Where Are The Young Leaders?

IMG_4998-1Moses raised up his replacement, Joshua. But Joshua did not raise up his successor, and the people suffered as a result. Let’s not make the same mistake.

We have a problem brewing. For a variety of reasons, there seems to be a lack of leaders coming up through our churches. Of course, there are some young women and men who are preparing themselves for productive leadership in their churches. But considering the great need that we have for leaders, the number of new churches that must be planted, and the age of many of our current leaders, we need many more young leaders! We are experiencing a decline in the number of young people that are entering the ministry; this trend must be reversed.

There are a few legitimate reasons for the decline in young leaders, but some of the reasons must be addressed and turned around. Some young people feel that there is no place for them in the church. They feel unwelcomed and unneeded. They are not included in the life of the church. Their participation is not encouraged. They are told that they must wait their turn. They are ignored. Brothers and Sisters in Christ – these things should not be.

While most of us love the young people in our communities, we can inadvertently drive them away from the church. When we criticize a generation for being different than us, we drive them away from the church. When we refuse to allow them a voice in the direction of the church, we drive them away. When we refuse to change anything in the church, we drive them away. When we look to the past more than we look to the future, we drive them away. When we disrespect a generation, we drive them away from the church.

God help us to turn this tide!

We all agree that God loves the young generation and wants to include them in His church. We simply must do whatever it takes to engage these young people as leaders in training. Here are a few practical things you can do:

  • Pray for the young people in your church and community.
  • Purposefully engage young people in the life of the church.
  • Build personal relationships with young people in the church.
  • Strategically identify young people with the gift of leadership.
  • Develop a plan, formal or informal, to develop the young leaders in your church.
  • Share leadership responsibilities with young leaders.

If the current trend continues, we will not have enough leaders to lead our churches and churches will close. If the current trajectory of many of our churches continues, they will close within the next 10 years – simply because no one will be leading or attending. Of course, we plan to change this course.

When I was a teenager, some leaders in the church pursued me and encouraged me to engage in the church. They recognized leadership potential in me and affirmed me. This changed my life. Can you do the same for a young person in your church?

Let me state: we value all people, young and old. The church family is made up of multiple generations. We cannot focus on one generation to the detriment of another. So let’s change the current direction. Please, young lives are at stake and the future of the church hangs in the balance.

God, help us to raise up a generation of young leaders!

Leadership Succession

design-11One of my greatest concerns about our current approach to church leadership is that not enough young leaders are being engaged in preparation for future leadership. We need to do better. This post is a series of thoughts that I originally shared on Twitter. I apologize for the choppy nature of the thoughts.

One of my most important tasks as a leader is to prepare future leaders to go farther than I ever will.

My predecessors invested heavily in me; I owe it to them as well as my successors to pass on what I’ve been given.

Leader, if you are indispensable to your organization, if they couldn’t survive without you, perhaps you’ve neglected an important responsibility. You won’t live forever.

One of the most important Bible verses to me: “Take the things you heard me say in front of many other witnesses and pass them on to faithful people who are also capable of teaching others.”
(2 Timothy 2:2 CEB)

Moses raised up Joshua. Elijah raised up Elisha. Paul raised up Timothy. Who are you raising up?

Moses passed on his leadership to Joshua. But Joshua did not prepare his successor, and the entire nation of Israel suffered because of it. Who are you preparing to succeed you?

Until current leaders and emerging leaders stop competing, the future health of our organizations is in jeopardy.

The most effective way for aging leaders to assure that they won’t be forced out is to make themselves perpetually valuable by virtue of the respect they’ve gained because of their investments in emerging leaders.

Current leaders must possess discernment regarding future leaders. See them, not for where they are now, but for where they can be.

If those who succeed me don’t enjoy more success than I have enjoyed, I’ve failed as a leader.

Leaders: use a relay race as a metaphor. If the next leader is not out in front of you, ready when you’re done, you’re going to get really tired; and your team won’t win the race.

Young leader, your best asset may be the leader in front of you. Pursue a learning relationship with them. You may know a lot, but if they’re in front of you, they know stuff you don’t.

Young leader, some current leaders think you’re arrogant. Prove them wrong. Stay humble and teachable.

Young leader, be humble enough to learn from the successes and failures of those who go before you. You’ll save yourself a lot of pain.

Young leader: find a coach, mentor. Pursue them. Respectfully follow them. Then ask then to train you. It’s humbling and necessary.

While the world is changing and leadership methods are shifting fast, some principles are timeless. Don’t discount old wisdom.

A focus on young and rising #leaders is not to the detriment or disrespect of older leaders. On the contrary; a focus on younger leaders assures that the faithful work of the seasoned leaders will continue and advance. If no one is prepared to succeed you, your work will stop when you do. The task requires both!

Leader, you’ve given your life to the task. Why cause your influence to be limited in longevity by not raising up your successor?

Leader: if your succession plan isn’t intentional and strategic, it is probably non existent.

The greatest hindrance to successful leadership succession is insecurity on the part of current leaders; we’re afraid of being put out to pasture. What you’ve done is too significant to be limited by intimidation of being replaced. Be strategic with it, your legacy will live on once your gone.

Leader, you may have started your organization, but it’s not yours, don’t hoard it. The next generation will need it once you’re gone. Get the next leader ready!

Leader, if your vision can be fulfilled by you alone, your vision is too small. Unless your vision outlives you, your vision is too small. Unless someone is being trained to take over once you’re gone, your vision is too small. But your vision is big.

