4 things young leaders bring to the church
“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example to those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:12
Paul obviously thought that the young leader, Timothy, had the capacity to be an example to others in the way he spoke, acted and lived. So what can we as a church learn from younger leaders today?
“Are you for real?”
1: Authenticity. Younger people seem to have an innate ability to see through hypocrisy. Children have an endearing (albeit sometimes embarrassing) honesty, and I wonder if those in their 20s and late teens have not yet quite ‘grown out’ of it? So many younger leaders I know are wonderfully eager in their pursuit of authenticity – in their relationships, in their actions and in the way they see church. They are not prepared to put up with half truths and they can spot a lack of honesty at great distance. Trinity’s emphasis on full-time residential training means that we’re a place where people live in close community over several years – too long a time to simply ‘be nice’! So genuine relationships are formed that come from sharing life honestly, and sometimes by working through conflict. If our younger leaders can be encouraged to take this capacity to build real community wherever they go in their future ministries, then our churches will be richer and deeper as a result.
“Let’s get on with it”
2: Action. Many younger people are fed up with the cynicism and apathy of previous generations and want to get on with making a difference, changing things where they are not as they ought to be. There is great physical and emotional energy that often comes with youth and while, of course, younger people need to learn the discipline of stillness and reflection, we must encourage their hunger and willingness to see faith spelled out in actions. Many of our students in their church placements act as catalysts in their local communities, helping to put feet and hands on the command to feed the hungry, visit the prisoner and spread the good news of Jesus in both word and deed.
3: Passionate commitment. When the Archbishop of Canterbury visited Trinity at the start of last term, he joined us in a chapel service and commented on the “engaging and enthusiastic” worship he had been part of with us. I believe that one of the things young leaders bring is a sense of passionate and unreserved commitment to the work and word of God. It has often been thought in the past that young people ought to go and get more ‘life experience’ before committing to full-time church leadership, but there is something incredibly humbling about a younger leader committing wholeheartedly to serve God’s people right from the start of their working lives. Yes, they will have to work on building the long-term resilience needed to maintain a lifetime of ministry, but that is where we’re pleased to be able to help our students put in place some good practices and disciplines that will see them through, even when the passion feels less intense.
“Why do we do it like that?”
4: Questions. One of the joys of teaching in a college with a high number of younger students is that there is a healthy desire to question and challenge the way things have been done in the past. Of course the ability to do this is not limited to the young students, but I do sense a special capacity amongst our younger leaders to work out how the received traditions of the past might be reimagined for this generation. Now more than ever the church needs radical and fresh-sighted reinvention of its practices and disciplines. Certainly younger leaders need older leaders and must seek out the wisdom of previous generations to root themselves firmly in the goodness of the past. But the ability – and willingness – to question the status quo is to be celebrated.
It is important to say that, of course, these things are not limited to the under 30s – there are plenty of people of all ages who exhibit these traits. But there is something unique about the way in which these characteristics are expressed and used by leaders who are just starting out, and as the church of Christ we need to support, protect and celebrate the passion and gifts he has given them for our strengthening.
2/3 of Trinity’s current intake are under 30 – join them today >