Below is a post I wish I would have read 10 years ago. It would have helped me avoid making some rookie leadership mistakes in my early years of ministry. Thank you Justin Lathrop for this article. May it help younger and older leaders alike.
When older leaders and younger leaders are in ministry together, there is going to be some frustration. There is no getting around it.
“They don’t have any experience!” Older leaders might say.
“They don’t understand how the world works now!” younger leaders might respond.
But getting along is possible. In fact, it’s not only possible, it’s important. Without generational unity in church leadership, we cannot effectively minister to the people God has put in our care. So how can we all get along? I have a couple of thoughts.
It’s OK To Listen
We all have different reasons for not listening. Young people, in my experience, tend to be full of thoughts, ideas and energy that sometimes exceeds that of their older counterparts. The older generation, on the other hand has the tendency to give advice before they listen, to share the wisdom gained over years of experience.
Either way, not listening is a real turn-off.
Either way, not listening means we miss the value each person brings to the table.
My challenge is that all of us, young and old, need to do a better job of listening. I think we’ll find that when we’re willing to hear each other, we’ll understand each other much better.
In order to develop cross-generation relationships, we’re going to have to reach out to one another. We can all think of reasons that it should be the other person to make the first move. “If they want a mentor, it’s their job to come and get one!” or “If they think I need a mentor, they know where to find me!”
But passing the blame isn’t getting us anywhere.
Young people - Reach out to someone older than you. Ask them to tell you what they’ve learned. Listen to what they tell you. Even write it down. If you listen with intent, you’re communicating that what they are saying to you has lasting value.
Veterans - You’ve done this before. You know how difficult it can be to figure out career, family, life and ministry all at the same time. Recognize that young people are hungry for direction, even if they don’t ask for it. Reach out. Offer to meet with them. If all else fails, buy their lunch. That works every time.
Focus On The Positive
When someone is different from you, it’s too easy to focus on the negative qualities they bring to the table. Both young and older leaders need to learn to focus on the positive.
Young leaders - What can more experienced counterparts bring to the table?
Older leaders - What can young leaders offer to your ministry that you are not able?
It might even be good to take time and communicate these positive qualities in a tangible way. Older leaders could highlight younger leaders and their unique gifts at a staff meeting. Young leaders, if you have a mentor, go out of your way to thank that person by using old school communication — a hand-written card. These small steps can speak volumes.