The Youth In Christian Leadership
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Published: Thu, 18 May 2017
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. This is one of many ways that Jesus describes the bold contrast between Christians and the rest of the world. It is a difference that should be as clear as night and day, but rarely is the case with Christians in the world nowadays. Most non-believers use words such as hypocritical, sheltered, and judgmental to describe Christians. (Kinnaman, 2007) The very things that Christ warned us not to become are the exact same things we are viewed as today. One of the biggest reasons for the skepticism of Christianity today is the ignorance of our own faith. Believers are not getting into the word, and it shows in society. Many Christians cannot answer basic questions when asked about their faith, and even if they can, many are not living out those beliefs. (Kinnaman, 2007) Ignoring our faith has led to a religion of mixed up morals and hypocrites, and has largely contributed to the scorn towards Christianity. These vices are slowly being passed down from the modern adults of today to the developing Christian youth. It is therefore paramount to look for avenues to reverse this situation and get back to inspiring hope in a culture full of cynicism. This will enable us to form a platform for Christian leadership among our youth. Christian leadership as a virtue comes in many forms and traits. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” (Napoleon Bonaparte) On the other hand, according to (Means, 2000), “servant leadership is a leadership philosophy that implies a comprehensive view of the quality of people, work and community spirit.”
Servant leadership greatly requires a spiritual understanding of identity, mission, vision and the environment. (Greenleaf, 2012) A servant leader is one who is servant first, who has responsibility to be in the world, and contributes to the well-being of people and the community. A servant leader looks to the needs of the people and asks how he or she can help them solve their problems and promote personal development. He or she places his main focus on people, because only content and motivated people are able to reach their targets and to fulfill the set expectations. The concept of servant leadership is crucial for youth in Christian leadership as it enables one understand themselves first so they can learn to understand others and serve them. Thereafter people gain trust in the leader and begin to work towards the intended goal. (Berkley, 2005)
The goals of a Christian leader should be to bring glory to God with their existence, evangelize, advance the kingdom, and encourage others to grow in their relationship with Christ. There are certain base characteristics that all Christian leaders must possess if they wish to be stewards of the Gospel, inspire hope among the nations, and ultimately accomplish their goals.
Submission to God must be the starting point for each individual. We must allow God to lead us and shape our lives to fit his desires if we wish to leave an impact on this world. This requires one to be daily seeking and engaging with God in prayer and in His Word. It is our actions and choices in life that define how others see us, and ultimately decide the kind of impact we leave on the world. These actions and choices are largely shaped by what we believe in and value. By allowing the Bible to shape them, a spiritual maturity will begin to flourish within the heart of a leader. They will begin to see the world as God sees it, and they will begin to see every person living on this world today as a beautiful and valuable creation of God. (Hybels, 2009) Furthermore, according to (Berkley, 2005) leaders will understand the implications of sin and how it separates us from God, which will create a longing to help others be reconciled.
A leader must strive to be an example for others by trying to obediently follow God’s commands and exhorting others to do so, but also must be careful not to fall into judgment. (Berkley, 2005) Instead, they learn to love others unconditionally as Christ would have, serving the people and working patiently with them to help them see the need of God in their life.
Raising young leaders for Christian leadership is a challenging process.
Raising and developing young leaders mainly entails inculcating Christian values in them at a tender age, encouraging them to participate in church activities so they can understand leadership from a Christian perspective, and ensuring they attain the right academic skills to enable them compete with the world.
IMPORTANCE OF PREPARING YOUTH FOR CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP
Ministry with young people has never been more important. Ever-increasing local, national and global concerns demand that schools must do more than prepare young people as responsible citizens. (Adair, 2001) says that schools and in particular, institutions of higher learning must prepare young people as emerging leaders with a civic conscience who proactively seek solutions to issues such as increased poverty, the plight of refugees, terrorism, climate change, and corporate greed.
With reference to Christian leadership, ministry can be broken down to three parts namely: Youth ministry, Campus ministry and Student ministry.
(Fernando, 2000) describes youth ministry as a formalized Church-based program that is clearly centered on young people. He presents a framework for youth ministry based on three goals. These goals are firstly, to foster the personal and spiritual growth of each young person, secondly, to draw young people into responsible participation in the life, mission and work of the church community, and thirdly, to empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the world today. The goals are advanced through six focus areas: prayer and worship, evangelization, community life, justice and service, leadership development, and advocacy (Fernando, 2000, Leaders for tomorrow’s world pp. 7). These goals build on one another and are paramount for good Christian leadership. In addition, they are important as they help bring up an all-rounded and well-versed Christian leader who can combat the challenges of the modern society.
The focus of Christian ministry among the youth is greatly aimed at young men and women in college and university making campus ministry a focal point in developing Christian leaders. Campus ministry has four main elements according to (Nanko, 1997). These are: a focus on young people, the ministry takes place in the context of an educational institution, the various programs attempt to challenge the faith life or spirituality of students into active participation, and the campus minister is central to the effective running of the ministry. Young people in campus should be encouraged to integrate ministry with their field of study so as to learn how to be most effective in society.
A good example is seen in Christian universities where students from several disciplines attend chapel on a regular basis to facilitate spiritual growth. This enables the students to develop as Christian leaders and grow to other levels of campus ministry like: missions, evangelism and regular participation in church related activities which facilitates interaction with other young students in ministry.
