The Journey Blog

Reflections on the art of leading

The Great Turn Over

How do we prepare, mentor, coach, and strengthen the future leaders of the church in a world that is radically different from the world in which the Boomers came of age?

If you’re familiar with trending demographics, you know that the largest turnover of human capital in American history has begun with over 40% of the workforce, the Boomer generation, eligible for retirement.

At the same time, we’ve just endured a major economic event in the West, and the rising generation of leaders in the church and in industry are lacking the mentors who can guide them as they yield their own places of leadership.

Given the differences in generational values, and culture shift, it may not be a smooth hand off. 

I became concerned about mentoring, coaching, and developing leaders in the church while serving in Dublin, Ireland with World Harvest Mission. Seeing the mission’s concern for their missionaries, and their efforts to pastor them toward spiritual health, joyful living, and vibrant faith was the start of a long, new kind of education.

Since then, through planting two churches in the U.S. and offering support to church planting colleagues, my concern has grown into a burden. It’s defined my journey. It has moved me to become an advocate and a student of coaching and mentoring—especially for those who will follow the present generation in leadership. Karen and I saw gifted, called, church planters and pastors experiencing crippling challenges and conflict in ministry, and they often made matters worse because they were ill equipped and reactive. As I’ve said in previous posts, in our radically changing world many of our accepted leadership practices are inadequate and unsustainable.

This experience coupled with a growing awareness of the changes mentioned above bring to light a great challenge before the church. Increasingly those in church leadership arrive with only a few years of Christian experience and little or no church background. Still more challenging is that many rising leaders from the middle class, where stability, social skills, and education are expected to thrive, are dealing with issues as young adults that were rare for their predecessors. Emerging Adults  from the wealthy middle class may be well heeled, but frightening numbers leave adolescence with a history of prescription or hard drug abuse, alcoholism, theft in support of their habits, a criminal record, and deep sexual brokenness from pornography and multiple casual sexual partners (Currie).

The gospel is reaching many such young people. Some answer a call to ministry and go to seminary. How many among these future leaders of the church will have not merely a brush with these issues but will have the full range of those struggles as part of their story—struggles that were once found only in the poverty and hopelessness of the hardened urban core? I’m not an alarmist, but this disturbs me. How do we prepare for them? How do we prepare, mentor, coach, and strengthen these in their calling to Christ’s kingdom work—as well as their peers who may have had little exposure to healthy gospel community?