Church must educate young people in leadership

Published 11 May 2012
Young people who are given opportunities to lead will have more passion and be more committed to the church, says Bob Wallington.

Speaking at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Esher Surrey, Wallington said there was a “serious lack” of leadership training for young people in the church.

Wallington is the associate director of Onelife, which holds regular conferences to equip and release young people as leaders into every sphere of society.

“The world is educating our young people in what leadership is and it is not doing a very good job,” he said.

“It is usually someone who has had a major downfall.

“The things young people are hearing from the world about leadership are not right and the things they see in the leaders are not good things.

“We need to educate our young people about what leadership is.”

Wallington said there was a temptation among youth leaders to be so busy that their ministry could become more about running programmes than pulling the best out of young people.

He challenged youth pastors and workers to be intentional about the events they put on and ensure that leadership training with the young people in their church happens on an “ongoing basis” and “not accidentally”.

Churches also need to cultivate a “culture of encouragement” that lets people know they are valued and capable.

“Most young people feel nervous about leadership,” he explained.

“Some will have questions like: ‘I’ve done this in the past’, ‘I’ve got this history, ‘This has happened.’

“But a culture of encouragement causes them to say ‘It’s tough but I’m going to give it a go’.”

He continued: “We’re really good sometimes at judging people and saying that’s why you fell. But what young people really need to know is that it’s ok to fail and that when they do, you are going to encourage them to get back up there, to give it another go, and take a step further along the tightrope.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Wallington suggested that churches could be so preoccupied with “protecting” young people and “laying a foundation of cotton wool” that they never get round to pushing them out and letting them having a go of leading.

“There will always be an element of risk in asking young people to step up but it is a glorious risk and when they succeed and fly, it is wonderful,” he said.

However, opportunities to lead must be based within “real contexts”, Wallington said, and especially contexts that put young people beyond their area of safety i.e. beyond their own church walls.

“Asking young people to do readings in church or to serve coffee or tea at the back will only go so far in calling the leadership that God puts in them, out of them.

“After a while those contexts become slightly boring to young people.

“[They ask:] Is there more to my leadership than just reading at the front of the church? There is more to see in leadership in young people than that.

“We want our young people to experience what leadership really is: teambuilding, inspiring vision in people, problem solving, developing creativity and strategy, and inspiring people’s hearts and minds.”

If young people are given that challenge, they will thrive and they will grow – fast. They will also see just how big an impact they can have, he concluded.

“It just helps them see that the world is bigger than the local church context and that their leadership can impact further than their local church context.”

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