Empowering Next Generation Leaders (Part 1)
Today we’re launching a brand new series that will focus on leadership development. Specifically, we want to focus on empowering the next generation of leaders in your ministry.
From the conversations we’re having with pastors and clients, this seems to be one of the most pressing challenges churches are facing. And the pandemic may have compounded the problem by increasing retirements, pastors leaving ministry, etc.
That’s why we’re going to spend the next four weeks talking about how we can raise up and empower the next generation of leaders in our ministries, with insights from guests along the way.
INTERVIEW WITH TIM ELMORE
The intersection of the different generations on your team can be an advantage. (And I would add that the intersection of the different generations in your church can also be an advantage.)
In this episode, I’m joined by Tim Elmore, Founder and CEO of Growing Leaders and author of A New Kind of Diversity: Making the Different Generations on Your Team a Competitive Advantage, to discuss how leaders can begin to address the generation gap on their teams.
Listen in as Tim and I unpack:
- Why the generation gap is getting wider
- 3 things every generation wants from the others
- Managing preferences, tensions, and expectations
- Playing chess vs. checkers in your leadership
At this free webinar on September 28, Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson will empower you with the systems and strategies to confidently structure your church for future impact.
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Most church leaders would agree that we need to be intentional about empowering the next generation of leaders. But what we know to be true is that not all generations think, act or lead the same. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy kick off a brand new series focused on leadership development and how we can empower all generations to move the mission forward. If you’re new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, stop before you listen and go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’re gonna get resources to support each week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide, as well as access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s Tony.
Do you ever feel like 24 hours in a day is just not enough between your ministry and your life at home? Managing your time as a church leader can feel almost impossible. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, our friends at BELAY can help. BELAY is a staffing organization that has spent more than a decade helping busy church leaders like you manage their productivity and accomplish more. From accounting services to administrative support, BELAY has vetted U.S.-based specialists ready to fit your tailored needs. Since time is the most valuable resource we have, BELAY wants to help you maximize it by offering our listeners an exclusive free download of their newest ebook, The Power of Productivity. This insightful resource is filled with practical tips, helpful assessments and so much more. Simply text unstuck—that’s U-N-S-T-U-C-K—to 55 123 to download the power productivity for free and start making the most of the time you have each day and lead with BELAY.
Well, hey, Tony. Good to see you. Have you been anywhere interesting lately?
I was. For the very first time, we had the opportunity to serve a church, a Christian Church in Utah. And it’s just, it was beautiful country. Emily, my wife, went with me on this trip, so we spent a day actually seeing a bit of Utah for the first time. But, Amy, I’m telling you what, this church, CenterPoint Church, it is a phenomenal ministry. They’re doing such a great work, and I love their passion and compassion, I would say, for the people that live in their community and helping point people to Jesus, take their next steps towards Christ. And it’s a really remarkable ministry that they’re doing there. And in predominantly an area, of course, that has a lot of people that are part of the LDS faith. And so a very unique experience and my goodness, they’re doing a great work in, near Salt Lake City. So it’s, it’s a phenomenal church, and I was glad to have that opportunity to serve them recently.
I love that. I’m actually headed there, here in a few weeks, so I’m excited to work with them. Today, Tony, we are actually launching a brand new series that’s going to be focused on leadership development, and specifically, we wanna focus on empowering the next generation of leaders in our ministries. And I think this is gonna be a really fun series. Tony, do you wanna help us introduce where we’re going?
Yeah, I do. And it’s funny, Amy, because I still remember when I was the next-generation leader who was being empowered.
My goodness. But, you know, when I was 25, I, I still can’t believe that they did this, but a city council hired me to be the city manager. This is out in a smaller community out in Iowa, and they put me in charge of the police department, the fire department, the streets department and so on.
That is crazy.
Thinking about you were just 25.
Yeah, I, when I, I was still 29 when I got kind of a promotion to a city manager job in Michigan. And there, this is nuts. Can, can you imagine having your 29-year-olds do this? I had a staff team of 150 people, and this is about 25 years ago.
Oh my gosh.
I was responsible for a $20 million budget for the city. So that was a lot of money back then. Today, maybe not as much with inflation, but that was significant. And then, I was in my early thirties when a great church near South Bend, Indiana, invited me to be a part of the senior leadership team in the ministry. And, again, I’m just thinking, I, there was so much I didn’t know about leadership, about leading a church specifically, but they took that chance to give me the opportunity to step into leadership and in not just any leadership. I mean, these were leadership roles where I had a lot of, a lot of responsibility.
Those are big roles.
Yeah. And I say all that not to brag on me, but really to brag on the generations that were a little older than me, particularly the boomer generation. I just think they did a much better job of empowering the next generation of leaders than my generation is doing. In fact, we’re gonna talk a little bit about that in next week’s episode. The other thing here, Amy, is I’ve spent the last 29 years trying to raise up four next-generation leaders in my home. And we have two millennials and two Gen Zers, and they are great kids, great young adults now. And all of them, in their own way, leading and influencing. And I love that, and I’ve learned a lot from that. And so we’re gonna, we’re gonna pull some of that learning out in the upcoming conversations. But this is, this is something that I’m hearing from pastors right now that this, empowering the next generation of leaders, it really does seem to be one of the key pressing challenges that churches are facing right now. And I don’t know why that is. Could be that the pandemic has compounded the problem, though, because we saw a lot of pastors at the end of their ministry that decided to retire early. We have seen a lot of younger ministry leaders that have left ministry and gone on to other marketplace roles. And because of that, maybe there’s more of a leadership void right now that exists. So, this feels like it’s a more pressing issue. But because of that, we wanna spend these next four weeks talking about how can we raise up and empower the next generation of leaders in our ministries. Yeah.
