How do you train up the next generation? Is that something that you even think about in life and ministry? As I’m thinking about the work that I’ve done throughout graduate school, now heading into my second year at Grace Community Church, and now entering fatherhood, I really want to make sure that what I’m learning and have learned does not die with me. I’m challenged by Judges 2:6-10. At this time in Israel’s history, they had seen the “great work that the Lord had done for Israel” (2:7) and had entered the Promised Land (Canaan). “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua.” (2:7)
But Joshua died. And the people buried him.
“And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” (2:10)
An entire generation forgot the work of the Lord. If we neglect our duty of telling the great story of God’s redemption to our children and to those we are working to raise up as leaders and followers of Christ, we will repeat the story of the Israelites. That bothers me! So here’s a few principles that will guide me as I work to raise up apprentices in 2009.
1. I will be intentional. If I never tell someone that I think they’d be a great leader, and intentionally work to develop them as a leader, it won’t happen. Apprenticeship does not happen naturally. You have to work at it. I will have to intentionally invest in others for the express purpose of building them up as a leader.
2. I will take risks. I will not just look for the most ‘mature’ people to step into leadership. If that’s the model that Jesus used, he probably would not have chosen any of the disciples. Rather, Jesus chose people who had a lot of growing to do. I will take risks on those who are not finished growing yet, but who are pursuing Jesus with all they’ve got.
3. I will give leadership opportunities. Some people need to be pushed out of the boat. They need to be given the opportunity to lead, with the real possibility of failure, but in the context of being shepherded. In other words, I will present leadership opportunities to those who I am shepherding, and actually follow up with them to see how it went. What went well? What tanked? How did you prepare for the opportunity? What will you do differently next time? If they’re never given the opportunity to lead, they won’t develop into a leader.
4. I will encourage apprentices where I see them leading well. Encouraging someone presupposes that I listen to them, ask hard questions, and look for the ways that the Lord is working in their life and ministry. “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13) Encouragement works to fight against sin and burnout in leadership.
5. I will speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). I already know that this will be tough. Have you ever tried telling someone that what they did or said was wrong? How about doing that not out of a sense of entitlement, or from a stance of pride, but from a heart of love? That’s radical. And the crazy thing is that, when it’s truth in love, God uses it to work for their good.
That’s my plan for pouring into the next generation. What’s yours?