Leadership has never been a spectator sport; we must get in the game from day one.
When you’ve invited a young leader onto your team, it’s important that you’re prepared to develop them, willing to hand them the ball and let them run.
How fast and far you let a young leader run depends on their skill level, experience, and growth rate as they are developed.
However, my experience is that most young leaders are more capable and ready to run than their coaches perceive them to be.
Young leaders are our future; let’s help them lead!
How can you know when a young leader is ready?
One way to discern a young leader’s readiness is through the process of inclusion.
In short . . . Include them in the game!
If we allow fear that a young leader might make a mistake, not do it as well as we can, or just flat drop the ball to be reasons not to include them, they’ll never learn to lead.
I can’t tell you how many times I made a mistake as a young leader, but my coaches kept putting me back in the game.
Leaving a young leader on the sidelines does not help them become the leader they were meant to be.
My mentors did have standards. While there were no penalties for mistakes, there were consequences for making the same mistake twice because that indicated I wasn’t learning.
Those consequences, however, were not imposed by those who led me; they were delivered by everyday life. My mentors were trying to help me grow!
7 practices for inclusion of young leaders
1) Inclusion starts with your beliefs, convictions, and security as a leader.
I’ve never worked with a church that couldn’t use a few more good leaders.
If your programming outpaces your ability to lead it well, you can back yourself into a difficult corner, yet there is often very little attention given to a pathway to raise up more and better leaders.
We agree on the need.
So, where does this break down?
Sometimes it’s no more complicated than there is no process to find and develop leaders. But it often starts with things like:
- The connection between vision and leadership isn’t clear
- Inability to trust and let go
- Failure to see the potential in young leaders
- Lack of empowering
- Protecting your emotional and organizational territory
- Perfectionistic tendencies
- Do you believe that without more and better leaders, you will not realize your vision?
- Are you willing to empower and let go?
- Can you personally identify one potential leader?
- Do you have a simple process for developing leaders?
2) Inclusion involves the combination of opportunities and training.
If we give a young leader opportunity without training, that isn’t delegating; it’s dumping. And training without opportunity is discouraging. Opportunity and training work best in partnership together. That’s how a leader grows.
I asked a small group apprentice leader how often she led the group. She said she never leads; she was just the leader’s “helper.” That’s a mistake. Observation is helpful but not enough by itself. If a person is genuinely apprenticing to lead, let them step up to the plate and take a swing!
Your leadership opportunities (ministries) should not advance faster than your ability to train your leaders to lead them.
3) Inclusion must embrace the weight and demands of responsibility.
Giving a young leader real responsibility allows them to experience the weight of leadership.
Can you imagine a drill sergeant running alongside a new recruit carrying his pack and weapon for him? Of course not; they have to carry the weight. If not, they are not prepared when they encounter the real pressure of battle.
Training and support for your young leaders is vital, but don’t attempt to protect them from taking a hit. Leadership doesn’t happen from behind a computer screen; it’s a contact sport. Let them feel it, or you hurt them in the long run.
Know each leader well enough so you know just how much weight will stretch them but not hurt them. If you are unsure, keep your conversation with them open, honest, and current.
4) Inclusion never escapes the sacrifice of leadership.
The Church was born out of sacrifice. Jesus established that on the cross. Sacrifice is still required for growth.
What do you give up? I really don’t want to make a list. That’s between you and God.
The toughest thing about sacrificing for ministry is not giving something up; it’s knowing where to draw the line. Legalism is you drawing lines for others. Bondage is others drawing lines for you. You and God have to work it out.
When young leaders face difficult choices that arise from pressure in ministry, talk with them, coach and guide them, but let them decide.
5) Inclusion involves honest ongoing conversations, assessment, and feedback.
I’ll name one common sacrifice in ministry. Time. It’s common to give up time for yourself to invest in others.
It takes time to include young leaders.
The good news is that most of us find that investment to be pure joy, and again, you draw your own healthy lines.
Time is needed for ongoing conversations that honestly discuss the complexities of ministry leadership, assess their progress, and give helpful feedback.
6) Inclusion needs to demonstrate the power of partnership.
In John 17, often referred to as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, He clearly emphasized unity.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.John 17:20-23
We were created for community, designed for the operation of differing spiritual gifts together, and where one is weak, we find strength in the other.
Partnerships can be in twos or in teams.
Partnerships are powerful. If someone is discouraged, another lifts that person up. If one is under attack, the other prays. If one is lacking a gift or skill, another steps up.
Invite a young leader into partnership, establish trust and healthy boundaries, and cast a vision for how you are better together!
7) Inclusion should always incorporate the joys, celebrations, and blessings of leadership.
Most leaders tend to over-celebrate or under-celebrate.
Parties are fun but not so productive, yet work without play is dull and can become drudgery. Teams don’t function well without some lighthearted play and planned fun.
I lean toward under-celebrate. I love to play; it’s just not my first instinct. However, I’m aware of it, so I intentionally create and embrace lighthearted moments.
How about you? Which way do you lean?
Young leaders need to experience the joys, blessings, and celebrations of wins in leadership. So make some time to thank God for the successes and have some fun!