Thursday, November 29, 2012

Developing the Next Generation of Leaders

This post is from Ryan Pelton (@pastorpelton). Ryan is the pastor of New City Church in Kansas City, MO. He lives there with his wife Christy and sons Noah & Owen. He’s a graduate of Calvin Seminary and planted New City in 2009. He also has his own blog at

One of the challenges of any ministry, church, or organization is developing leaders. The ratio of ministry and work that needs to get done - and leaders to do the work - always is unbalanced.
Jesus told us that the lack of leaders would be a problem, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matt. 9:37-38)
The harvest is not the problem. There will always be more people coming into God’s kingdom, more people to disciple, and more tasks to be accomplished. The emphasis of the prayer is for the workers. We need more leaders.
Do we pray for more leaders in our churches and organizations? Do we have a plan to develop these leaders once God brings them our way? These are the questions I will try to answer briefly.
As I have the privilege to lead this next generation - I am learning a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I am a young pastor (33) and I serve in a church where the average age is thirty-two. This includes a ton of kids, college students, and people in their twenties.
I give you this information not to boast in what I am doing as a leader - but rather to share from experience and not just theory. I have seen great victories, and just as many defeats in this journey of leadership.
1. Influence by your character and not your position.
The next generation does not care that you are a pastor. There was a time when being a pastor was noble, prestigious, and desirable. This generation does not even want to enter vocational ministry because of the abuse they have seen among pastors. Abuse done to pastors and abuse done by pastors.
Our position of authority as pastors or leaders does not mean a whole lot to the next generation. This generation has problems with authority in general. Which means you have to find other ways to influence them apart from your title.
This generation does not despise all authority whether you are a pastor or leader of any kind. They simply want to see your authority be validated by how you live, what you say, and a genuine love for God and people. That will speak louder than your position.
2. Lead your church or organization from the middle.
I use a phrase in our church by saying: “I lead this church from the middle”. This means that I try and lead our people as someone who needs the same things they need. I need the gospel and community just like all of them. I need grace, forgiveness, and hope just like them.
Leading from the middle means you will lead from the front and sometimes you will lead from the back- unnoticed. You have to live in the tension of being a disciple of Jesus first and a pastor or leader second.
Too many pastors live with the silly notion that they can’t be open and honest about their struggles with their church. Many pastors don’t even have a single friend in the church. Leading from the middle allows us to be open and honest about our struggles. While still   maintaining the ability to lead them as we have been called to do.
3. Collaborate instead of isolate.
This will be a hard one for most leaders. The next generation wants to be included. They want to be valued and seen as people that have a voice. This means we need to have many voices at the table. You need to identify emerging leaders and give them a voice from small tasks, assignments, and ministries- to leading in larger capacities.
Too many leaders are dictators who think they have all the answers. Bring people in on the conversation. Let people voice their ideas, opinions, and passions. Even when it is messy and not the way you would have done it- let others lead.
4. Be intentional about leadership development.
This might be the most important insight I am learning. You need a intentional plan to develop the next generation. We think that leaders will emerge, be developed, and lead the next generation organically. While that can happen at times- in reality, you need a plan in place.
If you are a pastor and/or leader of any kind leadership development has to be part of your work each week. You have to spend time with emerging and current leaders. At our church we do a church-based theological training center and internship program.
You don’t have to do what we do- but you need to do something.
This may simply mean grabbing a coffee with a leader every week to pray and discuss leadership topics. Do what will work in your context. Do what will work based on your gifts, abilities, and capacity. Hand this task off to someone else if need be. But, please do something.
How are you developing the next generation of leaders?

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