5 Ways to Develop Young Leaders

My friend Kim Porter wrote a very powerful article on Wednesday on the topic of leadership and the times ‘when you don’t know it all’ as a leader. And she’s right, you don’t have to know everything about a certain topic in order to lead – as she put it, you only need the ability to bring people along with you on the journey.


Today’s post is a follow up to Kim’s. It’s about how to bring those people along with you on the journey by developing them. It starts with the things that Kim alluded to – our attitude, our heart, our character. Because Our ability to lead people is not based on our position but our posture. People can have respect for a position. Most people would be honored to meet the President of the United States, no matter their political views. Why? Because of the position he holds.

But your position doesn’t mean you’re a leader.

You can be an incredible leader, wherever you are on the org chart. And you should be developing the next wave of leaders with whatever position you hold on your team.

I’ve had the great privilege of leading volunteer teams at two large churches. In both of these churches, we saw the number of volunteers double and triple in size with some strategies we put in place.

One of the most important factors in growing these teams was to raise up leaders and multiply. I learned the hard way that I couldn’t do it all. In fact, sometimes I’m still learning that lesson. When raising up leaders, its important to have those in key roles that are from all age groups. Even among your core team, your younger leaders will look up to your older leaders, and your older leaders will learn a ton from those younger than them.

Don’t be afraid to enlist teenagers, college students and young adults into your processes. Some of the greatest stories that I have in ministry are from younger leaders that I have invested in that years later I see the impact on people they are still having.


Let me give you 5 key strategies I’ve used when investing in and developing young leaders.

1. Let Them Have Insider Knowledge.

You’ve been there. You have that boss that feels entitled. That gets power from withholding knowledge about your church or company to those under him. Most of the time, if those serving on a team are aware of what’s going on, they want to help. And if you’re a good leader, they want to serve you.

I’m not saying that everything needs to be on the table – certainly salary information, confidential matters, and other important issues should be withheld at times for the health of the team. But I do think that leaders too often get arrogant because they have more knowledge about situations than others.

When leading your team, give them as much information as you possibly can. In most situations, be willing to share everything you know. Especially let leaders you’re developing in on insider knowledge and information.

When leading your team & developing leaders, give them as much insider information as you possibly can. @carlbarnhill Click To Tweet

2. Empower Them.

When developing young leaders, empower them. Give them ownership and responsibility. Let them take the reigns. When they drift or feel a little entitled, then step in and coach in those moments, but don’t be afraid to consistently give pieces of your ministry away. Your mentee or young leader is a great person to step in and lead meetings, call people, schedule people, help set up, and more – if you are there or not. Let them hang around you and constantly pass stuff off to them – not in a bossy way, but in a teachable manner.

3. Let them fail.

Let your young leaders fail. If the leaders you are developing never have a chance to fall on their face, they will never get a chance to learn from their mistakes. I’m not saying let them do something crazy or stupid. But if you pass stuff off to them and something messes up – great! Perfect time for a teaching moment. We must allow for failure when developing people. Encourage your young leaders to take calculated risks when its appropriate. You yourself know that you have gained the most wisdom and experiences through your mistakes. Failing with you there as their mentor allows them more confidence to not make the same mistakes when the stakes are higher.

Allow room and grace for your young leaders to fail. @carlbarnhill Click To Tweet

4. Showcase their talent.

Don’t hide the fact that you are developing young leaders. Make it known. Show them to the world. Encourage them to contribute. If you have an intern program at your church, this is a perfect avenue to develop young leaders and showcase their talent. Let them be a major voice in staff or team meetings, let them lead teams, let them speak and cast vision to your team, let them be the face of your team. The older I get, the more it brings me more joy to see young leaders I’ve developed succeed even more than me. Maybe its that I’m a Dad of two kids, or maybe its that I’ve been around church media and the ministry world for a while… whatever the case, I’m glad – we all want praise and admiration, but let’s realize there can be more joy in showcasing someone’s talent than our own sometimes.

5. Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.

It’s incredibly motivating to a young leader to know that you are in their corner cheering them on. That you are there to push them, lead them, and celebrate them. When developing young leaders, make it a point to be their biggest cheerleader, their biggest fan. Encourage them constantly, about everything you can. Don’t only encourage them when you are alone with them, but encourage and celebrate them in front of others. When you are addressing the whole team, let them know how proud you are of your young leaders, how much trust you have in them, how much you want to see them succeed. Remember – you model the kind of culture you want to see. If you are encourage to young leaders to succeed, others will follow you and do the same.

You model the kind of culture you want to see in your team. @carlbarnhill Click To Tweet

Let them know stuff. Empower them. Let them fail. Showcase their talent. And encourage them!

If you are not developing at least one young leader right now, stop reading this article for 10 seconds, close your eyes and ask God to lay someone on your heart that you need to develop as a leader. Call them this week and take them out for coffee or lunch. Tell them how much potential you see in them and ask if you can mentor them for the next 6 months to a year. Developing a young leader is not an overnight thing – it’s a process of you pouring your time and heart into someone else. Your ministry capacity will skyrocket when you choose to be intentional about raising up and developing young leaders.

Your ministry capacity will skyrocket when you are intentional about raising up young leaders. @carlbarnhill Click To Tweet

About the Author_02

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Creative Director / Owner
[twelve:thirty]media | Columbia, SC

Carl Barnhill has served on staff at some of the largest churches and organizations in the country. He served as Media Director at Precept Ministries International, directing the television and radio program Precepts for Life with Kay Arthur, broadcasted to over 98 million homes around the world. He served as Video Production Director at Pinelake Church in Brandon, MS, where he produced media content for four campuses, as well as led volunteer teams.

He most recently served as Video Coordinator for Newspring Church in South Carolina. Newspring has 10 campuses across the state with a weekly attendance of over 35,000. At one campus alone, the number of consistent volunteers serving in media production tripled, under his leadership.

He currently serves as Creative Director and Owner of [twelve:thirty]media, a company that serves churches and ministries all over the world through motion graphics content and church media coaching.

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