How Can We Better Develop Young Leaders?

IMG_2817As we ministered in Krakow, Poland and enjoyed the beauty of the ancient city juxtaposed to the modern, my thoughts turned to reaching the next generation and developing them into leaders. In a city where Copernicus studied during the 15th Century, Christ the King Church has not lost sight of how the university impacts the world as a seedbed of ideas and convergence of young people who are trying to discover what on earth they were born to do. We met students and young adults who want to be a part of planting new churches and further their impact through their talents and spheres of influence. We want them to flourish.

I consider my observations and articles I’ve read that reveal the heart of this generation: their need be loved and valued, to be authentic, to be known, to belong in community, and to be trusted and empowered to do something significant. What many in this generation do not know, but we can communicate, is the fullness of life that comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But we must not only communicate it through our words or our teaching, we must disciple them and develop them into mature leaders.

Paul’s Christ-centered way of developing younger Timothy provides a great example for us today. When Paul was condemned to die by beheading during persecution under Nero’s reign and in chains in a dark dungeon, he knew that his days on earth were coming to an end. Paul’s second letter to Timothy was probably the last letter he wrote. It’s significant that he chose to write to Timothy, his son in the Lord, rather than to a church. Paul led Timothy to faith in Christ, and developed him as a follower of Jesus and as a leader. Paul knew that he was handing on the Gospel to the next generation, so his greatest concern was that Timothy should guard it (1:11–14).

In 2 Timothy, Paul sets an example of how we can develop the next generation of leaders.

Love them
Paul describes Timothy as the son ‘I love so much’ (v.2). Paul was a passionate and emotional man. When Paul, together with Timothy and Silvanus, wrote to the church of the Thessalonians, they showed deep affection: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8) Paul, once fueled by hatred towards Christians, was so transformed by his encounter with Jesus that he preached the Gospel and mentored others with deep affection and love demonstrated through his actions.

Pray for them
‘Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers’ (v.3). Enough said.

Know them and believe in them  
‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also’ (v.5). The people who influence us the most are the ones who take the time to really know us, understand us, and believe in us. We need to do this for the next generation.

Encourage them
I’ve never met a young person, or any person, who did not need encouragement. Young people especially need it from their parents and mentors. Christ-centered encouragement helps us get up when we fall and flourish in God’s strength when we are weak. Timothy was young and needed encouragement due to his frequent illnesses. He also may have been shy and introverted. Paul wrote to him, ‘God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control’ (2 Timothy 1:7). Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. The etymology of the word encourage is to impart courage to someone or “to make strong, to hearten”. To overcome our fears, God has given us the power of the Holy Spirit.

Challenge them
‘I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands’ (v.6). In his first letter Paul wrote, ‘Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you’ (1 Timothy 4:14). Paul challenged Timothy to fan into flames the gift that he had been given. Many young people are consumed with fulfilling their potential in life, but God’s plans are for our greatest good as we fulfill our calling through following Him. Fulfilling our potential is often self-centered, but God gives us gifts and abilities to touch and change the world through us.

Journey together and minister with them
Timothy accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. He saw and he did ministry together with Paul not only in Philippi, but in subsequent church planting in other cities. So it’s no surprise that Timothy became an effective minister and overseer of the church. They ministered together, but they also did life together. It was more than some brief meetings at an ancient version of a coffee shop. Paul was very real with Timothy. While he lived out and imparted a life of strong, steadfast faith, he did not gloss over life’s hardships and the suffering that sometimes follows preaching the Gospel. Timothy saw the living example in Paul.

Empower them
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2) Paul was confident that he had chosen the right person to pass the Gospel on to the next generation ‘with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us’ (v.14). Paul also continually communicated that it’s by God’s grace, ‘not because of anything we have done’ (v.9).

Ultimately, it’s all about relationship. First, it’s about a relationship with Jesus as Paul wrote: ‘I know whom I have believed’ (v.12). Then it’s about loving, prayerful, encouraging, challenging, empowering relationships with the next generation

How can we put into practice Paul’s way of discipling and empowering the next generation so they can lead with greater influence and effectiveness than us?

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