This past week I was in Dallas, Texas participating in Leadership Network’s Next Generation learning community. It was a great time with 16 younger senior pastors (under 40) in churches of 1000+ from around the country. This was the first of four meetings over the next two years. The meetings were facilitated by the LN folks, and the mentors (Larry Osborne of Northcoast Church, John Jenkins of First Baptist Church Glenarden, MD, and Bill Hoyt of NexStep Coaching) helped us process through the myriad issues we face as young leaders in growing churches. After a day of rest and reflection, here are four things that I learned about next generation pastors:
1) This next generation of pastors exalt Jesus. Even though much of the discussion centered around church leadership issues, you could truly feel the underlying sense that Jesus Christ is Lord of the Church and reigns supreme. Jesus was present in every aspect of our conversation, even as we talked about church leadership, vision, and management. I got the sense that we truly want to make Jesus look great among our congregations and communities.
2) This next generation of pastors thinks externally. You could hear every one of these pastors’ heart beat for the world around them… local and global. Some are adopting orphans from Ukraine and Ethiopia. Some have moved into poor neighbors to share the love of Jesus. Some are reaching the marginalized and disenfranchised in their own cities. So much of our conversation centered around what we can do to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to our world.
3) This next generation of pastors can “mentor” Boomer & Builder pastors. “Reverse mentoring” is a term that has been coined to capture this two-way, reciprocal relationship. That’s the uniqueness of the learning community model… more mature mentors led us through great discussions, but I do believe that the learning was two-way. Reggie McNeal (Present Future) writes about Earl Creps’ book Reverse Mentoring, “The world has ended about four times. It happens every time there is an information revolution. New technologies and processes for handling information make the old world obsolete, quickly. When this happens an unusual dynamic asserts itself. Younglings mentor the elders into the way of the new world.”
4) This next generation of pastors is diverse. When you show up in a group of young pastors, you’d expect them all to have faux hawks and cool embroidered shirts. But this wasn’t necessarily the case. There were young pastors from the uber-hip A29 network (I love those dudes), traditional suit-and-tie Baptist Churches, middle of the road non-denom churches, and everything in between. It was really cool to see the diversity of “style” and heart of my new friends.
It’s encouraging to see Jesus using all of the generations to join Him in His great kingdom work of seeking and saving the lost so that He might be made much of (to use the phrase of a favorite 60something pastor).