Do you follow a leader who is younger than you are?

This reality is becoming more and more common and will continue as the Xer’s and Millennials rise into positions of leadership.

Perhaps you are a volunteer leader, and your pastor is young. As an older and more experienced leader, you have a powerful opportunity to impact that young leader, your church and the Kingdom of God in a big way.

On Monday I wrote on this topic from the opposite perspective. You can check out that article here.

For this post, let’s tackle nine practical thoughts that will help your Kingdom impact increase, and help you enjoy your ministry even more.

I’d like to give a special shout out here to Ken Shaffer, who serves at our Bethlehem Campus as the Audio Director on the Production Team. Ken shared some great ideas with me for this post. What an awesome guy, talented leader and faithful servant of God. Ken, you model this so well! 

1) Trust that God has His hand on your situation.

It’s important to trust that this unique leadership relationship did not catch God by surprise. He knows who your leader is and wants you to follow. These “older – younger” partnerships are great. The young leader brings things like fresh ideas, youthful energy, and a cultural connection. You bring experience, wisdom and a larger view. What a great team!

2) Settle the deeper reason for why you serve.

Strive for a heart level and steadfast resolve about why you serve as a leader. That resolve will settle your soul and remove the vast majority of potential challenges and conflict. If you serve first for the sake of the mission, your joy and productivity will increase.

3) Take the initiative to put out fires.

It doesn’t help when an older and wiser leader lets a young leader crash and burn. If you see a major issue brewing or consequence to a particular decision, say something. Take action yourself if you can. Don’t sit back and say “I told you so.” afterward. Or “I knew that would happen.” The church needs you and needs you at your best. Meaning, with a positive and proactive disposition.

4) Share your wisdom and experience.

Mistakes will happen. That’s how young leaders learn. I’ll bet you have made a few mistakes along the way. I know I sure have, and I deeply appreciated when older and wiser leaders extended me grace rather than criticism. It’s true that the young leader needs to be teachable and also possess a positive attitude, but when you are both aligned, it’s a powerful partnership.

5) Don’t undermine authority and confidence.

It’s so easy to make a quick off-handed negative remark around other volunteers that really hurts the team and the mission. And it’s nearly impossible to take it back. It’s too late; you just added a little poison into the culture. If you have a legitimate complaint, talk to your leader directly. Repeatedly asking things like “Are you sure?” Or saying, “If that’s what you really want, well . . . OK, but . . . ” is not helpful.

6) Avoid passive-aggressive behavior.

I loved the illustration Ken shared with me. The pastor says to the audio engineer, “Hey it sounds a bit loud, can you bring it down?” The audio tech says “Sure! No problem!” Then shortly after the pastor walks away, the audio tech slowly brings the fader back up! That made me laugh. We all know that has happened!! (But never at Bethlehem Campus of course!) Keep it real, be honest, and speak the truth in love.

7) Embrace change.

Give change a chance. Remember, you probably changed things when you were the younger leader. Change is not only good, but it’s also necessary. Without change, the church can’t grow. It might not be exactly how you would do it, but go with it. Rather than resist, offer your opinion about how to make a new idea better.

8) Keep learning.

If you keep learning, you’ll keep growing. And if you keep growing you can teach your younger leader things he or she doesn’t know. You can show them how. It’s funny how that works. You already have more experience, so you have valuable wisdom to share. But if you appear to have stopped growing and are locked in on your current answers, people are less likely to want to know what you know. Nothing stays the same. Keep learning and your influence increases.

9) Pray that God will grant legacy to your leadership.

You may have 10, 20 or 30 more years of leadership still to give. Great, that just means more legacy developing time! Legacy is about what lives on after you. That requires pouring into and lifting up younger leaders. Your investment in younger leaders as you empower them to lead exponentially multiplies your leadership. Pray and ask God to use you for His glory and to advance His Kingdom!