I recently attended a conference (Engage 21) that was addressing the issue of identifying emerging leaders. The purpose of the conference seemed to be an acknowledgment on the part of the denomination that with aging pastors in many pulpits there is a need to raise up younger ministers. There is a need for a mechanism to identify these younger men and women and have a structure in place that encourages them to participate and contribute to the overall vision of the organization--and perhaps even to forge a new vision.
This is a challenge in that the younger demographic is not nearly as loyal to any organization as their parents and grandparents were. (This is not a value statement but a fact revealed in a number of studies.) In society at large, secular organizations (and perhaps even religious organizations) have proven to have little loyalty to workers and therefore workers feel no compulsion to be particularly loyal to organizations. In light of this, organizations need to come to a new realization that loyalty and commitment cannot be assumed, but must earned.
How does an organization earn this loyalty from a younger and often skeptical demographic?
First, the conference was a good start, in that, the organization must be willing to listen. These younger leaders need to believe that their voice will be heard. If they will not be heard within the organization, these men and women will make their voice heard in others venues, such as blogs and message boards. Older organizational leaders have decried the participation of pastors on such boards such as Actscelerate.com, but instead they would do well to visit and read them for themselves, not to criticize, but to understand.
Second, the organization should invest in the youth. If the youth can't or do not want to assume the pastorate of an existing (dying) church, then we should regentrify. That is, as older churches close, reinvest that money in a proven young leader in a new church plant. When the organization uses the money from sales of older properties to bolster state budgets or pay-off state debt, the net result will continue to be negative for the long-term prospects of that organization.
Finally, the youth need to appreciate the wealth of wisdom and experience that is available in the older ministers and learn from them. Admittedly, things have changed and the good-ole-days weren't all that good, but just as organizational leaders need to listen to the youth, the youth need to ask questions and listen to the older ministers.
I'm somewhere in the middle, moving quickly to the older status, and I am eager to share anything of value that I have learned with others. After finishing my Ph.D. in organizational leadership, I hope to do some writing and coaching, and along the way to continue to learn from my older and my younger counterparts.