I talk to pastors and leaders my age and older who want to see a new generation of leaders. They claim to love investing in younger leaders. They recognize the huge need in churches and organizations. Our future depends upon doing so.
The problem they claim is either they don’t know how or can’t seem to find them. Or they can’t seem to keep them. Frankly, some pastors I talk with are frustrated with what they see as a lack of leadership among the newer generations.
As a church planter, we hired several staff members into their first ministry position. We struck “gold” several times. I was frequently asked how we have managed to find so many talented young leaders. Much of the work God did at the church plant was done through the leadership efforts of people 10, 15, and 20 years younger than me.
Now I am pastoring an established church. I falsely assumed — because of what I’d been told — younger leaders would not want to join our efforts. They only wanted hip and cool church plants.
Not true. At all. We are once again surrounded by young leaders. Sharp young leaders.
Along the way we’ve discovered a few things.
Here are 7 ways to raise up young leaders:
Give them opportunities – That sounds simple, but it’s not. Many leaders are afraid to hand off real responsibility to leaders half their age. I understand, because I made some huge mistakes as a young leader, but at the same time, it’s how I learned — through trying, failing and trying again. Younger leaders want authority and a seat at the table now — not when they reach an expected age. They may not even be a fair expectation for them at times, but it’s a legitimate one. Is it risky? Of course, but it awesome has the potential for awesomeness to occur.
Share experiences – Young leaders are open to learning from a mature leader’s successes and failures. In fact, they crave it. They enjoy hearing stories of what worked and what didn’t. This characteristic is actually one of the beauties of newer generations. The young leaders on teams I’ve led actually seek out my personal experience. They will still want the chance to learn on their own, but they are ready to glean from the wisdom of those who have gone before them — especially in the context of relationships.
Allow for failure – People of all ages will make mistakes in leadership, regardless of their years of experience. It seems magnified for younger leaders, because they are doing many things the first time — which is one reason older leaders sometimes shy away from them. An atmosphere, however, which embraces failure as a part of the growth process, invites younger leaders to take chances, risking failure and exploring possible genius discoveries.
Be open to change – More than likely, younger leaders will do things differently than the older leaders did things. They want more flexible hours, different work environments, and opportunities to work as a team. It may seem unnatural at first, but let their process take shape and you’ll have a better chance of leadership development occurring. And, us “old dogs” might “learn some new tricks”.
Set high expectations – Having different working methods shouldn’t lower standards or quality expectations. The good thing is the younger leaders, from my experience, aren’t looking for a free ride, just a seat on the bus. Hold them accountable to clearly identified goals and objectives. Let them know what a win looks like to you. Applaud them for good work and challenge them to continually improve. It’s part of their growth process.
Provide encouragement – Younger leaders need feedback. They seem to want to know how they are doing far more often than the annual review system the past afforded. They are looking to meet the approval of senior leadership and the organization. Keep them encouraged and they’ll keep aiming higher.
Give constructive feedback – Again, younger leaders appear more interested in knowing they are meeting the expectations of senior leadership, so acknowledge that fact by helping them learn as they grow. Don’t simply share “good” or “bad” feedback. Rather, with the goal of helping them grow as leaders, give them concrete and constructive reviews of their performance. Help them understand not only what they did right or wrong, but practical ways they can get better in their work and leadership abilities.
Raising up younger leaders is crucial to a growing and maintaining healthy organizations and churches. We must be intentional and diligent about investing in the next generation, understanding their differences, and working within their culture to grow new leaders.
Young leaders, what did I miss?
Mature leaders, what else are you doing?