I am reading a book by Gary L. Johnson, senior minister of Indian Creek Christian Church in Indianapolis, called LeaderShift: One Becomes Less While Another Becomes More. The book is primarily about succession planning for churches but the principles involved go beyond the specific perspective to broader principles of generational leadership.
It is well-known that one of the largest cohorts of infants born in North America was the group born between 1946 and 1964: the Baby-Boomer Generation. The oldest of that cohort turn 68 years old this year while the youngest turn 50. This generation has held most of the major leadership positions within our society and our churches for many years. But, the Boomer generation is slowing down; they travel more, spend less time at their jobs, spend more money, and produce less. They are a major factor in dwindling attendance at churches and other social institutions. Boomers now attend such events 1 to 3 times per month (average of 2) as compared with previous standards of 3.75 times per month.1 Many of them are on the verge of retiring and so it is essential that we have plans in place to see a succession of strong leadership.
Johnson has this to say about the need. He quotes Psalm 127:3-5 (NLT) before going on to comment on this passage.
Children are a gift from the LORD;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.
The context of this passage is about war. . . . The warrior did not keep his arrows in his quiver only to admire them. To the contrary, he shot his arrows where he, the warrior, could not go. Our children – those of the next generation – are the arrows. We need next generation leaders to go where we cannot. We must equip, empower and release them to actually advance the kingdom of God in ways we have only hoped of doing, contending with our Enemy at the entry point of our lives. As for myself, I long for the next generation to rise up and be a formidable threat to the kingdom of darkness by leading the Church in bold and decisive ways. They can – and must – do more for the glory of God in making Jesus the Famous One than we ever dreamed possible. This is my heartfelt attitude towards younger leaders in our faith.2
Johnson’s words are indeed important to the Boomer generation. We must challenge ourselves to “long for the next generation to rise up and be a formidable threat to the kingdom of darkness by leading the Church in bold and decisive ways.” We must long for the next generation to rise up at every level of society as we pass the baton of leadership from one generation to the next. The younger generations need advocates and mentors who will support their leadership and then get out of the way to let them lead. “We need next generation leaders to go where we cannot.” This is vital for a healthy church and a healthy society.
1 These stats are based on broad reading, personal experience, and some related stats (see http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/october/state-of-american-church.html and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/why-nobody-wants-to-go-to_b_4086016.html) but there is a need for someone to do a statistical study.
2 (Johnson 2013, 130, 131)
Johnson, Gary L. LeaderShift. Indianapolis: Moeller Printing, 2013.