Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.

A crippling problem that most churches face today is a lack of leadership. There are not enough people who will volunteer to do ministries. The church grows in proportion to the number of ministries it has: the more ministries a church has, the more likely it is to grow. However, all ministries depend on a leader that God has inspired and gifted. Therefore, every minister and leader should pray and seek earnestly to train new leaders. The base of ministry will never grow unless the base of leadership increases. 

Let’s explore a two-pronged definition of leadership. A leader is someone who has a strong relationship with God and a passion to touch the lives of other people and bring them to Jesus Christ. A leader is also intentional about building other leaders so that there will be other people changing the world with them.

I am often asked, “How do you find new leaders in the church?” My answer is to pray about it and claim God’s promise. One of the most neglected leadership promises in Scripture is found in Matthew 9:35-38. Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (verses 37, 38).

Jesus’ method of selecting leaders was through prayer. He stressed that the harvest is plentiful. Lost people, needy people, hurting people, and sick people are all around us, but the workers are few. We need to pray that God will send the right people to work with these groups and needs. The traditional way of finding leaders is to take whomever is willing or outspoken or can be talked into accepting this responsibility. God would prefer that we pray and ask Him to lead us to His choice, someone who is filled with the Spirit of God, wisdom, and has the favor of people. God’s choice will come with His passion to minister. God will birth in their hearts the ministry for which they are best suited.

Jesus demonstrated this model to us when He selected the apostles. He spent the whole night in prayer so God the Father would lead Him to the right people. One of those days, Jesus went out to a mountainside and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose 12 of them whom He also designated apostles (Luke 6:12, 13).

The Book of Acts adds the insight that when the church prays for a new generation of leaders, God will lead them to men and women who are filled with faith, the Holy Spirit, and wisdom; people who are of good reputation in the church and in the community (Acts 6:1-6).

In one of the churches that I was pastoring, there was a desperate need for a youth pastor. To persuade the conference to send us a youth pastor, the church leadership sent me to the conference office armed with charts and statistics chronicling the growth of our church. But because of lack of funds, the conference was unable to fulfill our request. A few days later, as I was having my devotions, I came across Matthew 9, and for the first time it hit me: Finding new leaders in the church is about serious prayer and pleading with God. So I started to pray and got the church to pray with me and claim the promise in Matthew. 

About six months later, I got a call from one of our students who was attending Walla Walla College and preparing for the ministry. He asked to meet with me that weekend. The next Sunday, we met in a restaurant. After a pleasant meal, he said that he had been thinking seriously about coming back home for a year to build up our youth ministry. He ended up giving two years of his life to build a fantastic youth ministry and made sure that we would have strong leaders to carry the torch after he left. Through this experience, I saw vividly how the promise in Matthew 9 works.

After a few months of waiting, we had been tempted to give up and to think that God hadn’t heard our prayers. The temptation to settle for anyone who might be willing or adequate was always there. But at exactly the right time, God answered our prayers and sent us someone who wasn’t simply adequate—he was excellent!

This experience was so powerful that it shaped the way we did business in our church. Our ministry placement committee became a prayer meeting. Our leadership and board meetings became an opportunity to pray and seek God’s direction, wisdom, and leaders. When you need new leaders, start with prayer, claim Jesus’ promise of Matthew 9, and wait patiently for God to answer your prayers.

S. Joseph Kidder is professor of church growth and leadership at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.

Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.