This nature of ministry involves working with young people in a school setting. It frequently incorporates many of the programs associated with youth ministry and campus ministry. Such programs include: student leadership development, service-learning and social justice, retreats, prayer and reflection. (Means, 2000) In this respect, student ministry, youth ministry and campus ministry have strong connections. The main differences lie in the explicit leadership focus inherent in all student ministry programs, the mentoring role which teachers adopt when working with students, and the leadership responsibilities that many students exercise when working with fellow students. A good illustration of student ministry is seen in campuses where students take up leadership roles in the church and handle activities such as: praise and worship, bible study, event planning and preaching. This enables the leaders to gain experience in church related activities while under the mentorship of senior church leaders and teachers. In addition, the leaders learn to take responsibility being in positions of leadership, inculcate discipline within their lives and grow closer to God at a personal level.
CHALLENGES IN PREPARING YOUTH FOR CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP
In the process of maintaining the authentic character of Christian leadership, leaders face many challenges. Many of them are perennial, given with the very character of Christian leadership as being rooted in God and directed toward the good of the world. These challenges may occur when people assume positions of Christian leadership for the wrong reasons that include: power, prestige, and personal gain rather than as a result of the call of God. These challenges can be further broken down into three key areas: The will of God, the authority of the church and time management.
The will of God
In most cases, Christian leaders have responded to a genuine call of God, but may have lost sight of their calling and their fundamental character as beings translucent to God. “When this happens, leaders are deprived of the animating power of God to continually ground and sustain leadership in the life of God”, as stated in (Kinnaman, 2007). And yet, since they are religious leaders, they often have to act as if they have already actualized what they are preaching in their own lives, as if they are bringing the message somehow from God. Instead of real ascent in God’s word, there is a pretense of ascent mostly not intentional, but negligent and usually a result of the pressures of responsibilities, the accumulated force of disappointments, and many other reasons leading to the gradual erosion of faith. (Nanko, 2001)
Young Christian leaders face the very real dangers associated with modern culture head on. Increased expectations, time constraints, developing disciples in an increasingly secular society, and an entire host of dangers in personal and professional life abound.
Many of the pressures to which young leaders succumb, causing personal burnout and fatigue, are as a result of personal mismanagement. (Berkley, 2005) We each have decisions to make with regard to how much and in what way will own these expectations and perceived pressures.
Authority of the church
The great authority of the Church resides in the power of the testimony of Jesus. In a modern culture which asserts that truth is relative, it is difficult for a Christian leader to begin to lead a person into God’s will for their life when at a foundational level they do not recognize that the testimony of Jesus is unique and trustworthy. The modern worldview influenced by Western liberal culture, which is common in various forms today, presents a great challenge for Christian leaders as seen in (Hybels, 2009) and can only be controlled by continual spiritual nourishment and constant prayer.
Personal time management is crucial to one’s successful usage of their time. Dangers are very real in modern Christian leadership. In order to have the strength to stand, young Christian leaders must manage their efforts in such a way as to properly manage themselves. (Nanko, 2001) Christian leaders face temptations of every kind to fall into sin. As the modern culture becomes increasingly celebrity based, young leaders in ministry face the real temptation of pride. In order to avoid burnout, fatigue, and temptation to sin, (Means, 2000) suggests that Christian leaders must remain grounded in the Lord’s strength and provision. The management of personal and professional time is central to this. We must make time for God, family, and personal rest and development in order to stay alert and healthy for the work of the kingdom.
RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING PREPARING YOUTH FOR CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP
Reading widely and having a good command of language
According to (Fernando, 2000), in the coming years we will need well-educated young men and women. Therefore a young, aspiring Christian leader should read widely, ranging from people they agree with to people they don’t agree with. All things being equal, the people who can speak with confidence and who can write clearly will rise to the top in any field. (Fernando, 2000) also recommends taking speech classes as well as taking advantage of technology as far as writing is concerned as it gives one a huge advantage in this generation.
Identifying one’s strengths and making good decisions
Identifying one’s strengths varies from one individual to another in terms of time. (Means, 2000) says that, “In the beginning, you naturally think you can do everything. You can’t. You’ll learn that the hard way. Find out what you do that God blesses and keep on doing it.” A young leader should not get stuck in the trap of thinking that they have to be a pastor or a teacher or a missionary forever as we are past the days when people would stay in the same position for a lifetime. As a Christian leader, one should understand that their only call is to serve the Lord in whatever way he or she chooses. Therefore it is important to remain flexible.
Beware of envy and learn how to be all-round
In the game of life, we are all constantly being compared to everyone around us. We, especially church leaders are being measured, quantified, and examined to see how well we are doing versus those around us and there is nothing we can do about it. (Adair, 2004), Envy tends to be the sin of moderately successful people and one should pray to be delivered from it as it destroys joy and makes one a miserable person. When beginning church ministry, one is rarely able to specialize and should learn how to be a jack of all trades and a master of a few.
In today’s world, diversity is the order of the day and the future belongs to those who have multicultural experience. Aspiring Christian leaders should be encouraged to participate in a semester exchange program and study abroad. The experience gained by learning about other cultures, and a different people in a different setting is priceless as (Fernando, 2000) puts it. In addition, it gives one new vision for the global cause of Christ.
Christian leadership is indeed challenging especially for young aspiring leaders but with the right approach and guidance one can succeed in the field. As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” It is important for all young aspiring leaders to recognize that leadership is a learning process and that the more one learns, the more they earn the right to lead.
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