Seeing and Calling Out Potential in Others
Cultivating the unique skills of Scripture empowerment
In order to fulfill God’s calling, we need to be serious about developing believers and preparing them to disciple, teach, and lead others. This series focuses on three key areas in developing others in a small group setting: 1. Overcoming an unhealthy reliance on ourselves 2. Seeing and calling out potential in others 3. Creating open and honest dialogue.
I will never forget the first person who took time to develop me as a leader. Chris was a youth pastor at my church who invited me to join a team of leaders. “This summer I would like to pour into you, so you can pour into my students.” And that is exactly what happened. It was a life-changing summer as I began to discover God’s calling and how God could work through me.
Without that experience, without Chris investing in me, where would my life have gone? I often wonder. How long would it have taken me to discover my spiritual gifts? Would someone else have seen my potential and had the courage to challenge me?
And then I wonder, what about the people around me today? How can I recognize and call out their gifts? What about the people around you? How can you help them uncover their gifts and lead others into Bible engagement and discipleship?
In my experience of developing leaders, I have found three key areas to focus on:
1. Notice how God has gifted others
How do you look at people? Do you see them as God sees them, even if that is not how they see themselves? I love how Zack Neese says it: “When you see a person through the eyes of God, you do not call them according to the flesh and what they currently are, but according to their potential—their future” (How to Worship a King).
Each time you lead your group or spend time with your group members, watch how God is working. Pay attention to what people say and how they interact with others. Look for those who seem to have the spiritual gifting of leadership or discipleship. Here are a few examples of key traits to look for in identifying future small group leaders:
Do they show an understanding of God’s Word and how it applies to people’s lives? Do they take the concepts the group is discussing and explore the implications in everyday existence?
An eagerness to learn
Do they seek to correctly interpret Scripture instead of imposing their own meaning into verses? Are they willing to ask questions to gain deeper understanding?
Care for others in the group
Do they use God’s Word to bring encouragement to others? Do they desire to see people grow?
Meaningful group discussion
Do they contribute to and affirm what others are sharing instead of just focusing on their own thoughts? Do they value insightful questions over quick answers?
Priority of personal growth
Do they engage with Scripture outside of the group? Do they read and listen to materials that help them grow in biblical knowledge and application?
2. Speak words that affirm God’s gifts in others
When you see a potential leader, say something.
There are times we are able to see someone’s else calling more clearly than they can. There are also times when others know their calling but need the courage to step forward in it. Our encouragement can be a huge catalyst for their leadership growth.
Don’t underestimate the power of your words. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue; those who love it will eat its fruit.”Sometimes what seems like a minor comment can be a life-giving word. “The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
As you notice those who are gifted to lead, begin to use your words to affirm what you see. In your personal conversation with the leader-to-be, celebrate the good traits you’ve seen in them. You might say, “I love what you shared in group tonight. It really challenged me to think about God in a new way.” Or, “You are an amazing leader and I am so thankful for the way you use your leadership and influence to help others grow.”
Affirmation can also happen in the moment. Maybe a discussion is taking place and the potential leader gives a great answer to a difficult question. Right then, say something like, “That is really good insight. Does anyone else in the group have thoughts on what she just shared?”
It might be especially helpful to affirm potential leaders after they’ve shown vulnerability in the group. Perhaps they mention a struggle or challenge and how they’ve been growing. Take time to reinforce the value of their contribution and thank them for opening up. Sometimes people assume that leaders need to have everything figured out. Your support will teach them that honest grappling with God’s truth is more important.
3. Cultivate opportunities that help others learn to grow in their areas of gifting.
The best way to grow in anything is to practice, and what better place to practice leading a small group than in a small group?
Look for these opportunities for your emerging leaders.
Cultivating leadership usually begins with a one-time commitment for a specific assignment, with your active support. For example, ask the potential leader to facilitate the group discussion time. For this assignment provide them with the material you use, discussion questions, and the background of how you develop the discussion time. Consider scheduling a time in advance with the new leader to answer their questions and prepare for the group experience.
Or you might ask the potential leader to help choose material or write discussion questions. Be clear about the key elements you are looking for in the material, what makes a good discussion question, and when you need their input. The first time you have them help, make sure to allow time for review and editing.
Once the potential leader begins to engage in these opportunities and you feel they are ready, share your larger vision with them. Let them know you would love to see them leading a small group of their own one day. Some people will be excited and eager, others hesitant and unsure. Wherever they are emotionally, talk together about what the next steps could be. Then, begin to put those next steps in place.
As you develop leaders, remember development is a process. It takes time. It’s often uncomfortable for new leaders as they step out, try something new, and learn to use their gifts. And it will probably be uncomfortable for you as you let go of some areas, so the new leaders can learn. All of this is a necessary part of growth, and growth is a part of God’s call to us both as disciples and as leaders.
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