Keeping Your Church Young

By Dan Reiland

Churches age and churches die. But intentional leadership can make that divine journey significantly longer and much more spiritually productive. There are several things you can do to help keep your church young, alive and vibrant even though the chronological aging process continues.

This post isn’t about an ecclesiastical fountain of youth. However, I believe “aging” can pivot to “maturing” by making a few key decisions and commitments towards keeping your church young.

1) Choose young leaders.

Mature staff are extremely valuable on your team. Their experience is needed for successful ministry. However, the absence of young leaders, lots of young leaders, is a decision to allow your church to age unnecessarily.

Some churches don’t like to use young leaders. It’s messy. Young leaders lack experience, I know. But young leaders will keep things alive and fun. Young leaders are also full of energy and great ideas; they help you stay relevant with current culture and vision for the future.

Leadership development for your leaders, and especially for your young leaders is essential. 

2) Place a premium on children’s ministry.

When I say premium, I mean choose great leaders, invest significant time and energy, and be as generous as possible with the budget. Without this you are absolutely capping your ability to reach your community.

Please don’t confuse relevant ministry to children with childcare. They aren’t the same. In order to reach kids you need to keep up with the world they live in. That world is fast-paced and built around technology. When you add to that mix loving adult leaders who truly care about children, you create a winning program that the kids will love.

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3) Design your Sunday morning service with a relevant feel.

What is and isn’t young and relevant is subjective. But the big issues are clear. First, choose your music wisely. If you are still singing and playing the stuff we did in the 90’s, it’s time to freshen up what you do.

Second, involve young leaders on the platform. The young musicians and singers will lead you to younger music and a younger vibe overall.  Again, this attracts young people to your church!  If you are thinking, “What about the older people, don’t they matter?” Of course they do. I am one, and I can still make a difference. But we should be more mature. We know that this is not about us, the mission is to reach the lost, and if you reach the next gen, other generations will follow.

Last, make sure all the components of the service reflect a young culture. As you think about humor, video, illustrations, art and especially technology, think young.

Again, if you focus on a younger crowd, the older generations with join in. If you lean toward older, the young will leave.

4) Invest in the next generation.

Raise up and train young leaders, invest in student ministries, and champion the call to vocational ministry among your young adults. Communicate that you believe in the next generation! They are the future!

The vision of the church must capture the young people, and at the same time be compelling enough that older generations get excited about the vision in such a way that they will invest both time and resources. Let’s face it, middle-aged and older generations have no trouble loving and believing in kids; just watch a grandparent with their grandchildren!

This article was originally published at: DanReiland.com

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3 Ways to Become the Godly Elders/Mentors Today’s Youth Need – and Want to Follow

By Karl Vaters

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

This generation wants to honor its elders and be mentored by them.

That may not feel like it’s true – especially if you, like me, are old enough to qualify for senior citizen membership. But I assure you it is.

I know this because I see it all the time. Youth, both in and outside the church walls are looking for genuine relationships with their elders.

They want to learn, connect and grow. They want to be mentored and discipled.

No, not all of them. Most of us didn’t consciously want that when we were their age, either. But in my experience, more of today’s youth want godly older men and women in their lives than we did when we were their age.

Becoming The Elders They Need Us To Be

A couple weeks ago, I wrote, Hey, Boomers! Let’s Step Up And Be The Elders The Church Desperately Needs Right Now, and got a lot of feedback – most of it very encouraging.

But there was some pushback as well. All of the criticism expressed the same viewpoint: today’s youth may need to have elders in their lives, but it’s impossible to find any who are truly willing to be discipled.

So why is there such a difference in the experiences some older believers have with younger ones? And how can we do this better?

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I think it comes down to three primary factors, all of which have more to do with how we, as elders, approach our role than how the youth behave or how they feel.

1. Meet Them Where They Are

Elders need to be willing to meet today’s youth on their turf instead of demanding that they come to ours.

Start by serving, not demanding.

Living and walking along with them, not just talking at them.

This means listening before speaking. Really hearing what they are going through.

When we do that, we’ll discover that they have three types of challenges.

First, they have challenges that are obviously universal. How to negotiate relationships and make wise decisions for instance. On those, we can offer wisdom from our own experience in Christ.

