Are We Losing the Next Generation of Church Leaders?

I’m a bit reluctant to write this because it is going to come off sounding like a rant against the church. I don’t intend it to be criticism, but hopefully motivation. I spent a recent morning in a room with about 10 young leaders, mostly in their twenties. These are young people who, for the most part, have grown up in churches. They are servants who are working with our association this summer as interns or volunteers in a variety of capacities. Mostly, they will be putting on sports camps in our churches to help those churches reach out into their communities.

I was really excited to have a few hours to help them learn about how God has wired them as servant leaders. At one point in the conversation I asked them if any of their churches have ever done anything to intentionally develop them as leaders. Silence… crickets… blank stares…nothing.

Church! What is wrong with us? Why are we not intentionally developing the next generation of leaders? What are we so busy about that we don’t have time for this? And why do we act surprised when they get bored and leave our church to find significance elsewhere?

(O.K. that was the part that sounded like a rant.)

But seriously folks! We call ourselves followers of Jesus. We used to where bracelets with the letters WWJD (What would Jesus do) on them. Well, here is what he did. He took a group of young people with varying capacities for leadership and invited them to follow him around. They would watch him work, and then he would debrief them. He would let them do things, and then he would debrief them. Finally, when he was finished with his work he commissioned them to continue that work. You don’t have to be Jesus to do that – anyone can do it!

Those great young people I got to spend time with are hungry to learn. They snatched up every little bit of leadership training I put in front of them. I even had a couple of them help lead some exercises. They want more. I will be looking for ways to engage with them throughout this summer. And we are going to end the summer with another one of these “mini-retreats”. I can’t think of any more important use of my time for the next few months.

People! Look around your church. Is there a young person who could benefit from your experience/knowledge/wisdom? You don’t have to be an expert; you just have to be willing. Andy Stanley did a great talk on this subject at last year’s Catalyst Conference  He made the point that it isn’t our responsibility to fill their cup, only to empty ours. That statement stuck with me. I need to find every opportunity I can to empty my cup into someone else’s life – especially young leaders.