Tomorrow's Shepherds today - A Description of the Current Leadership
Jesse has used our congregation as another case study for his Masters program. Over the next few weeks, we will publish this paper for us to be able to review and discuss. If you have any feedback, Jesse would love to hear from you.
Before any plan can be developed for future leadership development, there needs to be a clear understanding of the current leadership. One group of researchers found that, “The more you can clearly identify who provides actual leadership at your church, the better you can explore what it’s truly accomplishing – including questions like whether the group is the best size, uses the best meeting strategies or involves the best people for what you actually need” (Bird and Hartwig 28). Central North currently does not and has never had elders. As in most other churches without elders, they have men’s business meetings. These meeting are conducted once a month. The church has also never had a full-time preacher, which parallels the leadership responsibilities in that many of the men share the duties. Preaching and teaching is something that most of the men are encouraged to be involved in, and so too is the business and leadership of the church. The older men do a good job of encouraging the younger men to serve and grow in these roles. There is a good solid core of younger males in the age range specified for this study.
There are no less than twelve young men in the Central North church of Christ. One thing that make this group special (and Central North as a whole) is the culturally dynamic nature of their makeup. Many of them come from different countries, different cultures, as well as different churches. This means that they have a wide array of knowledge and experiences from which to draw, and which might impact their view on leadership. Kong Jo (27 yrs), Hao Shen Chea (32 yrs), and Milton Yee (27yrs) are from Malaysia. One came from a church with elders. Ivan Kuek (25yrs), Shaun Yap (30yrs), and Joel (22 yrs) are from Singapore, and come from churches with elders. Sean Chu (20 yrs) and Ryan O’brien (16 yrs) are from New Zealand, but are primarily familiar with Central North in Perth. Anesu Makusha (18 yrs) is from Zimbabwe, grew up in a family worship setting and at Central North. Tim Kim (22 yrs) is from Korea. Trevor Tattersal (21 yrs) and Gerald Yeo (21 yrs) are from Australia, neither growing up in a church with elders.
As to the leadership development of these young men, books have been read, and classes have been conducted. One book read was Leadership: The Crisis of Our Time by Wendell Winkler. They have also studied biblical books such as 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. During these studies the need and importance of leadership/eldership is stressed. Part of the growth process is to get the young men involved in serving in different ways. Such ways include teaching, hosting events, encouraging the youth, and more. A number also attend a camp in Malaysia called YDP “Youth Development Program,” it is a 5-day camp in which a group of young adults organize a camp with speakers, activities and singing. Youth from churches in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia often attend with about 200 attendees which help the youth meet other Christians in churches of Christ. Perhaps the biggest reason the church does not currently have elders is the feeling that there are not enough qualified men to serve in this role. Therefore, there is a conscious desire to have the younger men be those who would qualify to shepherd the church in the future. When asked about the current leadership situation and potential future development, one of the young men said, “As the church continues to grow and more men become suitably qualified for the roles of elders or deacons, this may change. However, I think with a greater emphasis within the youth program about various ‘goals’ for Christian men and women to strive towards i.e. strong and faithful Christians (elders/deacons or wives of elders/deacons), this could have a positive impact on the church in the future generations.”
His statement about “goals” is an important factor that is often lacking in many churches. Is leadership development a goal which churches have? Do young men have a goal to become elders in the Lord’s church? Children are encouraged to set their sights on becoming doctors, lawyers, business owners, sports stars, etc.; however, is there any encouragement to strive towards and preparing oneself to serve in one of the most important roles that a person could serve? The comment about the young women is also insightful. If the women are mindful of and preparing themselves to be wives of elders and deacons, it will greatly benefit the work and the possibility of having qualified men to serve. In addition, if the young women have a desire to marry a godly man who has a goal to be a shepherd for the church, then naturally the young men will be more apt to set such a goal.
So, what kind of goals can be set, and what should be the areas of focus with regards to the training? Such is the purpose of this paper. As has been already stated, it seems that many churches just hope there will be qualified men to serve as elders in the future. There are no “goals” set for the young men. Rarely is there a plan in place to help assure that when these young men become of age that they will be in a position to be able to shepherd in an official role. Perhaps this is the biggest reason the church finds itself in the position it is in today of a lack of leadership. Dr. Bob Turner, minister, elder, and leadership expert says, “70 percent of churches today do not have elders.” Hopefully, every church and every Christian knows why we need elders, and why we need young men to want to be elders in the future. But what is often missing is how to turn that understanding into a reality. It has been said that “a WHY is just a belief, HOWS are the action we take to realize that belief” (Sinek 137). The rest of this paper will focus on addressing the how.