Second, they will express ideas and desires that will seem strange at first (like their choice of entertainment or wanting tattoos), but the more we listen, the more we’ll find common ground. Underneath most of those choices is a desire to both fit in and stand out. When we were younger we felt the same confusion, but expressed it in different ways. (Remember how our parents reacted to our hairstyles and choice of music?) In those situations, we can share wisdom from our common underlying needs, even if we don’t share their tastes.

Finally, there are the challenges they face that truly are different from anything we had to face. For instance, it’s likely that our kids’ and grandkids’ generation will, for the first time in our nation’s history, make less money than their parents did. They’re also facing a culture that is increasingly indifferent, even hostile to a Christian witness. None of that is their fault, but they have to live in the fallout of it. In such situations, the greatest gift we may have for them won’t be good advice, but a listening, sympathetic ear and prayerful, loving friendship.

To become the effective elders the next generation needs, we must have a similar approach as missionaries do when they go in to a culture that is new, and therefore feels strange and sometimes scary to us. In such situations, humility goes a long way. We have to listen and learn before we will have anything to teach.

2. Be Worth Listening To

We need to behave like elders worthy of honor. Living lives that people want to emulate. Following Jesus with such joy, passion and hopefulness that others can’t help but be drawn to him.

If you have a hard time finding young people who want to be mentored, seriously ask yourself this question. Are you behaving in a way that is worthy of being honored? Are you truly setting an example to follow? Not just in (self)righteous behavior, but in selfless generosity and humble teachability.

No one wants to listen to an old crank with a “what’s wrong with youth today?” mentality or a “when I was your age we knew how to respect our elders” attitude.

As elders, it is not our job to convict of sin or correct their behavior. That’s Jesus’ job. And he does it very well.

It’s our job to love them. To lead by example as we live a life of humility, holiness, patience and joy.

Certainly there will be moments of correction. But we have to earn the right to do that by showing ourselves to be trustworthy first.

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

3. Help Them Be Like Jesus, Not Like Us

The goal of an elder or a Christian mentor is not to help the next generation become more like us. It’s to help them become more like Jesus. The only way we can do that is becoming more Christlike ourselves.

The current and coming generations don’t want to do church the way we did it. This is a good thing.

Becoming like your elders isn’t discipleship, it’s mimicry. Repeating their habits and behaviors isn’t growth, it’s going through the motions.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too. Then, when they become more like Jesus, they’ll challenge us to keep growing even more. Each serving and blessing the other in an upward cycle of faith.

A servant will always become like their master. But an elder isn’t a master. An elder follows the Master, and helps others follow him, too.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

Five Ways to Invest in the Next Generation of Leaders – Part 2 of 2

This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

  1. See them as individuals and develop their gifts.

People have a deep desire to be known individually—their unique experiences, gifts, and passions. As you spend time with the next generation of leaders, point out what makes them unique and help them identify and develop their gifts and abilities. Encourage their strengths and affirm when you see them excelling in their gifts. When possible, provide roles to help them develop their strengths.

As I get to know the people in my new small group, I can’t wait to get a fuller picture of what makes each person unique, encouraging each one in their strengths. One young man has spunk and grit, and he will make a fierce leader one day. A young woman has wisdom beyond her years, and one day she will help an organization navigate wisely through a hard season. Yet another young man a free spirit, and one day he’ll remind the church to shake off our tired routines and fall in love with Jesus in a fresh new way. Each young person is made individually and by God for a unique impact in the world. I want to help each one move closer to their unique gifts and calling and watch them come alive.

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  1. Build relationships.

In Mark 3:14, Jesus didn’t just appoint the 12 disciples to go out—he appointed them “that they might be with him.” And Jesus didn’t just bring the disciples around when he was about to teach or perform a miracle. He shared meals with them, travelled with them, and met their families (Matthew 8:14).

The next generation of leaders look up to you, and want to know how you do what you do. They need to see who you are when you’re not in “ministry mode.” How do you balance work, family, and friends? How do you respond when you’re stressed? How do you take care of yourself? What does your marriage look like? Who are your closest friends, and how do you support one another?

