At The Gathering this past summer, Dr. Mike Hayes spoke a sentence that has been turning over in my mind ever since I heard it. The context of his statement was in reference to his working with pastors. He said, “There are those that have the calling of Apostles continuing to work in the calling of a Pastor.” He went on to explain that for various reasons these leaders hadn’t raised up other leaders around them. The end results were leaders called to be Apostles working in the capacity of Pastors. 

A quick Internet search on leadership will pull up multiple informative articles, podcasts, and books. These information sources are great, however most of these sources are directed to personal growth – how and what is needed to grow your own leadership. While growing ourselves is certainly admirable, personal growth is not necessarily indicative of growing others.

The truth is that whether we are Senior Pastors, second tier church leaders, or volunteer team leaders, we must be raising up the leaders around us. Peter Drucker said it this way, “There is no success without a successor.” So the question that we are faced with is this: “How do we recruit and develop those around us?” More specifically, “How do we recruit and develop team leaders?”


Here are three things that I’ve found helpful when working with new leaders: 

1. Recruit Character Over Talent.

A portion of Carey Nieuwhof’s book Didn’t See it Coming is devoted to the statement: “At the end of the day, your character is your lid.” He makes the point that the most talented CEO can’t be a CEO if he is embezzling money. He might be an incredibly capable person but no one would trust him to be their Chief Executive. 

The temptation in recruiting leaders is to find someone who is the most talented, but if they can’t carry the culture of the church – if they can’t carry the culture of Jesus, then they have a low capacity for leadership. Recruitment for leadership begins with character over talent every time.

2. Invest Time Over Time. 

True investment into others is never a singular event. If we want a leader to be properly developed, it takes an investment of hours over a period of time – time over time.

Investing in others is not easy. Investing in others is messy. An untrained person is not skillful and doesn’t complete tasks with efficiency. It takes time to teach culture. It takes years to build trust. Investing in new leaders is risky and there is a possibility that it ends badly. However, when we take time over time to invest in new leaders, not only do we set them up to succeed, we set our team up for success. 

Matt Smethurst once tweeted:

I do. You watch. We talk.

I do. You help. We talk.

You do. I help. We talk.

You do. I watch. We talk.

You do. Another watches. Y’all talk.

What a beautiful picture of the investment one must make when recruiting and developing leaders. The process begins with us and ends with the next leader training someone else. In other words, recruiting and developing leaders doesn’t end with them performing tasks, but with their ability to recruit and develop others.

3. Resist the Urge to Recreate You.

Much of my frustration as a leader and team leader has been founded on the fact that those I trained didn’t react the exact way I would have. Even after recruiting good character and investing time over time, they still handled the situation differently than I would. It’s not that they handled it poorly, it was just different. As I watched this take place, I began to realize that the spirit in which they handled situations was the same, but the method was different. If I’m honest, I handle situations through the lens of my own life experience, and expecting them to peer through my lens was an impossible expectation. I could train them, resource them, and give them systems in which to work, but at the end of the day if it’s truly their responsibility to make the call, then I have to trust them to do it. Often times, if the character is right – if the spirit is right – if I’ve invested correctly, I am pleasantly surprised by the results.

Our responsibility in raising up others is not to create mini-mes, but to call out the God given abilities and capacities in those we train.

Obviously, carelessly handing the reins to someone is not healthy for anyone, but recruiting character, investing time over time, and helping others reach their full potential as leaders is the goal. Incidentally, when we are recruiting and developing the leaders around us, we are maximizing our own leadership potential. John Maxwell says it this way, “Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.