In my mid-20s, I was frustrated. I was a young pastor, and I had ideas.
I knew what we needed to change, where we needed to go, how to become a more relevant and effective church, and I was frustrated because we weren’t moving fast enough.
Maybe you’ve been there. Or, perhaps you’ve been on the other side.
You’re in a senior leadership seat and you feel the pressure of younger leaders pushing for change or possibly even pushing for your exit.
You like the energy and enthusiasm, but you also know the dangers, pitfalls, and what it takes to implement change without blowing everything up.
Whether you’re where I was in my mid-20s, or you're sitting in the senior leadership seat, this scenario usually doesn’t end well.
Too often, younger leaders get frustrated and leave, churches don’t adapt, and leadership transitions fall apart.
I recently came across a few scriptures that might help those of us who find ourselves, or soon will find ourselves, in this leadership challenge.
Here are a few ideas I adapted from something I heard from a Canadian pastor named Jeff Lockyer.
First, consider The Apostle Paul who left an incredible spiritual legacy.
Not only did he launch many vibrant churches across the Roman Empire, but most of them did very well after his exit from direct leadership.
Proteges like Timothy and Titus continued his work after he was gone.
I think it’s safe to say that Paul had the sort of legacy all of us would love to experience.
So, what empowered Paul to achieve this legacy?
13 I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Paul was incredibly forward-thinking. He was about the future.
For those of us in senior leadership, we have to be thinking about what’s next.
It can’t be about what we’ve always done, and it definitely can’t be about who has always done it. Said another way, it can’t be about you.
Perhaps my worst leadership mistake was building a ministry around myself.
When I left that leadership position after five years, the ministry struggled because I hadn’t been forward-thinking. I hadn’t been about the future.
I didn’t experience the legacy Paul did because I built a ministry around myself.
You aren’t making the same mistake, are you?
I challenge you to listen.
I challenge you to empower others.
Give away responsibility and authority and empower others to do meaningful work.
Some of the ideas younger leaders are bringing forward may seem crazy, but they could be the next wave of effective ministry in your church.
In contrast, when you’re not in a senior seat, you’re automatically forward-thinking. “When I’m in charge, I’m going to…”
It’s a natural way of thinking when you’re waiting in the wings. But, there is danger here as well.
Consider Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon.
You may recall that he had a significant role in the nation of Israel descending into civil war and dividing into two nations.
What happened there?!?
Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. (1 Kings 12:8)
Rehoboam made a critical mistake, which many of us make.
We sometimes assume that just because senior leadership is wrong about one thing, they are wrong about everything.
And then, we stop listening to any advice or wisdom they share.
This is often a fatal blunder.
When you are young or new, you have fresh ideas, and the church needs these new ideas!
However, when you’re young or new, you usually don’t know how to implement change wisely.
You don’t know how to create buy-in with key stakeholders, and you don't know how to avoid the pitfalls of leadership in your particular context.
And, you don’t know how fast is too fast when it comes to leading change.
For those of you who are young, you will make mistakes if you don’t listen.
Why? Because those who are older have already made those mistakes and they stand ready to advise and guide.
You must listen backward, and by that, I mean you must listen to the guidance of those who are currently in senior leadership or who have gone before in senior leadership.
It’s important to remember that God instituted “generation to generation” leadership in the nation of Israel and also in His Church.
God’s people are instructed to work together and pass the faith from generation to generation.
We will be most effective when the generation who has power now listens to the forward-thinking next generation who will have power soon.
And, we will be most effective when the generation who will have power soon, listens to the wisdom and experience of the generation who has power now.
If I could redo my mid-20s, I would do more listening.
Looking back, I had ideas that our church needed, but those in leadership above me had experience and wisdom that I needed.
I grieve the missed opportunities for ministry effectiveness that were lost.
You don’t have to make the same mistakes. Think forward and listen backward.
Thanks for reading.