I appreciate the various roles represented in this image of leadership, but, like our common ideas of leadership in rural ministry with new generations, I have a few changes to suggest.
First, let’s define what I mean by our common ideas of leadership. It is commonly expected that programing for new generations would be led by a young, energetic, (under) paid (if possible) staff person. Also, as in the image above, that one person is often expected to do all the work. In the minds of many congregation members, it really isn’t that much work. By not recognizing the multiple seats on the bicycle, we fail to develop a sustainable structure of leadership, paid and/or volunteer.
When funds are not available to hire staff persons to oversee new generation ministries, often these tasks are turned over to the appointed pastor. In some cases this works out well. The pastor is gifted in this area and enjoys equipping new generations for ministry. In other cases, the pastor is not able to take on such tasks. In all United Methodist cases, the itinerant pastor is a temporary solution. Yet, the average tenure for youth directors is around three years, so even that position most often operates as a temporary solution.
Here’s why: The problem is in filling all the seats on the bicycle. First you have someone with a clear vision and authority to steer. We often think this is one hired or volunteer leader, but what if this role was filled by the hiring body? Vision and forward motion then becomes sustainable.
Next is seated a navigator to direct toward the destination. We often think this is the role of the hiring body or the congregation, but it may actually be the role we need one paid or volunteer leader to play. Keeping the destination in mind, this person is able to make wise decisions regarding the journey.
In the middle sits the encourager followed by the hard laborer and the details that put all the pieces together. These are the roles of the congregation, yet we often leave the last two for a hired or volunteer leader to do on their own. Also, we are only really good at encouragement for the first year or so. If every one of these seats was filled correctly with a variety of persons, our ministries would be designed to thrive long-term. And, yes, all of these seats can be filled by volunteers and none have an age or ability level requirement. The Navigator should be able to make decisions based on the ability levels of the other riders.
What is your current leadership structure for new generation ministries? What seats need to be filled? Does anyone need to switch seats?