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learnings about leadership

learnings about leadership

Just about every congregation I coach seeks to engage young adults in the life and ministry of the congregation.  So often, though, congregations sabotage their best efforts in doing so.  Listed below are 10 tips, shared by young adults, for engaging them more fully in mission and ministry.

  1. State the WHY before sharing the WHAT. Supporting a worthy cause and having opportunities to give back are important to them but rarely do they hear invitations to serve that include how their involvement will lead to transformed lives and communities. Keep the cause front and center.  They will work hard for a vision bigger than themselves. Share your dreams before sharing your plans for involving them.
  2. Give them projects, not a life sentence. Provide “sprinter” opportunities rather than “marathon” commitments.  Offer short-term or one-time opportunities for making a difference. Suggest specific start and end times for every project.
  3. Build significant relationships with young adults rather than using them to complete a task.  People of all ages are longing for authentic community and sense of belonging.  Recognize their values, not just their strengths. Honor their ideas and learn from their wisdom. Build friendships with them as you work toward a common cause.
  4. Stay connected between gatherings through Facebook, Twitter, texting and other online tools.
  5. If you want a response, text first, or DM, then call. Or send a Facebook message. Realize that emails and phone calls aren’t usually their preferred ways of staying in touch.
  6. Lead each person uniquely. As much as possible, customize your interactions with young adults rather than treating everyone the same. Empower them early and often. Encourage the heart by verbal affirmations, text messages saying “thank you” and token gifts that recognize their contributions. Ask them what they need to best their best work on behalf of the church, and then seek to honor their request.
  7. Coach them and encourage them. They want to gain wisdom through experience. Come alongside them. Hold them accountable, providing ongoing feedback related to their contributions. Serve as spiritual elders to them and model the way, just as Paul was to Timothy. Lead by example and not just by words.
  8. Be willing to be coached by them.  View yourselves as lifelong students, allowing young adults to share  new ways of being, thinking and doing. Their observations, perspectives and unique angles of vision may be the biggest gift they provide you and your congregation.
  9. Make authenticity and honesty part of your congregational culture.  Be willing to rethink assumptions and practices to get better results. Avoid doing things the way they’ve always been done in the past. State what’s working,  Acknowledge what’s not working. Invite young adults into conversations that lead to better results and God’s preferred future.
  10. Stamp out mediocrity, gossip, scapegoating and anything actions and conversations that derail your efforts. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.  Focus on what might work rather than what doesn’t. Focus on using your influence to make a difference rather than blaming others who impede your progress. Playing the blame game and the or a victim role serves nobody, regardless of age.


As mentioned earlier, the 10 tips highlighted above are from conversations with young adults.  At 54, I have to say that they resonate with me too!  We all want to use our gifts to make a difference.  We all thrive when we work together in settings that are hopeful, fun and life-giving. May we all find ways to team together as we partner with God to build God’s dream for the world.

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