Global Leadership Network UK & Ireland

GLN UK & Ireland

Where Are The Younger Leaders? Part 2: Encouraging Younger People To Lead – James Lawrence

Having reflected a little on why we might not have younger people flocking to take on church leadership responsibilities, what can we do?

I was chatting with a younger person in Starbucks about their leadership development, and when I asked him what had been most significant in his growth I was somewhat surprised by his answer. He mentioned a much older man who over many years has been there for him. I think I’d expected him to refer to the Youth Pastor (trendy, twenty-something) or some of those involved in the youth work in our church (mainly young and ‘in-touch’ with youth culture). But no. It was a sixty plus year old retired man.

Over many years this man had been a constant source of encouragement, identifying the potential in the young boy and offering him words of support and affirmation. In the last few years as the boy went through his teenage ups and downs, he’d been a steady source of listening. And now that the young man is considering his future and where God might be leading him, the older man has gently dropped in insights about how God has gifted him and how he might use those gifts in God’s service.

As I reflect on this story, and on my own experience as a teenager being developed as a leader, I am convinced that if there is a  key to encouraging younger people into leadership, it is this: they need someone to proactively and intentionally get alongside them.

Perhaps this used to happen more often in years gone by. The teacher at school, the scout or guide leader in the pack, the youth worker at the club, the young curate at church, the dorm leader on a Christian camp, the uncle or aunt investing in a niece or nephew, the foreman (and it was generally man in those days) with the apprentice at work.

But now people are less likely to do this. The sheer pace of life means there is less time. The concern over child protection issues means there is less inclination. The extension of adolescence into adult life means there is less ability.

I think there is another factor though that probably is fairly common place. I find it in myself. If I decided to be intentional and get alongside a younger person, would they be interested? I may not think of myself in these terms, but as my teenage children enjoy reminding me, I am old!

So what to do?

To start with, take every opportunity to affirm or encourage a young person. Affirmation is the giving thanks to someone for what they have already done. Encouragement is the giving strength to someone for what they are yet to do. I try to make it a discipline that whenever we gather as the people of God I find someone to affirm and encourage. And I amazed at the impact this has, especially on younger people. A simple of word of appreciation, an assurance of prayer for something they’ve got coming up, a thank you for a caring action.

I wonder what helped you grow as a younger leader? Further thoughts next time. 



About Guest Blogger James Lawrence – Director, Development Team, CPAS

James is not your run-of-the-mill kind of guy. For a start, he confesses to a love of ironing and early mornings. Ask any graduate of the Arrow Leadership Programme about the latter and they’d probably agree – the ‘late breakfast’ on residentials begins at 7:45am.

As the director of the CPAS development team and Arrow, James lives and breathes what he teaches. More than just the raison d’etre for Arrow and Growing Leaders, James really does exist to help church leaders to be led more by Jesus, lead more like Jesus and lead more to Jesus.

It’s worth noting that phrase, which concludes with his greatest passion – people coming to know Jesus. A former associate minister and adviser in evangelism, since joining CPAS he has fulfilled a number of roles, written several books and courses, as well as having a four-year secondment to the Springboard evangelism initiative.

Energy, enthusiasm and a commitment to excellence give you a good handle on James.

On top of his work promoting leadership development throughout the Church, James has a busy life full of his wife and three children and a fitness regime driven by a love of sport. Perhaps that’s why he loves early mornings – so there’s enough waking hours to fit it all in.

T 01926 458419
E jlawrence@cpas.org.uk