Attracting Younger Leaders



Recently, I have been thinking and praying about how to become the sort of leader who attracts younger leaders to his team.   I have this crazy idea that if the Church is going to move and thrive into the next century it will need to do a better of job of nurturing, equipping and empowering the "next" generation for the task.

I'm the pastor of a mainline Protestant church---Presbyterian, to be precise---and mainline Protestant churches are not exactly known to be the sort of places where young leaders are valued and equipped.

Let's put it this way, at the ripe old age of 43 I still get approached by people at our denominational gatherings who are shocked that I am a "senior" pastor of a larger congregation.

So what I am saying is that in my particular context, I am perceived to be the young leader.  Most of the churches in my denomination fall in love with the idea of having younger people in leadership, but only in very specific, limited and diminished roles.  Often when younger people begin to assert their leadership gifts in their local church, they experience a great deal of pushback from the establishment---unless their leadership is asserted in the areas of youth or college ministry.

Or in support of existing ministries or events that don't appeal to them...

I remember having a heated discussion with an older lady from the church I was serving at the time about why there were no "young people" at the annual "Hanging of the Greens" at our church.  She was incensed that as a younger minister, I had not done more to get them to attend.  "How can you let all of these older men climb up and down these ladders?" she demanded.  In reality,  the senior pastor and I had been up and down more ladders than anyone that day---and we were both in our early 40's.  I explained to her that I had indeed issued an invitation to the "younger" people, but that since the "Hanging of the Greens" was held at 8:30 AM on a Saturday morning, I was unsuccessful in convincing them to come.

She was not thrilled by my answer, and I was then subjected to a diatribe on how lazy and shiftless the emerging generations had become.

Not all mainline Protestant churches struggle with this----just most of them.

I recently discovered a great post on the Catalyst blog by Brad Lomenick.  You can read his whole post here:

You Want Young Leaders on Your Team?  OCTOBER 10, 2011

Or, if you like, you can simply read the main points below.  I can tell you that I plan on making these eleven characteristics part of my leadership skill set.  I don't just want young leaders on my team---I need them, and if you are in church leadership, you do, too.

1. Humility, combined with incredible passion and skill. Jim Collins writes about this as the key characteristic of a level 5 leader.


2. Unwavering commitment to reaching their desired audience and accomplishing the mission. Know the hill they are climbing and willing to fight to get to the top.


3. The IT factor- hard to explain, but easy to spot. Young leaders can sense it and want to be tied to leaders with IT.


4. Collaboration and not competition. A leader who celebrates others’ victories along with their own.


5. Willing to give over responsibility vs. a “wait your turn” mentality- will allow young leaders to lead if they are qualified and can handle it.


6. Authenticity- They keep it real. Young leaders clamor towards authentic and honest leaders.


7. Open to change- a big deal. If you as a leader are not open to change, no one worth their salt will probably be willing to follow you, especially younger leaders. 


8. Can have at least a little fun. Like attracts like. It’s a reality= regardless of age, demographic, and style. The next generation wants a family environment that is fun and experiential.


9. Passionately create a culture that takes risks, allows for failure, and thinks outside the box.


10. BIG vision. Young leaders want to change the world, and want to follow leaders who think BIG and dream big.


11. BEST at what they do. Regardless of industry or profession or organization, young leaders want to be part of a culture and organization built on excellence with a desire to be great. This is why Google and Facebook and Apple have hundreds of thousands of college graduates clamoring for a chance to be on the team.



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