Mentor, equip, and convene

Reaching the next generation of leaders in the church: Part VIII of a series

By Rev. Rick King
Sept. 1, 2022

This afternoon on Zoom, I had my monthly meetup with Natalie Owens-Pike, a Member in Discernment (which is what we call seminarians on the ordination path in the UCC) whose home church is Mayflower UCC in Minneapolis. Natalie is about to enter her second year at Andover Newton at Yale Divinity School. I’m her MID adviser. It’s like a mentor.

Yesterday, I attended a webinar given by Spiritual Directors International on apprentice programs for spiritual directors. Again, mentoring.

Last week, I talked about how we sometimes see older leaders hold onto power way past the point where it’s productive or helpful for the church. But the next generation needs older generations. After 30+ years in ministry, I’ve found that mentoring is one of the most important ways I can impact the church for years to come.

Carey Nieuwhof, a Canadian who talks to a lot more leaders than I do, says, “One of the most encouraging things about the next generation is their deep desire to learn from older leaders.”

I would say that participating in the encouragement and shaping of younger leaders is one of the greatest blessings to me personally, because in the context of a mentoring relationship, I can share what I’ve learned, ask the younger leader questions, and listen deeply with them to what God might be saying or doing in their life and ministry.

Nieuwhof says it even goes beyond that: to equipping younger leaders with the tools, formation and discernment they need to have a strong start to a long and fruitful ministerial career—AND to convening groups of leaders, getting them in the same room regularly, to learn from each other.

Where in our local church does mentoring occur between generations of leaders? Where could it and should it be happening right now? And what can we build to facilitate that kind of mentoring, equipping, and convening here at FHC and even in a cohort of churches?
Paradoxically, one’s desire to do something for the next generation puts the older leaders in a position to be blessed, to get something back.

Investing in others. Jesus did it with the Twelve. Paul did it with Timothy and Silas and countless others.

We can do it, too.