Engaging a New Generation of Ministers

We are living in an exciting time where God is raising up a new generation of ministers who have a bold vision and a sincere passion for ministry. There are many emerging ministers who are stepping out in faith to answer the call of God on their life. Dr. Lamar Vest said, “ I am amazed at what God is doing through a new generation of Church of God ministers.” However, later he warns, “The Church of God is at a crossroad of history. We will either make way for a new generation of leaders or we will stymie our potential as a viable movement.”

Statistics show that there are fewer people entering into the ministry than are leaving. In a conversation with fellow pastors, many of them observed that there are fewer and fewer young ministers attending denominational meetings. A part of the problem is that the older generation of ministers has not embraced the younger generation of leaders. It is important to make room for the next generation of ministers. New leaders need to take their place of ministry in order for God to continue to bless the Church of God. There are new ministries waiting to be started by those who dare to step outside of the box. We need to encourage and equip this new generation of ministers to pursue the call of God on their lives.

It is great to hear about the Engage Conference that the International Offices is hosting next week. I cannot stress how important it is for the church to engage this generation of emerging ministers because many of our young leaders feel disconnected and misunderstood by their denomination. As a result, we are in danger of losing our most talented and promising young ministers.

The future of the Church is in the hands of the next generation of leaders and innovators. Dr. Lamar Vest spoke prophetically when he wrote the following words, “There is a critical need for the acceptance of innovators-people who will take a stab at a new idea with the freedom to fail. Innovators must be permitted to make mistakes without fear of personal rejection. They must also be allowed to project new concepts and ideas without having to defend them as life or death propositions. The future of any movement will be tremendously influenced by how it treats its innovators… I want us to make room for a new generation of dreamers who are ready to step into the arena of church leadership.”

What are some ways and solutions that we can create dialogue between the existing leadership structures and the emerging generation of ministers?

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6 Responses

  1. When was this written? We need to hear more of this. This gives the message that there is room for innovative thinking in the Church of God. Since we have planted the church more than 2 years ago I have felt more disconnected than at any other time. I have been raised in the COG all my life. My father is a pastor. I know this church. We are definitely coming to a crossroads. Why does there seem to be this disconnect? I am a product of this movement…but why do I now feel that there is less and less room for doing things differently?

  2. “What are some ways and solutions that we can create dialogue between the existing leadership structures and the emerging generation of ministers?”

    What a great question. While I was a pastor in California under the leadership of Dr. Lynn Stone we had a similar divide between groups of people but it had to do with diversity. Anyway, the solution was a structured and planned sit down that put key people at a table together on purpose to share hearts by getting face to face. We had always seen each other at meetings and from across the room behind the microphones but that only produced opinions over a loud speaker that never brought change. However, when we were placed at a table together hearts were shared and we found that we were not as far apart as we had first thought. The concept is to win each others heart first as brothers then change for the whole becomes more natural and not as combative. I’ve heard it said that “we exist to be distinct from others, not distant from them. community means two unique people meet, not two fuzzy people merge.” It seems many in our church can’t tolerate difference. We seem to confuse closeness with sameness.

  3. “What are some ways and solutions that we can create dialogue between the existing leadership structures and the emerging generation of ministers?”

    I think bothh groups have to first recognize the common ground and the unique purpose for each group. I agree there needs to be a heart to heart between existing leadership and emerging leaders. I don’t want them to do things my way or their way. I want the freedom to do things the way God is leading me to do them. Given that freedom I should refrain from judging others who are also just trying to do what God is leading them to do.

    I would also commit to not act like I have all the answers. I do not. I respect others opinions and feedback, but am not bound to it. In that I would like to be able to share my observations and give feedback knowing the recipient is also not bound to them. We all need to take our fingers out of our ears, and quit shouting lalalalalalalalalalala, so we can again hear the hearts of the people we ultimately share a common goal with.

  4. Thanks for the question, Winfield. I think one of the major problems that exist between the generations (especially the older generation that is in leadership and younger emerging leaders) is a lack of full disclosure. Our time with Tony Lane on the recent trip to Europe really taught me something. The more you get to know passionate Church of God leaders, no matter where they serve, the more you appreciate their ministry.

    I wonder how much more I would like Dennis McGuire, Tim Hill, Orville Hagan if I knew more about them. I wonder how much more I would appreciate their ministry if I didn’t fell like the International Offices was withholding information from me (and others) that we deserve to know.

    The thing that the older generation must understand about the younger generation is that the emerging leaders of today come from a culture that is cynical, skeptical, untrusting, and largely disloyal. I don’t mean to say that there are not good young leaders, but that they do not just blindly follow leadership like the generations of the past.

    For there to be meaningful interaction with the younger generation, the older regime (those in charge) are going to have to CHANGE their way of interacting with their subordinates. These are not your father’s subordinates. The subordinates of the emerging generation do not know that they are not as wise as the older generation, that they are not as capable, as informed, as deserving…get the point?

    If the “powers that be” want to leave a legacy, the onus is on them to engage the young leaders in our movement. Why must the older leaders make the effort? Simply put, because the younger ones will not do it, nor do they have the authority to make it happen. They will simply move on to conquer the world without the covering of the elders.

    The question is, “Who loses in this scenario? The younger generation or the older generation?” And the answer is…”YES!”

  5. What are some ways and solutions that we can create dialogue between the existing leadership structures and the emerging generation of ministers?

    Winfield, I think the answer lies in developing these structures (or habits, practices, culture) on the local, district (if that still functions), and most importantly the state level. This may require some creativity in larger states. Smaller states already have a more stronger sense of family. But the concept would be the same.

    Give some thought as to how this might look like in your state (e.g., ENC).

    I realize there is a risk that allowing structures to develop on the local/state level will increase the diversity of such a phenomenon across the wider church. But to promote something like this from the top-down would probably only be met with skepticism at the grass roots level.

  6. Tom and Jerry (not a joke),

    I really appreciate the comments and insights that you guys bring to this blog. We need to hear from you as well as the others who are sharing. First, Jerry I think you are right that it is important to note that there are many great denominational leaders. The problem is that there has been little access, interaction, and dialogue between existing leadership and the emerging generation of ministers. Therefore, there is a need to bridge the gap between the two. I want to commend the International Offices for responding to this need by providing such a venue as Engage 21. This could be a historic moment!

    I personally believe that Engage 21 is a step in the right direction where the old and young can connect and hear each other. One possible outcome might be forming similar events that happen at the state and district level to provide similar interaction and dialogue for emerging leaders to connect with existing structures of the church. This could actually become a grassroots movement! (Tom, I actually just finish writing this reply and I just saw your post. It seems we are having some similar thoughts).

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