4 Ways Church Leaders Can Encourage Growth in Millennials and Generation Z

Terry Linhart is Professor of Christian Ministries at Bethel College in Indiana. In his new book The Self Aware Leader (InterVarsity Press, 2017), he records this observation: “few Christian organizations or churches help young leaders systematically and intentionally with their personal development.”

Linhart writes that the expectations placed upon those stepping into leadership roles in their early twenties are tremendous, even as these leaders continue to develop a sense of who they are, how they are gifted, and where they are headed in life. Self-awareness is of great help in answering these questions, but self-discovery and maturity can be accelerated when pastors and other church leaders befriend and invest in millennials and members of generation Z.

Here are four ways church leaders can help millennials and members of generation Z take their next step of growth as Christians and as people:

1. Help Them Discover Their Strengths

Our God-given gifts must be discovered and sharpened. Create opportunities for young leaders to serve, teach, and lead. Take a young person along with you to visit those who are sick or homebound. Equip them to lead a Bible study. Name their successes and celebrate them. Provide helpful, practical advice when there is room to improve.

If you want to see more leaders emerge from younger generations, give them the chance to step up. Cheer them on.

2. Create Awareness of Blind Spots

Linhart draws our attention to the Johari Window, a leadership development tool that fosters greater self-knowledge. This diagnostic grid helps us discover what is open to us (known to self and others), hidden (known to self but not others), and unknown (known neither to self or others). The window also helps us see our blind spots, or what is known to others but not ourselves.

Create space for honest conversation and discernment with young leaders concerning blind spots. The focus involves the self, but should invite an openness to the Holy Spirit, who guides us both with regard to our strengths and our weaknesses.

Our blind spots are most often discovered through failure or because of the honest, cautionary words of a friend. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Help young leaders discover they need others to help them see their blind spots. Remember also that we can be equally blind to our gifts as we are our shortcomings. Self-awareness is not only fostered by introspection but in community.

3. Challenge Them to Embrace Uniqueness

Linhart states:

You have been created with personality, body, mind, and soul uniquely your own, given by God. There is a dance only you can perform, one that you do not create alone but cultivate as you follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. Don’t mar the divine artistry at work within you.

Young leaders can be tempted to become a carbon copy of a leader they admire.
There are profitable lessons to be gained through observing our mentors. But do not let young leaders forget that God has made them unique and has a distinct calling on their lives that only they can fulfill.

4. Encourage Them to Reach Their Potential

Hebrews 10:24 says that as the gathered people of Christ we should “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Check in with young leaders. Ask them how they are doing. Encourage them and help them to keep the finish line in view, that they might run a good race and reach their unique God-given potential.