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Shifts To Make When Leading The Next Generation

July 6, 2022

    I heard Erwin McManus share a few years ago that his education had prepared him for a world that no longer exists. Can you relate? I especially feel like in ministering the last couple of years we have all encountered a lifetime of changes. The world itself has changed. People have changed. And so must our leadership. As we lead the next generation, I see a few themes of dynamics that we would do well to adjust our approach if we desire to serve them well! 

    One caveat is that there are totally other ever-shifting dynamics – these are five that I see right now at play. Whether you’re leading college students on a university campus, or leading Generation Z and Millennial teams of staff in your workplace, or maybe you’re a parent with young adult children, here are five shifts we need to consider making as leaders to unlock the destiny of the next generation: 

    Questions > Answers 

    There is nobody in the world who is a know-it-all. As a leader, the quicker we realize we don’t have all the answers, the further our influence can go. This means having the approach of an infinite learner by becoming a lifelong student. The posture of an expert is “I know it all.” The posture of a student is “everyone can teach me something so therefore I can learn from everyone.” 

    I like what Tim Elmore says: “Younger generations are no longer looking for a sage from the stage, they’d rather have a guide from the side.” We live in an information age where search engines are always accessible. What is lacking is relational mentoring. People who care. People who ask questions, share stories and experiences, and invest their time. 

    Getting practical: Become curious! Ask questions and listen. I believe the ability to ask the right questions to the right people is more valuable than having all the right answers. What if this week we all asked more questions than we gave out answers? 

    Talking With > Talking About 

    In our world today, social media is a universally accessible megaphone. Everyone has an opinion. Boldness comes from hiding behind keyboards. Gossip and generalizations are alive and well. The thing about gossip and generalizations, though, is that they leave people in categories. 

    Conversations on the other hand are personal. They’re relational. What if we moved towards individuals with a desire to learn and grow together? What I’m saying is that building one intergenerational friendship might be more impactful than being up to date on all the latest trends and research studies. 

    My fear would always be that this would be the most over-studied and yet underserved generation. I love what Carey Nieuwhof said: “if you’re going to have conversations about the next generation, be sure to include some of them in the conversations!”

    Getting practical: Who can you call, text, or grab coffee with this week? Don’t wait for them to ask – you’re reading this, so make the first move! 

    Personal Invitation > General Announcement 

    I saw this at the church where I spent several years on staff. Every pastor, ministry leader, and department head was always requesting announcement time to build awareness and exposure for their events and ministries. I was one of them! There’s always a place for a pulpit announcement, a social media post, or a mass email.

    There were times that I didn’t get access to have the announcement made. You know what that taught me that I stumbled upon? When we told everyone about the volunteering opportunity, very few people took action. But when we would personally approach some key individuals, nearly all of them gave feedback that they were just waiting to be asked! 

    What I’ve found to be more effective than announcements and advertisements is a personal ask. People want to be wanted, love to be loved, and need to be needed. Think about it: a personal invitation to a church gathering is probably more effective than an ad online. 

    Getting practical: Next time you get ready to make an announcement, think of at least one person to personally invite. See how it goes!  

    Hunger > Hype

    I say this at the risk that all the Enneagram 7’s will unsubscribe from my blog. . . Before you do, let me just say that hype is overrated! In this generation, they’ve been inundated with information and advertisement their entire life. After a while, hype is just like white noise. 

    What young adults are longing for is an authentic encounter. Real relationships. True depth and substance. The things in life that matter the most. I’d say that sincere motives matter more in this day and age than polished production or performance. 

    Sadie Rob Huff recently said: “Generation Z is craving absolute truth and community in dealing with the world around them.” I’ve seen firsthand that there is a hunger like never before among twenty-somethings for the things of God. 

    Getting practical: If a room full of young adults shows up at your church or ministry this week, what do you have to feed them? Sure, physically if you feed people they’ll come. College students love a home cooked meal, no doubt! What about figuratively as well? What do you have to feed them? After all, they are HUNGRY! 

    Encouragement > Criticism 

    Like I said at the top of this article, what worked in leading previous generations is no longer effective or efficient. There used to be a day where people stayed in the same city, church, and workplace their entire upbringing and into their adult life. That day is no longer! 

    Similarly, when it comes to leading younger generations, a shift away from criticism towards one where you find things they are doing right and reward that with encouraging feedback will yield exponential results. 

    I see two primary ways this applies: giving and receiving feedback. The next time someone gives you a compliment or encouraging feedback, ask “what specifically went well?” Similarly, the next time you offer feedback whether it is constructive criticism or encouragement, be as specific as possible! 

    Getting practical: When you see somebody doing something great, say something! Make it your goal this week to catch someone you lead doing something right.