Andy Monks believes today’s young people are the ’now’ generation who can move the church forward
I have been a leader of children and young people for over 15 years. And whilst I have poured my life into to trying to lead these young people well, one thing I have come to realise, is that they have led me just as much as I have led them.
In the modern world, we seem to limit leadership to a position that is only achievable when you reach a certain age or stage of life. But what if that wasn’t the best way to see leadership? What if leadership is not about holding a position? What if leadership is not limited by age? What if young people are not the next generation, who can lead one day, but the now generation who can lead today?
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12 ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.’ From these words that Paul speaks over a young Timothy, I believe that there is one key truth that rings out: young people can lead and have influence, today. They do not have to wait for the future, but they can start today. Leaders and influencers ‘set an example’ for others to follow and this verse demonstrates that this can be a reality for those who are young.
Leadership is influence
Leadership expert John C. Maxwell states that ‘Leadership is influence. Nothing more and nothing less.’ If this statement is true, which I believe it is, then anyone can be a leader and have influence, regardless of their age. What’s more, influence naturally happens in every interaction we have with someone. In every interaction you are always leading someone somewhere. Leadership is that simple. It’s about relationship, not holding a position. (For more on leading go here).
While this sounds great in theory, I know you will have one big question: ‘what can I do to help my child be a leader and have influence?’ Well, having worked with young people for a long time, here are some key things I think you could do, as a parent, to help your child be equipped to lead and have positive influence.
1. Give Opportunities
You will never know what your gifting is, unless you use it. Therefore, it is important that young people are given opportunities to try new things, even if they feel like they won’t be good at something or may not enjoy it at first glance. I remember when I went to university, I had an opportunity to play ultimate frisbee. I had never played this sport before; I did not know the rules and I was unaware of what made a good player. In the end, I loved ultimate frisbee and even got player of the year at the end of the season.
Leadership is exactly like this. If we want to discover where we will best steward influence and where are gifting is, we first have to be willing to give something a go. As a parent, giving your young person opportunities is one of the best things you can do to help them become self-aware and discover where their gifting and Gid-given influence lies.
2. Set Boundaries
Submission is a word that is often mention in the Bible. However, it is not a word we like to use in our world today. This is because we are focussed on being free and doing whatever we want. Many young people often live with this mentality, but usually this freedom does tend to come back and bite them in the end. Additionally, when it comes to leadership and influence, people can have a tendency to leave jobs or give up if a boss or their leader is not someone they like or is someone who frustrates them.
The reality is, on the leadership journey, someone will always be ahead of you – for starters God is the ultimate leader and no one will ever take Him off His throne. As a result, children need to learn submission from a young age. They need to understand the power of ‘no’ and they need to know the power of ‘yes’. In short, they need boundaries. As a parent, setting good boundaries sets young people up for the submission that a life of leadership requires.
3. Make Memories
Due to the fast pace of our modern society, we live in a ‘finished, next’ society. When one task or event is complete our mind quickly shifts to what is to come next. As a result, we take little time to celebrate the success of a moment and get it stored up into our memory banks. Moments need celebrating, and by celebrating you help a young person to remember. To remember what happened. To remember how good it felt when they succeeded and had influence.
Everyone needs encouragement and your young people are no different. Therefore, take time to mark moments that deserve celebrating. This will make such a difference to your young persons perception of leadership. It will help them to learn the skill of reflection, which creates a space for growth, development, and maturity. The early they learn this the better; as this will demonstrate to them how to lead a team in the future for themselves, because everyone wants to follow a leader who values and celebrates them.
I go into this topic in more detail in my new book: ‘The NOW Generation’