Article written by Doug Terpstra
As church leaders, we can see that from the beginning of time, God’s plan for expanding the Garden of Eden outside its borders was through family and Godly seed. Outside of His command of not eating from the tree of “good and evil,” his only directives were to be fruitful, multiply, and take dominion of the earth. But then came the fall of man into sin. Despite this, God’s plan for redemption still comes through His use of family as He began afresh with the family of Abraham.
Even though God started over with Abraham and his family, God’s directive still remains intact not only for Abraham, but for us as well; be fruitful, multiply and take dominion. As God’s plans continue to unfold, we as church leaders must remember that God thinks generationally. Often, we hear God say, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” when He went to get the attention of someone He wanted to use for a specific purpose. Therefore, if God sees intergenerationally, we too should also think generationally and help bring up the next generations of church leaders and christian leadership though the same kind of ministry coaching and patria leadership that God intended for His followers.
As we think about this patria style of leadership, we need to recognize that it’s not enough to delegate, but rather the goal should be to replicate in such a way that future generations can step into leadership roles when they are needed, and the team which has been built doesn’t lose ground, but continues.
It’s interesting to me that even though I’ve led many groups throughout my lifetime, I never thought about replicating, taking someone under my care, and training them so the group I was leading would continue on should I be called to lead elsewhere. I was once chosen to lead a newly formed outreach and evangelism team at my church. Where I led well, and we accomplished some really good things, I didn’t think about what would happen should I leave. After about two years, I did leave leadership of the church small groups and it threw it into disarray because there was no one to replace what I did.
Had I followed a team building model like that of John Wimber, one of the foremost experts in this area, and developed a model that uses the acronym IRTDS (identify, recruit, train, develop, and support), and found someone to co-lead with me, the group would have continued without disruption.
Where this approach is great for training and equipping the next leader, we still need to take it a step further if we want things to continue intergenerationally. It’s been said that we need to think two generations ahead when leading. This is very much a family concept if we think about it. Growing up on the farm, I saw this exhibited really well. My grandfather taught my dad and uncle to farm, and my father and uncle taught me, my brother and my cousin to farm, so that the farming operation could continue. Even though my father died early at the age of 57, I had already received the necessary training to continue farming because the task was replicated intergenerationally.
We often call the type of farming training that I received “hands on”. In the case of Jesus, we often describe His leadership style as “show and tell.” Jesus was not only a great teacher, but He would also demonstrate, then have His disciples do the same. If we follow the process through Scripture, we see Jesus, for example, healing. We then see His twelve disciples doing healing. Later, we see Jesus sent out seventy-two others which also healed the sick. (I would have to believe that Jesus used the twelve to help train the seventy-two.) Again, later still, in His final instructions, Jesus tells His followers to make disciples of all nations teaching them to do everything I have commanded you to do. Part of that would have been to heal the sick.
God loves family and He loves the family way of doing business. If we want to see the Kingdom to move forward, we need to not only think of training church leaders well but training the next generations of leaders with them. In this way, God’s directive to be fruitful, multiply and take dominion will be fulfilled upon the earth.