As young adults, we often complain that the older generations in our church aren’t willing to trust us with ministry innovation or leadership opportunities. We often feel boxed in by the constraints of those who hold the “keys” to the church – the gatekeepers whose effort to ensure missional alignment often restrict what we view as a relevant approach to ministry. How often do we allow this to discourage us? On the other hand, how often do we become the gatekeepers toward those younger or less experienced than us?
I am an advocate of intergenerational ministry collaboration – not just from a planning or implementation perspective, but more importantly, from the ideas and innovation stage. Experience provides context, and seasoned leaders have perspective that helps those who are less experienced to avoid making the same mistakes they have made. Likewise, we have experiences that can help a collegiate or youth avoid making the same mistakes we have made in our lives.
In both situations, there are opportunities for everyone to learn as they intergenerationally grow together – remaining missionally grounded yet procedurally relevant. Learning is bi-directional, and none of us have the perfect recipe in life. The transitions between the varying stages of life, shape all aspects of who we are – especially in regards to our faith experience. Building bridges that join these experiential and generational gaps are key to advancing an engaged and thriving church that is actively sharing Jesus with the world as well as finding better and even more relevant ways to share Jesus.
Ministry discipleship should start with us teaching our mentees how we currently do things. It should then be followed by giving the mentee an opportunity to show us that they understand. What’s key is that once they show an understanding of the mission and project, we must release control and give them creative space to make it their own.
I’m not saying to throw those who are younger or less experienced into the deep end and to walk away – discipleship requires ongoing prayer and support. I am, however, saying that as we pass the “keys” in ministry, we must not hover, and we must recognize that as long as the focus of their efforts remain on Christ, our approach simply may not be the best approach. Nothing created by humans is ever perfect!
Thus, my challenge to you – regardless of your age or level of experience – is to remember that there is always someone you can learn from as well as someone who God is calling you to disciple and give the keys of ministry to. Experience provides context of the “why” but does not make us experts on the “how”. Working together in mission ensures that our focus remains grounded in Jesus and that our methods effectively engage those we seek to minister to in a relevant and organic way. Keychain leadership will multiply the name of Jesus to all ends of the earth so we may go Home to be with Him soon and very soon!