Younger leaders – A new generation needs to be mentored into significance

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The global Church has a leadership problem, according to the authors of a survey conducted for the Cape Town 2010 Congress. Most leaders surveyed believe the top causes of our problems are a lack of effective training, and that older leaders don’t allow younger leaders to develop.

The survey, with over 1000 respondents from all regions of the world, was conducted on behalf of the Lausanne Leadership Development Working Group. However, only one aspect  touched on emerging leaders, on a busy and stimulating Friday for the 4200 delegates presently meeting at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

The results were presented in a multiplex session entitled 'How do we build a new generation of Christ-like leaders?' The session was so popular participants had to be turned away at the doors.

Shamira Manwar, a young leader from India, who presented a case study at the multiplex on biblically-based leadership training with grassroots politicians in India, commented on the challenges faced by younger leaders. 'We are struggling to find mentors. I really believe that it’s crucial for older leaders to invest in [younger leaders]. This will help make the leadership transition between generations smoother and we will be less likely to make the same mistakes.'

Her husband Ashish added: 'We are a fatherless generation – mentors are important but we also need models to be examples. By bringing people together it creates unity – and the learning goes both ways, often the older leaders learn from the young.'

The theme of fatherlessness was continued in the evening plenary session which celebrated the continent and people of Africa, and looked in more detail at ministry to children and youth. More than 60% of Africans are under the age of 25 years, making Africa 'the church of the future' in the words of Daniel Bourdanné of IFES. Yet only 1 in 40 young people on the continent have a healthy relationship with their father. How is a fatherless generation meant to be the future of the global church?

Ndidi Sam-Woruka, from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, made a comment on the Lausanne Global Conversation website, 'The oldies are too busy to make time to mentor the youngies; they lord it over them and are more inclined to use people to accomplish the task than to raise people to accomplish the task. The youngies, like orphans, struggle to develop themselves through every other available option (experience, bible school, etc.), and to influence their successors.'

This might explain why the leadership survey quoted the top reasons for leadership failure as including burn-out, abuse of power and pride. Not empowering the younger generation takes its toll on both the younger and the older leaders. But encouragingly, according to the survey, leaders put mentoring/coaching at the top of their list for desired classes in leadership development.

Grace Samson, part of the Lausanne Younger Leaders Network, spoke of the hierarchical cultural systems in Africa that often hold back young people in the continent. 'We need those with life experience to help young people – they need to stand on the shoulders of giants. Older people don’t have to stand aside they just need to work out how to release the potential of the youth of Africa.'

Young people have played a key role in most of the major world events throughout history, both for the good and the bad.

'Don’t ignore their potential,' said Grace. 'They have raw energy and it all depends on who taps it. With young people change happens.'

And change was in the air. As the majority of the delegates headed home to well-deserved rest, hundreds of younger leaders (those at the conference under 40) met to build relationships and listen to a greeting from the Lausanne Chairman Doug Birdsall.

Michael Oh, head of the Younger Leaders network and President of Christ Bible Seminary in Nagoya, Japan, spoke about the need for mentorship and announced the launch of a mentorship network for younger leaders as well as training in collaborative ministry and the organization of regional meetings. The younger Lausanne leaders are certainly planning to be the future of the movement.

Doug Birdsall closed by speaking about a fresh wind blowing from Cape Town. 'These are winds of change, winds of hope and winds of courage. We are looking to a generation willing to make sacrifices and dream dreams. The future is as bright as the promises of God.'

Perhaps if both young and old leaders support one another towards the task of global evangelization, a new generation of leaders will be able to celebrate God’s blessing at the next Lausanne Congress.

Miles Giljam                                                                                                                      

Editor’s note: for more information, or for media access to photographs, news releases and audio/video clips, email [email protected], or go to www.lausanne.org/news-releases or www.lausanne.org/conversation

Cape Town 2010 being held 16-25 October is the latest global congress sponsored by The Lausanne Movement, begun by Billy Graham in 1974. The Congress is possibly the most representative gathering of the Christian church in history. Apart from the 198 countries meeting in South Africa, it extends to another anticipated 100,000 individuals at nearly 700 GlobaLink sites in more than 95 countries around the world.