As a small-group leader, if there is anything you need to know about developing a new leader, it all comes down to two key words: time and intentionality. There are no short cuts.
Discipleship vs. Damage Control
Has your small group become a large group? By the time you are in a bind to figure out what to do with your group, it's too late! Developing a new leader is not damage control; it's discipleship. Casting vision for leadership development early will speak life and purpose in your group. Let the group know from the very beginning that you are praying for God to raise one (or more) of them to leadership. For the natural leaders in your group, this will tap into and fuel their desire to lead.
From the very beginning, pray intentionally for the faith and leadership of future leaders in your group. As you select and disciple a new leader, continue to pray for them and with them.
Empower Your Group
Empower people in your group with opportunities to lead - even small ones like taking responsibility for a snack schedule. Give away leadership every chance you get, and always be looking for ways people can lead. Noticing and affirming gifts can be the single most encouraging thing you do for those you lead. Don't hoard all the responsibilities when there are wonderful opportunities for emerging leaders to take ownership and practice leading.
Identify Potential Leaders
While mechanics of leadership and skill development can be taught, commitment to the group, desire to grow spiritually, care for others, and basic social skills are things even the best leaders cannot impart to someone else. So look for potential leaders who show commitment, desire, and care - even if they don't have a clue of how to lead a group. And remember, potential leaders don't often look like mature leaders. Be willing to put the work in. After all, Christ told us to make - not find - disciples.
Be on the lookout from the beginning and try to make the ask early. If new small groups begins in January, don't ask someone in December. It will most likely take the length of the preceding season or longer.
When you do ask, be generous with your words. Don't hold back your affirmation. Speak truth into an emerging leader's life. Point out things you've noticed about him or her and how that can be helpful to serve the body of Christ through leadership.
And while it's hard to do, don't say "no" to leadership for somebody else. You can always make an excuse for why somebody shouldn't lead: they are too busy, they are going through a difficult season, etc. Leadership is not convenient. And leadership development is not a recruiting campaign for churches. Leadership fuels growth in the emerging leader. Think of all the ways you have grown through leading. You are investing in them and giving them a chance to grow when you invite them to leadership. And if they decide it's not the right time, trust them to say "no" for themselves.
Disciple Your New Leader
To disciple an emerging leader, give them increasing levels of responsibility over time. Most new leaders will show leadership potential but lack confidence. Slowly integrating them into leadership will build both skills and confidence. Make sure you talk about why you do things and how they are processing their new role.
Involve Your Group
Casting vision early for leadership development provides a healthy environment for both the emerging leader and the group. Then, when you announce you've found a potential leader, the group won't be shocked. The group will understand that growing leadership is part of group life, and that they have a unique opportunity to invest in the emerging leader. This creates a culture for multiplication and sets healthy patterns and expectations for group life.
Never Lead Alone
Just refuse to do it. For many of us, this is a perspective shift. But when we bring people into what we are doing, it gives us permission to speak into their lives and influence them. We have influence to the same degree we have relationship. Bring others into the mission of small group leadership and let them become equal shareholders with you. It will naturally empower leadership.
Do you normally see birthing as a form of discipleship or as a form of damage control? Why?
How well do you empower your group members? What steps can you take to improve?
How do you feel about never leading alone? What is your initial reaction to that? Why?