Once upon a time there was a church that became lackadaisical about developing new leaders. Everything seemed to be working well. Eventually, the current leadership grew old and before they knew it, they were too tired to lead anymore. They no longer were able to get out and drive to church. The years had snuck up on them and before they knew it, the organizational reins were slipping out of their painfully arthritic hands.
The church must discover and follow new leaders! Otherwise—fast-forward 70 years—there will be no leadership to follow. The work of developing new leaders doesn’t happen overnight. We will not, at some point in the future, be able to simply flip a switch and make the transition. Just like veteran leaders need years to develop leadership skills, new leaders need the same opportunity to build on the setbacks and victories that teach them through experience.
We current leaders must allow those younger than us to do the hard work of discovering their leadership skills and potential. In a recent conversation, a wise lady in one of our churches said it well. “We have to be patient and hold back so young leaders will learn how to lead.” She was describing what I call “creative tension.”
If we jump in and correct the oversights in the planning, or run behind new leaders taking care of unfinished details, we interfere with the necessary learning curve they must experience for themselves. We learn best from dealing with the consequences of our own mistakes. We take responsibility when we know things really do stand or fall based on our own effectiveness.
A pastor I know was struggling to start a new care ministry. He had singled out a leader for this ministry who was willing and waiting, but the kickoff had been delayed time and again because the pastor was too swamped to organize it. It occurred to him to allow the new leader to gather a team and organize the ministry himself.
The pastor is there and attentive to offer needed encouragement and support. New leadership needs the opportunity to make the decisions about how to proceed in order to own those ministries and develop them for a new and different generation.
Stephen Williams is pastor of Simpson Missionary Baptist Church and an IBSA zone consultant in southern Illinois.