Tell Them They Can Do It
Growing up, I spent so much time attending and serving at my church. I would be there every Sunday morning and evening plus Wednesday nights. However, I never considered vocational ministry until my youth pastor invited me to become an intern during my senior year of high school. This generation starts to hear about all their opportunities from a young age. They can become teachers, doctors, or lawyers, but rarely does anyone suggest pastoring, leading, or planting a church.
Of course, every pastor or leader wants gifted or developed people to step up and start leading. Unfortunately, they are not encouraging the younger generation today to pursue being these leaders the church needs tomorrow. If it weren’t for my youth pastor calling out something in me, I wouldn’t have seen myself as a future church leader. I never knew it was an option. We need more people to pursue, encourage, equip, and guide the younger generations to be future leaders.
Invite Them Along
There is so much innovation and creativity in our potential future leaders today, but they need an invitation and direction. Leadership begins with questions: What conferences, churches, and meetings should I attend? What types of people should I get to know? What is going to change my life?
This generation wants to be included and is desperate to learn. Whether tedious or exciting, let them tag along. Please bring them to the events, meetings, and discussions you attend. They will learn from exposure and interaction.
Don’t Hide the Bad
It is tempting to hide your weaknesses and the hard parts of ministry from them. Please don’t. They need real experience, so be real with them. One of the best leaders I know allowed my husband and me to live with him. This time of transparency provided us with invaluable “life-on-life” discipleship. Once, he came to us the night before Easter asking for prayer because he struggled to find motivation for the Sunday message less than 24 hours away. He allowed us the chance to get “skin in the game” and pray with him that evening. It also showed us that ministry is not always roses.
Future leaders need to know you’re human and that they don’t have to be perfect to live out God’s calling. So don’t protect them from the difficult parts of ministry. They want to know how to work through office gossip, burnout, marriage and family issues, politics, etc. It will make them better and saves them from surprises down the road.
Ask for Their Opinion
The most empowering thing that a senior leader can do for the next generation is asking their opinion. Ask them questions like:
- What would you do differently?
- What do you think of this program?
- What is something you think our church is missing?
- How do you think that meeting went? or
- What are my blind spots?
By asking these kinds of questions, you are modeling humility in leadership, but it also shows them that they have a seat at the table, which keeps them motivated. They have good ideas, so it’ll be worth it for you!
No one loves to hear how they miss the mark, but young leaders need feedback. Blind spots can be detrimental to their desperation to become the best version of themselves. They are actually hungry for your input and are tough enough to take it to grow. Leaders like you can lead them and reveal what they don’t see. Set up regular times to highlight their strengths and provide positive and constructive feedback.
Make Them a Priority
My heart goes out to every high-capacity leader reading this. I know that pursuing and developing the next generation leader can feel like one more thing you have to add to your overwhelming task list. Don’t worry. You don’t have to turn your entire youth group into the future staff of your church. However, I encourage you to do for one what you wish you could do for all. Of course, if you had the time, you would mentor and develop dozens of young leaders. Simply pick one person and pour into them. Don’t put it on the back burner or wait until things settle down. The next generation is coming, and they need leaders as great as you now. Trust me; you won’t regret it.
Hannah McMahon has been serving in next gen ministry for 10+ years. She thrives on seeing young people see their God-given potential from a young age. Her passion is to show the next generation they are needed and desired by church leadership. She is currently a church planter resident in the Kansas City area with her husband and two kids. She is also the largest Michigan Wolverine football fan you will ever meet.