Invest: Pouring into Emerging Leaders
Image: Thomas Barwick / Getty

Invest: Pouring into Emerging Leaders

Part 3 of a 3-part series on Identifying, Inviting, and Investing in New Leader

Now that you’ve identified and invited potential candidates to engage and develop their leadership, your next step is to intentionally invest in them. It’s time to make the dream a reality.

Here are some ideas:

First, invest individually as a mentor and/or discipler.

Sadly, our research indicated that fewer than 50% of group members are being actively discipled. Imagine the potential for spiritual growth and development that could occur if you poured your life into a few people! If you are leading a group, take the extra time to personally disciple potential leaders. And if you’re leading a ministry, spend consistent time, perhaps even weekly, with those you’ve identified with greater leadership potential, helping them develop spiritual habits and provide a safe place for them to practice disciple-making behaviors.

Second, invite potential leaders with you to your church leadership development events, and get your potential leaders signed up for your email and video leadership development.

Doing so will serve an acculturation function by helping these future leaders learn what group leadership entails and give them a head start on cultivating the necessary skills they’ll need to lead an effective group.

Here are a few places to start:

  1. Encourage your potential leaders to sign up for weekly leadership email resources from
  2. Add your potential leaders to your small group leaders email list. Then, send them a special note to welcome them to the list and explain why you’ve added them to your list.
  3. Invite and welcome them to your fall small groups kickoff or leadership event. If you don’t have new leader training yet, check out our course, How to Launch a Thriving Small Groups: Equipping New Leaders to Lead Next-Level Groups, beginning in late August.

Third, draw emerging leaders into leadership functions in your existing groups.

Consider what new leaders can take on, then give it to them, and coach along the way. The five steps laid out by Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird in Hero Maker offer a fantastic guide to help what they call an “apprentice leader” progress from observing to helping to owning more and more leadership in the group:

  1. I do. You watch. We talk. Apprentice leaders pay attention to how the leader leads, then they get together to debrief. What worked? What didn’t? How can group meetings get better?
  2. I do. You help. We talk. The apprentice leads particular tasks, such as prayer time or an icebreaker, then debriefs with the leader. The leader can ask the same kinds of questions as before, but also ask how the apprentice felt taking that step of leadership.
  3. You do. I help. We talk. At this point, the apprentice’s portion of leadership crosses the 50% threshold, and he or she takes on more than the initial leader. Since the apprentice has seen it done many times before, he’s ready for the additional leadership. Once again, the apprentice and leader debrief and talk about where the apprentice excelled and how he or she can continually improve.
  4. You do. I watch. We talk. The temptation here for the original leader is to take off and leave the group in the hands of the new leader. Resist that urge. The apprentice leads, the mentor observes and coaches. Then, they talk about whether the apprentice wants to take over the current group or start a new one, and what the original leader will now do.
  5. You do. Someone else watches. The process of leadership development comes full circle.

The apprentice now seeks an apprentice for themselves, and the process repeats itself. The mentor continues to coach and support and raises up additional apprentices. This process begins to unleash the exponential nature of leadership investment.

Finally, laser focus your biggest commodity, time.

Your biggest leadership impact is choosing a few individuals from within your group and spending more time with them outside your group gatherings with the sole intent of helping them recognize their leadership. Don’t overthink this but think about how to best utilize your time. Here are three quick suggestions

  1. Invest in a weekly gathering. Focus this time on helping your leaders develop their spiritual habits of word intake, prayer intake, being on mission with neighbors, and strategic conversations about genuine evangelism
  2. Invest in a daily interaction. Figure out the best ways to daily connect with your leaders. If you miss a day, no worries. Just keep texting, calling, emailing, and finding ways to interact with your leaders.
  3. Invest in moment-by-moment prayer. Whenever and however you do this, praying consistently for your leaders is more powerful than you think.

That’s it. IDENTIFY INVITE INVEST. These are the three “I’s” for raising up new leaders.

A few final tips. This is a process that can and should be replicated many times over. Often, placing tentative deadlines on your calendar for moving forward with each of these steps will provide the necessary accountability to get started. So, go ahead, identify, invite, and begin investing in potential leaders—and you will continue to expand and sustain the influence you have as a leader.


Ready to invest in your leaders? We’ve got 3 great resources for you:

1) Pre-order Leading Small Groups that Thrive today.

2) Join our Launching and Leading Groups in the COVID Era Webinar on Wednesday, August 5 at 11am PDT/ 2pm EDT. Pre-order a book to receive your ticket.

3) Check out our new course launching in August: How to Launch a Thriving Small Group:Equipping New Leaders to Lead Next-Level Groups.

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