Monday, 13 September 2010

Growing Leaders - Part 1 continued

The first chapter of Part 1 looked at what is Christian leadership, thinking about what leadership is, and what makes Christian leadership distinctive. Click here to read my (rather long!) summary of the chapter.

The second part of Part 1 (chapter two) looked at 'The Leadership Challenge'.

We live in an age where lots of people have lots of things to say about leadership. This comes in the context of a society that has seen enormous change over the last 100 years, and so leaders have had to emerge within that to direct change and carry people along with it.

The church doesn't exist within a vacuum, and so the widespread discussion of leadership has led to some challenges for the church:

- In a world of change, there are a variety of views about what is the place of change in the church?
- The wealth of expectations and ideas on how people should lead within society have penetrated the church. As a result, within church different people have different ideas on how the church should be lead.
- Increased expectations are placed upon leaders within church, due to the increased interest in leaders, leadership and what they should be doing.

Lawrence pointed out that leaders themselves face different challenges, and helpfully outlined how these challenges are often different depending on what stage of life you are in.

Challenges for younger leaders (age 18-35)

Lawrence recognised that young leaders now come in to leadership from a very different emotional and spiritual place to 50 years ago. Faced with the lost generations of contemporary society, they seek to think of new and innovative ways of doing church, leading and reaching out to the world. He made a helpful (it seems to me) plea to those with responsibility over younger leaders, as well as the younger leaders themselves:

We need to release younger leaders to experiment with new models church, leadership and evangelism, and ensure that we provide appropriate support, mentoring and accountability.

In this time of transition we also need younger leaders who are prepared to learn from older leaders and exercise self-control and submission; and to be loyal before we speak out of place.

...submission does not mean self-contempt or loss of identity, or giving up on wanting the very best. It means appropriate loyalty, respect and honour for those in authority over us. It means quietly reflecting on what are the real issues, graciously listening and learning before speaking and telling.

Challenges for older leaders (Age 50+)

Older leaders came into leadership expecting something very different to what is expected of them now - they can feel ill equipped after a lack of ongoing training (or an unwillingness to receive it!).

The challenge is to be a wise and patient older leader, willing to put up with youthful arrogance and to love them through failure. But an indispensable older leader is one who is not only willing to mentor younger leaders, but is willing to accept that they may actually be able to learn something from those younger than them.

Challenges for leaders in the middle years (age 35-50)

The challenge often faced by leaders in this bracket, Lawrence argues, is that up until this point they've been growing in abilities and skills, but there has been little emphasis on growth in character and reliance on grace etc (something I think is very true, and something that it seems Living Leadership is trying to address - brilliant work, I think!). And so leaders get to this stage in life and find they struggle with burn-out, drop-out, level-out, fall-out and spread-out (each of which he defines - read the book if you're interested!).

Lawrence then spends some time discussing the fact that some people are in leadership in positions that they're simply not suited for, and outlines some ways to handle this.

Finally, Lawrence points out a few reasons why, in churches, we often have too few leaders. He discusses:
- a limited theology of leadership: thinking leadership is restricted to a particular age, gender, role etc.
- a limited experience of leadership: we only have experience of one type of leader, and therefore we only chose people like that.
- a lack of opportunity for leaders: we provide too few contexts for leaders to develop and grow for a variety of reasons (personality, culture, judgementalism, historical problems).
- a lack of clear model of leadership: we're unclear about how leaders grow and hope they'll emerge as developed leaders.

The rest of the book seeks to provide wisdom on how to help grow those in leadership. Watch this space...

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