As Christian leaders, we often say that we want to nurture a new generation of leaders and involve them in the life of the church. On several occasions, however, I have personally observed questioning and criticism of the decisions and leadership of young adults who have been asked to assume responsibilities in the local church.
Although the desire is sincere, too often the reality is that we are too set in our ways, uncomfortable with change, and want everything to be “perfect” (according to our standards). Calling out and empowering young leaders is a painful process, both for the young leaders and the church! They will never be ready unless they try, succeed, and sometimes fail. In Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal points out that “Jesus deployed his disciples long before they were ready.” From personal experience they learned how much more they needed to learn from the Master and were motivated to do so.
For young adults to become leaders, they need three things.
First, they need a chance to serve. They need opportunities to accept responsibilities that are meaningful and consequential. When I was 23 years old, I was a platoon leader in the U. S. Army. I was responsible for the care of at least 30 people and at least a million dollars’ worth of equipment. Of course, I was under authority, but I was also accountable. Can you imagine this happening in the church?
Second, they need champions. Young adults need older leaders who will be advocates on boards, committees, and staffs to actively seek out, employ or enlist, and empower young leaders. These individuals keep their eyes open for talented young leaders and find places for them to serve.
Third, they need coaches. Young leaders do have much to learn and a teachable spirit is important. At the same time, they probably already know more than they are being given the opportunity to practice. Young leaders need persons who will stand alongside them, help them to set goals, and then hold them accountable to pursue those goals.
If we are sincere about wanting younger leaders in our churches and organizations, we must carve out a space for them.
(Excerpted from For Such a Time as This: Aligning Church and Leadership for Missional Ministry by Ircel Harrison available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon)