that, they will multiply themselves, and become people-developers. Some of these leadership and staffing issues churches have will be gone. We have to have a generosity mentality around it. Even sending like the church in Antioch did. 

Jeff adds that establishing a culture of discipleship and development that promotes servant leadership provides opportunities at every level of church participation. This fosters the growth of future church leadership and multiplication. 

The future church leaders are right here. We already have them alongside us, and with us. We need to spend more effort looking inside our walls instead of outside of our walls and make an intentional effort to develop those people.

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