the shape of leadership

Equipping the Next Generation to Lead

Unleash the leadership potential of young adults

Kent Ingle on December 12, 2022

A year ago, I had the opportunity to interview Sadie Robertson Huff on my podcast, Framework Leadership. As a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and reality television star, Huff is a prominent voice of the next generation.

Since her family rose to fame through the popular Duck Dynasty television program, Huff has used her platform to share her testimony and empower others. As someone who works with young adults, it was refreshing to hear Huff’s perspectives on the next generation.

During our conversation, Huff shared how members of the next generation need encouragement to step out and lead — and it starts with the Church speaking life into them.

Below are three steps church leaders can take to inspire young adults.



A leader’s goal should be to seek out young adults with leadership capabilities. It starts with getting to know the younger people in your church. As you build relationships with them, be intentional about identifying the leadership abilities God has placed in their lives.

What makes them qualified to lead? Find someone who is responsible, takes the initiative, is an active listener, provides solutions to problems, and goes above and beyond what they are asked to do. Once you identify characteristics that show their potential to lead, let them know what you see.

Most leaders had someone who recognized their abilities and spurred them on. If young adults aren’t aware of their gifts, have them take a leadership assessment test. Share with them the importance of being self-aware and recognizing how God daily uses their strengths.

One example of mentoring in the Bible is seen through Eli and Samuel. 1 Samuel 3:1 says, “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli.” Because God had called Samuel to a special leadership position, he served under Eli’s guidance.



Young adults want opportunities to develop their leadership capabilities — and the local church is the perfect place to start. A top priority for Generation Z is leadership/management training.

Churches should provide mentorship programs for young adults to learn how to lead with integrity in a Christ-like manner. You will want to connect young people with leaders who share similar passions and can help grow their talents.

Offer leadership training sessions where young adults can learn practical skills and principles. Gen Z members want to learn more about soft skills, which are essential in leadership. These are skills used every day when leading a church or small group, such as communication, dealing with conflict, emotional intelligence, being a team player, adaptability, and a learning mindset.

Think about the
opportunities you
have to empower
and encourage
young adults.

In addition to being mentored, young adults should be encouraged to take steps for self-directed learning, such as listening to podcasts and reading books and articles on leadership.

As you mentor and develop a young leader, you are stewarding the call that God has placed on their life. While walking alongside, you can help them discern what God is calling them to do and encourage them to keep going.

Eli helped Samuel discern God’s voice. First Samuel 3:8-9 says, “Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So, Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”’” Occasionally young adults need someone who can help them understand what God is telling them to do.



Leadership requires stepping out of your comfort zone. As you mentor the young adults in your church, you need to give them opportunities to lead for themselves.

One thing I love about successful coaches is that they not only direct their players — they also encourage them to coach their teammates. These coaches recognize that in the most critical moments, they need a leader who is in the game and not watching from the sidelines. 

You need to have this same mentality in the church. If you want the next generation to lead, you must provide the opportunity to do so. This starts with finding or creating areas for them to serve and lead.

As Southeastern University Chancellor Tommy Barnett says, encourage young adults to “See a need, fill a need.” This could include fundraising for missions, leading a service project, serving in children’s ministry or youth group, being part of the welcoming crew, or starting a devotional group.

Enable young people to be innovative and come up with initiatives that you don’t currently have at your church. Allow them to take the lead in planning and implementing their ideas.

Keep in mind that feedback is essential for the growth of young adults. You are trying to build their confidence and teach them how to learn from failures and mistakes. Be purposeful in appreciating their achievements and publicly recognizing their contributions.

When children and teenagers in your congregation see young leaders, it can inspire them to volunteer and lead as well. Young adults may be able to connect with your church’s youth in ways you aren’t able to.

Samuel was empowered to start serving in the temple at a young age. First Samuel 2:18 says, “But Samuel was ministering before the Lord — a boy wearing a linen ephod.” By leading at a young age, Samuel was preparing for the future God had for him.

Before you can implement any type of leadership development in your church, you must create a culture where everyone is on board. Equipping young adults to lead is something that should be championed at every level of your church’s leadership and by every person who is on your team.

The next time you step into your church, think about the opportunities you have to empower and encourage young adults. The future of the Church depends on the next generation of leaders.

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