A few weeks ago I suggested simply that our methods of developing young leaders in our churches are not working.
We are quick to blame our young leaders for not being ready for ministry. We are quick to blame the seminaries for not preparing our young leaders but we never seem to point our fingers back at ourselves for creating cultures that develop leaders but not disciples of Jesus!
I say all this with a full knowledge that I have not only lived and worked in this system but I have failed many young leaders who I was entrusted to lead. For that I am terribly sorry, but I am also working diligently to right these wrongs in our church and in our ministry. At the beginning of Judges there is a terrifying passage that shakes me to my core each time I read it. If you are a pastor, father or a Christian who cares about the kingdom it should matter to you as well.
Judges 2:7 The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.
No one can argue about Joshua’s generation – It would be foolish to suggest that they were not obedient, to suggest they were not faithful or even to suggest that they weren’t fruitful. They did every thing right except one thing…….they failed to raise up the next generation. I am terrified that our churches, our ministries may see great things done by the Lord but fail to teach our kids and the next generation how to walk as Jesus walked and live as Jesus lived!
The overall reason we are here is that we have created systems that develop leaders & not disciples. We create mechanisms that allow young leaders to forfeit their spiritual gifts and deep calling and instead we tell them their place in the church is a greeter, a child care worker, a “volunteer.” We have stopped inviting kingdom dreamers to seek Gods will for their life and too pursue the kingdom dreams God has given them and instead we call them into small dreams of how to, “grow our churches.” The four areas I targeted were:
1) – The disparity between intellect and character
2) – Microwaved leadership
3) – Results over people
4) – Information without Experience
Here are three simple ways we can get better:
1) – Train for Character – I find it easy to correct competency issues, its easy for me to sit down with someone I am leading and say, “that’s not the best way to do this, why don’t you try this.” It is much tougher to sit down with someone and say, “your not the person you need to be in order to lead as Jesus would lead.” 3DM has a great set of character ?’s that I use often, I will simply ask my huddle or the young leaders I am discipling, “which one of these questions do you not want me to ask you.” I also have to participate in correcting character flaws when I see them. I have tons of phone calls or coffees where I call out specific moments when young leaders make mistakes. Do it in love, do it in grace and do it in truth.
2) – Know Your young Leaders – Take them to a ball game, invite them to dinner, grab coffee! Your tendency will be to be the answer guy, I encourage you to ask tons of questions. You can never really live a life of invitation and challenge with someone out of positional leadership. People may accept your challenge out of fear or out of respect but we want people to respond to challenge out of love. There are a few young leaders who I love like I love my own sons! I feel incredible pride for the men they have become and I have found in them friends that will last a lifetime. What an incredible gift they have given me and I would have missed it if I had not been open to a relationship. This means I have to open up my life for young leaders, I have to open up my home and I have to be available when they need me. My greatest success in ministry is not the titles I have held or the sermons I have preached, or the churches I have started it is the young leaders I have produced. So why do I spend so much time building the church and writing sermons instead of investing in young leaders?
3) – Apprentice Leadership – Our goal is to lead as Jesus lead and to “teach on the road.” To invite young people into our lives and to teach them as we do life together. We have adapted an apprentice leadership model that allows students, and church planters to spend one to four years with us preparing for ministry before we send them out. Our core values and the things we hold most dear is that we want to Connect, Train, Reproduce and Send. This is one of the ways we accomplish those goals. A great method we have learned (from the New thing network) and one we saw in Jesus is to simply take your leaders through a four step process of leading.
- I do you watch (You do the leading the teams you are leading watch & discuss)
- I do you help (You still lead but you begin to give away small pieces to your team)
- You do I help (You begin to give away large pieces of ministry but you still help make that happen)
- You do I watch ( You set free your leaders when you are confident in their ability to reproduce)
Here is our handbook for our apprentice program!