Leader, you are reaping the rewards of those who came before you. Someone behind you will reap the rewards of your hard work. Be strategic about who succeeds you.

If current #leaders don’t prepare their successors, we will soon have a dearth of leaders. Don’t let that happen.

If every generation of leaders has to begin at square one, we’re all in serious trouble. Let’s learn from the past and make the future better. 

On Mentoring

37641041_10156573501694214_6934824908186714112_nI’ve recently been considering how important it is for us to invest our knowledge, wisdom and experience in the next generation. I cannot overstate how important this concept is. If you are an adult and you have some semblance of a well-structured life, you OWE it to those coming behind you to impart what you know.

Specifically, I am considering Christian leaders. If you are a pastor of or a leader in a church, you simply must identify someone (or several people) to mentor. It is your spiritual responsibility to invest in those who will carry on the work once you are gone (and help you to carry it out right now).

I see a few necessary steps in this process:

Identify: Use your discernment. Observe behavior, attitudes, habits. When you sense that the Holy Spirit is calling a younger person into service – call them out!

Grace: Don’t look for the perfect candidate. No one is perfect. You must look with eyes toward redemption. The people you are observing are not yet fully developed. Part of your responsibility is to develop them.

Time: If you are too busy to spend time with younger folks, you are too busy. Farmers are not too busy to plant seeds.

Find your replacement: This is scary for some. But here is a news flash – you won’t live forever. If you leave your post and do not consider your replacement, you are negligent. And if you are intimidated that this person may take over before you are ready, well, you are already in serious trouble. Insecure leaders aren’t leaders.

They may leave you: Some do not invest in others because they don’t want to waste their time on someone who will leave. This is shortsighted and close-minded. If you train up a leader and they leave, your influence only grows.

Train but don’t dominate: Your responsibility is not to make a clone. Invest but allow freedom for your protégé to be their own person, their own leader.

Prepare to be disappointed: Some, perhaps several will abandon you. You cannot control the decisions of others. But neither can we fail to invest in others because of the decisions of some to depart.

Pursue: Don’t sit and wait for a young person to approach you, odds are they won’t. You are the leader – take the lead!

Expect them to go farther: When we invest, we expect growth. Our replacements had better be capable of taking the work farther than we ever could. When they succeed, celebrate! There is no room for jealousy – only celebration!

We simply must stop starting over. Too many of our key roles and positions are being left to the wind once the leader departs.

Two final thoughts: 1) Mentoring is a matter of spiritual stewardship. We have been given leadership gifts. God never gives us gifts so we can hoard them – He expects us to invest those gifts in others who will produce. 2) Paul sets the perfect example in II Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Share what you’ve been given with those who will share what they’ve been given.

Leader, I am challenging you. Regardless of your age, look back. Who is coming along behind? Please connect with them and bring them forward. The future of the Mission depends upon it. And if we fail to raise up the next leaders, we are culpable for its demise.

6 Things I Look for in Millennial Leaders

designAs a Boomer leader, one of my greatest joys is to engage with emerging leaders. The energy and excitement that younger men and women bring to the table is a vital part of my personal leadership strategy; they keep me fresh and continually learning. Young leaders provide necessary elements to our processes that cannot be found elsewhere. From a practical point of view, if I hope to impact the future, I must connect now with those who will actually be leading in the future. On a personal note, when I was a young leader, older leaders poured so much into me that I would be remiss to not pay back what was provided for me.

When I connect with a young leader, I look for at least 6 things. Among them are:

Energy, cultural relevance, creativity. cooperation, commitment and stability.

Energy: it’s no secret that organizations need the vitality that millennial leaders bring to the table. There is no substitute for the intensity that youth provides. Our organizations need the pop that Millennials bring.

Cultural relevance: It’s nearly impossible for seasoned leaders to stay current with the nuances of our rapidly changing world. One way to do this is to remain in close contact with empowered young leaders. Nothing is more embarrassing than using a word that used to mean one thing but now means something completely different! When I am with younger leaders, I love to just observe them as they communicate. This helps keep me in the loop and remain relevant to the culture we are serving.

Creativity: Successful organizations utilize the services of people who think in new and fresh ways. What works in communications today more than likely won’t tomorrow. Today’s emerging leaders bring innovative and visionary ways of seeing the world. I need that in my life and in my leadership.

Cooperation: I am looking for young leaders to cooperate with the processes in which I am involved. While it’s not reasonable to demand unquestioned alliance, those whose demeanor is one of collaboration and contribution make incredibly valuable team members that we can’t function without.

Commitment: One of the biggest struggles in leadership is to identify people who will stick around. No one likes the idea of investing significant resources of time and energy into a relationship that can be quickly abandoned. I am looking for Millennial leaders who know how to stick with a worthwhile relationship.

Stability. A common criticism of younger leaders is that they are unstable and flighty. I think this is an unfair critique. There are many young leaders who can be counted upon. They are steady, dependable and trustworthy. I look for that when I am engaged with emerging leaders so that their impact can remain long-term.

Young leaders make me better and I hope I make them better. Of course, there are many more attributes that we should value when considering young leaders. Most of all, I hope that we can make more progress toward multigenerational leadership structures that will change the world!

(This article is also published in https://www.forgelead.org/single-post/2017/09/05/6-Things-I-Look-For-in-Millennial-Leaders.)