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Investing in the Next Wave of Leaders

next generation

They looked defeated, yet I was smiling. As the two high school guys from my small group emerged from their room, they exclaimed, “Chris, That Was So Difficult!” I told them that they did a good job and that small group leading is not always easy. They had just had their first experience leading a group of middle school guys and were feeling a little defeated. We sat down for a few minutes to debrief, and at the end of the conversation, they were already for next week.

If there is one thing I love about ministry, it’s forming other leaders. Allowing someone to discover their gifts and drive brings me joy. When I get to do that with the young church, it’s even more satisfying. Right now, the church is in great need of leadership, and therefore, we must start inviting the young church to lead like we never have before. While there is always a place for peer ministry and mission camps, it’s about turning it up a notch and giving them:

OPPORTUNITIES WHERE THEY ARE FREE TO LEAD

One of the reasons I’ve failed at raising the next generation of leaders is because I’ve tried to force them into areas where the people in charge have too much control. It would be best if you found leaders who want to mentor and invest in their leaders. Sometimes that means creating a new ministry, but it’s better to start with opportunities that lead to success.

ADVOCATES AND MENTORS WHO WILL HELP THEM GROW

There are people in your parish that understand that the church needs to always look at who is next in line. These are men and women who know how to listen and are willing to accompany a young person through different scenarios and challenges. They don’t have to serve in the youth ministry directly; in fact, if they are in other parish areas, that’s even better because it’ll spread your influence.

THE POWER TO DELEGATE AND COLLABORATE

On top of giving them responsibility for a specific task, we need to give them the responsibility to lead others. That means putting them in charge of a task where they are providing directives and delegating tasks. A few of those projects could be a brainstorming session for a message series or planning and executing a parish event. You can start with something small, but make sure you surround them with teens and adults who will respect their position despite their age.

As they go through the experience, sit down with them to remind them about clear and consistent communication. Talk them through any interpersonal conflict that may arise during the project. The more we can help teens learn how to delegate and own a project, the better we can equip them to rally a team. By creating better team leaders, we can make sure that the next generation of leaders knows how to collaborate and invest in others.

A PIECE OF THE VISION

Usually, when we talk to teens about serving and leading others, we diminish it to earn service hours and boost their college application. When we do that, we minimize God’s calling for their life. When we talk about raising the next generation of leaders, we are talking about something more than free labor; we’re discussing the church’s future and present status.

Do our teens know that their discipleship and growth as a leader will impact the church’s future? If they did, would they behave differently? If the current leaders in our parish embraced that truth, how differently would the church look?

To raise the next generation of leaders, we need to invite them to serve and invite them to see the big picture. Don’t hold back on sharing with them the vision that God has given you and the Church. Remind them that their contribution to the church matters and that they are a part of something bigger than the world could ever offer.

How are you raising a new generation of leaders in the Church?

This article originally appeared here.

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Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met his wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, he was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.