Article by Teresa Chang
One of the core values in my home church is “hope in the next generation.” We have carried this vision since we first planted as a church, coming from a ministry that was mostly filled with college students. Many of our church leaders stem from our original college group, and our heart for the next generation is carried through the ministries we serve in. Most, if not all of our leaders have served in either children’s ministry, youth ministry or the college group at some point before they were appointed as leaders. Others were the youth or college students that were raised up by the previous generation of leaders that are now stepping into leadership themselves.
As a church leader, you have the main “platform” or voice in your church, which gives you the ability to promote the values you want your church to adopt. This is important to remember as you try to incorporate a vision for intergenerational partnership. What values do you want to instill in your congregation?
Think about your goals concerning intergenerational partnership. What would it look like if the elder body of leaders in your church operated in conjunction with the midlevel and emerging leaders? What would this union produce? It would combine fire, passion and innovation with wisdom, and as it occurred, your church would become a strong community filled with saints of all ages walking together in deep relationship.
To grow that kind of partnership, you need to promote a vision of the different generations walking together in harmony. Scripture is filled with examples of how intergenerational partnership made a huge difference in the overall story of God’s purposes in the earth. Give your church pictures of what intergenerational harmony can look like—show them Jesus with the disciples, Moses with Joshua, and Paul with Timothy and Titus.
Intergenerational partnership is God’s plan for succession.
It is possible for elder leaders to speak into the lives of emerging leaders in such a way that the emerging leaders can then speak into the next generation. Let’s look at one such story found in Scripture.
Elijah and Elisha
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah the prophet was emotionally broken. He had just experienced an incredible victory over the prophets of Baal, but then Queen Jezebel threatened his life and he dropped into a depression.
The Lord spoke to him in a still, small voice: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Essentially, He was asking, “Why are you depressed?”
The solution God gave Elijah was to mentor the next generation. He told him (this is a paraphrase), “Go find Elisha, put your cloak upon him and raise him up as a prophet in your place.” He also told him to raise up Hazael as the next leader in Syria and to anoint a man named Jehu as king over Israel.
Elijah came down off the mountain and found Elisha, who left everything to follow him, and they developed a father-son intergenerational partnership. Elijah did not anoint Hazael himself—Elisha did. Jehu was the next person to be anointed, but Elisha didn’t do it…his servant did. Obviously, there is more to the story, but even in this condensed version, we can see how God raises up generations.
As a church leader, you have the power to communicate stories and ideas like these to your people and promote a vision of unity in the generations.
Here are a few ways you can spread intergenerational vision in your church:
- Speak about it from the pulpit.
- Model it in the ways you set up your leadership team.
- Create opportunities for younger leaders to be mentored by older leaders in your church.
As you do these things, the DNA of the Kingdom is passed from generation to generation, and the glory and beauty of Heaven are manifested on earth.