By Chuck Lawless
I have previously posted here about what we older leaders need to hear from young church leaders, but I continue to learn from them and about them. They are passionate, energetic, globally minded, committed . . . and concerned. Here are some of their concerns we must consider:
- They do not want to do ministry alone. Not only do they recognize the value of together facing struggles, but they also understand the strength of collective wisdom. Indeed, many argue that leading a church without a plurality of leaders is unbiblical. Whether in a local church or on the mission field, they want to work as a team.
- They still want heroes. Many have been raised in broken homes and/or struggling churches. They want heroes, but they have often found them primarily via the Internet and social media. When they cannot find the integrity of lifestyle or depth of teaching they want in their home or home church, they have found it via podcasts, blogs, and streamed worship services.
- They would prefer to learn from another church leader before leading on their own. If they could choose between (a) an associate position at the feet of a strong leader or (b) a position that immediately places them in top-level leadership, many young leaders would choose the former. They are willing to learn awhile and to earn their stripes under the right leader.
- They want mentors who ask hard questions. This conclusion, of course, echoes others in this list. Young leaders are surprisingly open to older leaders who not only teach them to do ministry, but who also “drill down” into their lives. They want someone to hold them accountable to spiritual disciplines, holy living, and Great Commission obedience. They view vulnerability as necessary more than frightening.
- They have little patience with bureaucracy. They are young, but nevertheless live with a Great Commission urgency. Thus, they have little room for organization that seemingly produces only delay and stagnation. Loyalty ends when structures and processes get in the way of the greater task.
- They are apprehensive about leading the established church. They have heard too many stories about power groups, rigid leadership, inward focus, and untrained members. Some have experienced their own pain when leading an established church. Planting a church sounds much more inviting than trying to change a plateaued congregation.
- They welcome financial guidance. Many carry significant college and consumer debt that handcuffs them. Most have received little or no training in church finances. Some wrestle annually with clergy tax laws, and they think too little about retirement savings. Even those who realize their need do not know where to turn for guidance.
- They are concerned that “being Christian” is often equated with “being American.” They are not unpatriotic, but they understand that Christianity is much bigger than America. The banner under which they serve is first and foremost the banner of Christianity.
- They want help with balance. This generation has wisely recognized the importance of prioritizing family – at least in word if not in deed. They know that husbands are to lead their homes. They do not want to become statistics among the next generation of broken marriages. What they have not always learned is how to balance family with church positions that often require 40+ hours, evening events, and emergency calls.
- They admit their struggles with spiritual disciplines. Push young leaders, and many will speak of continual battles in their own spiritual walk. They are often especially aware of their need to pray more. They want prayer to be relational and potent, but seldom have they seen it modeled as such.
I am by no means suggesting young leaders are without room for growth. In their passion, they sometimes miss the lessons of history. Their youthfulness is at times evident in their lack of a long-term perspective. At the same time, though, their generation is quickly stepping into leadership. We are wise to walk beside them, love them, pray for them, guide them as needed, and rejoice if/when God does even greater things through them than through us.