Urban Leadership Development 101

Urban leadership development is synonymous with the biblical mandate to make, mature, and mobilize leaders throughout the world. In the urban context, however, there is a myriad of cultural nuances that distinguish leadership development from other contexts.

For example, in poor inner cities prone to violence, fatherlessness, drug abuse, etc., it often takes much more patience and time to raise up indigenous leaders.  That’s ok because this is a multi-generational, slow cook progression, not a frying pan process.

Furthermore, there is a tremendous shortage of ready-made leaders who will show up to lead the church. This is especially true for urban churches. Because it’s difficult for many inner city churches to become self-supported, they simply do not have the funds to attract the few ready-made leaders and often find themselves in a perpetual cycle losing staff that they cannot afford and raising new ministry leaders for future generations.

Therefore, it’s essential for pastors, especially those in the inner city context, to intentionally invest into the lives of future leaders of Christ’s church (2 Tim. 2:2), and be as equally passionate about pouring into their lives as they are about preaching and teaching from the pulpit.

As pastors, we must always maintain a balance between stewarding the responsibilities of the church in the present, and looking to create plans of action to train, develop, and nurture these men and women for the future.

The Importance of Defining Leadership

Ask anyone what it means to be a leader, and you’ll likely hear a unique answer each time. That’s because people have their own idea of what it means to be a leader.

Before we begin the process of creating a leadership pipeline, it’s imperative for urban churches to have a clear definition of what an urban leader looks like when developed. Ask the question – what should a developed leader know, and what experiences should they be shaped in to be fruitful?

Men and women cannot become leaders within God’s church unless there are Disciples of Christ first. The goal of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-19) is discipleship. It’s a life-long apprenticeship to the Lord Jesus that leads to spiritual maturity.

Before they can enter into the process of leadership development, make sure that they personify these three qualities:


While faithfulness is a characteristic of God’s ethical nature, it’s also a term used to describe men and women of faith that are consistent in their pursuit of Him and their commitment to serving Christ’s church.

This is extremely important. Before a brother or sister enters any leadership process they must have shown a continual pattern of commitment and integrity in the local church. We must assess the person’s commitment and faithfulness because many Christians do not want to move towards biblical discipleship. They find the cost of accountability, patience, challenge, and submission is too high. Ask the questions:

  • Do they follow through on their commitments?
  • Are they stewarding their families well?
  • Have they shown a pattern of reliability?
  • Do they display self-control?
  • Are they frequently looking for areas to serve in the church?


While brothers and sisters might be faithful, some are simply not available. They don’t have time to submit to the process of discipleship because they work too many hours or they are over committed. Others simply have not made it a priority in their lives and rarely avail themselves because they lack the vision to see the primacy of discipleship.

Some people that you’ll encounter will never become leaders in Christ’s church. Unavailability simply makes them unqualified to lead. Availability is not limited to showing up at the church doors, but the answering of emails, text messages, and phone calls. Some people are entirely too entangled in commitments outside of the church to actually serve the church. It’s a pity. Nevertheless, ask the questions:

  • Do they have time to meet?
  • Does their schedule permit them time for discipleship?
  • Are they too busy?
  • Are they over committed?
  • Do they intentional carve time in their schedule to seek discipleship opportunities?


In the church, we’ll run into droves of young men and women who are theologically informed. They read countless books and listen to podcasts regularly. It’s become the new norm of evangelical Christianity. Unfortunately, some of theses brothers and sisters lack the posture of humility. They are theologically astute but yet lack the ability to heed to the advice and counsel of others. They simply know too much to be taught anything new.

These puritan-paperback reading podcasters deify theology and lack empathy to apply it in the local church. As one of my mentors has said so eloquently, too many theologically mature people lack the ability to compassionately love people. They have Charlie Brown heads with Olive Oil bodies.

  • How do they respond to what you impart to them?
  • Can they receive a challenge?
  • Do they think they know it all or have everything figured out?
  • If they’re theologically informed, do they maintain a posture of humility?

If a brother or sister has proven himself or herself to be F.A.T. (Faithful, Available, and Teachable) over a period of time, then they may be ready to begin the leadership development process. While discipleship is on-going, leadership development is a process of investing in the lives of theologically-informed, spiritually-rooted, and maturing disciples through intentional training and theological education.

It serves as a customizable pipeline for men and women that will bear the mantle of ministry and impact our communities in the future. While going through the leadership development process does not automatically guarantee that they will become the next wave of pastors, it does cultivate mature men and women that will lead God’s church.


That’s it for now. We’ll pick this up next week, but in the meantime, continue to invest in people.The investment into people is the primary tool that the Lord uses to see his church multiplied.

Grace and peace.


Ernest Cleo Grant, II

Ernest Cleo Grant, II (@ernestcleogrant) is the Lead Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Church of Camden, a graduate of Reformed Seminary (D.C.), and is currently completing his Doctorate of Education from Stockton University. He and his wife Sarah have been married for almost a decade and have two children( Amaela and Chancellor). He's an avid reader, a community advocate, and has bylines in The Witness, Christianity Today, The Star-Ledger, Desiring God, and other publications

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s