Your greatest ministry doesn’t come from the stage. It comes when others witness the thousands of everyday moments when the character of Christ is being formed in you. Allow these young people to see your real life. They don’t just need to learn ministry skills; they need to develop the character that supports the work God wants to do in and through them. Invite them into your home for dinner, let them run errands with you, and provide an inside look into how God is at work in your everyday, messy, chaotic life.

  1. Take a risk and be okay with mess.

If you’re going to take a risk in ministry, let it be on believing in people. Development as a leader is messy and these young people will make mistakes along the way. With your care and guidance, those mistakes will turn into learning opportunities that propel them toward even greater leadership.

I was 23 when I started my first job working with a college ministry. I remember the first couple of times I taught at our weekly gathering, and I wince now to think of how it went. But since then, thanks to more and more opportunities to practice and receive feedback, I’ve grown to be much more confident and effective in teaching.

An omnipotent and omniscient God still chooses to work out His purposes through flawed humans because he knows that we’ll grow and develop to be even more effective leaders through the process. How much more should we be willing to take risks and give young people the chance to learn and grow! Reaffirm that you still believe in them, help them learn from their mistakes, and give them a seat at the table with you.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women-leaders/2017/march/five-ways-to-invest-in-next-generation-of-leaders.html

Five Ways to Invest in the Next Generation of Leaders – Part 1 of 2

By Laura Copeland

Practical tips for raising up more people in ministry

Recently, I started helping with a small group for university students. I’m only a few weeks in, but I’m already in love with them. They’re smart, passionate, kind, creative, and fun to be around. They are crazy about Jesus, and they love the church. They love deeply and care for each other incredibly well. When I look around this small group of students, I see unlimited potential.

As we were leaving after our second meeting, one of them asked me, “Are you sure you want to take us on as a small group? I mean, we’re a little crazy.” I smiled, and told her I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I drove home, I started dreaming and praying about how to help them unleash their God-given gifts to make an even greater impact in the world. These students are the future of the church, and that gives me incredible hope.

An essential ingredient for healthy leadership is the ability to raise up other leaders. This is discipleship at its best: raising up the next generation of leaders in the church who will carry on the mission and vision of Jesus. When we develop leaders, we take the cap off our own leadership capacity and exponentially increase our ability to influence the world around us through discipleship.

In my experience, I’ve found that this generation of young people eagerly look for people to invest in them and challenge them. Here are five tips to help you recruit and invest in the next generation of leaders:

  1. Believe in their potential.

Stop looking for existing leaders, and start looking for passion and natural influence. When he or she speaks up, do their peers listen? Does they ask questions and demonstrate interest in a particular area of ministry? If so, they are exactly who you need to spend more time with. They might not have experience, but maybe that’s because they haven’t been given a chance yet.

A person needs someone to believe in them and tell them they have what it takes. When I was starting out in ministry, I had an incredible boss who saw something in me that I couldn’t yet see in myself. He believed in me, and kept giving me new opportunities that stretched me and helped me grow. If he hadn’t believed in my potential, I would never have developed into the leader I am today. Give a young person the gift of believing in them self, and watch them rise to the occasion.

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  1. Recruit to vision, not to need.

Would you rather help set up chairs, or be part of creating an environment for genuine and authentic community where lives are changed? If we’re in event or ministry planning mode, we often see a list of tasks that need to be done. Then we go about trying to make sure all the tasks are completed. Sure, someone needs to set up chairs, but no one is inspired by that task! Instead, cast vision for how each task helps to accomplish the vision. Specifically, learn to cast vision for how your ministry changes lives.

I work with small groups, and I absolutely believe that small groups are the life of the church. If our small groups aren’t healthy, our church isn’t healthy. Whenever I meet someone who I think could be a potential volunteer, I start sharing my heart for small groups. If I see them get excited about the vision of healthy small groups, then I start sharing a little bit more about what our small-group ministry team does and ask if they would consider being part of how we’re changing lives through small groups. Always lead with vision, not needs. Once someone buys into your vision, they’ll be willing to meet any and every need that comes up. Show them the impact their life can have if they join your team, and you’ll find a loyal team member who will stick with you in the trenches.

This article will continue in the next post.