Yeah. And during this series, we’re going to interview ministry leaders and pastors who are currently winning when it comes to empowering next-generation leaders. So, Tony, will you introduce our guest this week?
Yeah. So, on that note, I’m excited about this conversation that I’m about ready to have with Tim Elmore. Tim, by the way, we go to church together. So that’s one thing that we share.
But Tim is the founder and CEO of Growing Leaders, and Growing Leaders is, it’s a great nonprofit organization that equips students and young professionals around the world to become life-giving leaders. So it’s a great mission that they have. Tim, he has spent over 40 years teaching, and he’s considered to be kind of an expert when it comes to working with top business leaders, leaders in academia, leaders in the sports industry. I mean, he’s worked with organizations like Home Depot and Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A and Delta, a number of professional sports organizations. But, among those sports teams he’s worked with, Amy, he has not worked with the Cleveland Browns, and that could explain a lot about the Cleveland Browns organization.
Could explain a lot.
His most recent book, though, it’s called A New Kind of Diversity: Making the Different Generations on Your Team a Competitive Advantage. This is going to be a fun way to launch this series. So here’s my conversation with Tim Elmore.
Well, Tim, welcome. And, and it’s good to have you as part of this conversation. I’m, wanted to learn about your new book. Can you tell us about that and what inspired you to write it?
Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for having me on, Tony. This is great to be with you. My latest book is called A New Kind of Diversity, and I concede in the very beginning we’ve been talking about diversity, have we not, for decades, if not longer. And we’re all familiar with ethnic diversity and gender diversity and income diversity. And even within the church, we realize these are realities that we need to keep addressing. But I think there’s a new kind of diversity that it’s kind of like an elephant in the room. We’d all know it’s there, but we’re not quite sure how to talk about it. And it’s generational diversity. It’s the fact that, that a business or a church or any kind of ministry for that matter, might have five generations, maybe six. In fact, Tony, I was just in a church, there were six—no, I’m sorry—seven generations in that church. If you could take the senior generation, which would be well into their 90s, that would be my uncle Gene, who is 99 years old this year. He’ll turn a hundred in December. And then you take the alpha generation children, which are very, very young, preschool birth to elementary school, you’ve got seven generations. And sometimes, I think we get frustrated more than fascinated by each other. And so we just have these old school, new school ways of thinking that just need to be addressed. And, of course, as Christ followers, this, we should be first and foremost on top of this and ready to love and pull the strengths out of every single one of them.
Well, with that in mind, you write in the book that the generation gap, which was first noticed in the 1960s, has widened today, making collaboration and synergy on the team more challenging than ever. So could you kind of unpack that problem for our listeners?
Yeah. So, the widening generation gap, which was first, as you just mentioned in the 60s, John Poppy, Life Magazine editor, saw this generation gap when the baby boomers were the new kids on the block. And now, of course, the boomers are the old geezers, you know, that are saying kids today, you know. But, here’s my theory. The gap between generations is widening because the screens in our life went from public to private. So when I was growing up many, many moons ago, there was one screen in our house. It was a black-and-white TV when I was a kid. And everybody gathered round and watched a program together. We even called it a program, you know, I love Lucy or Dick Van or whatever. And we watched together, laughed together, talked about it together. We were together. Fast forward to today, we’ve all got this device in our hand that’s exclusively mine. And I may be interacting in an echo chamber of people that think like me, talk like me, vote like me. And we can be millions of miles apart socially and emotionally and even spiritually because we just interact with different worlds. And I’m thinking, instead of getting angry about this, or like I said, frustrated, what if we leverage the strength of the, the boomers, the builders, the Xers, the millennials, you know, that we’ve been throwing under the bus now for 15 years. So that’s, that’s the goal of the book. I really identify who is in these generations, how they were shaped and formed. And then, because of that, how do we pull out the very best that’s in them in their 40s, 50s, 60s or, dare I say, teens and 20s? So that’s, that’s what I think is happening. The gap has just gotten wider and wider and wider.
Tim, I was with a group of church leaders not too long ago, and one of my peers, and I say that because he was a peer in age, so part of the Gen X, same as me, was kind of commiserating with some of us about how poorly Gen X has been at raising up empowering the next generations of leaders, especially within the context of the church. And I think what’s underlying part of that are maybe this not understanding the key questions that leaders need to be asking to be better at closing the generation gap. Can you maybe unpack that for us?
Yeah. I feel like that we who are over 40 expect when the young people come of age, let’s say 18, 20 years old, we expect them to do all the leaning in. After all, they need to grow up. They’re gonna spend the rest of their life and adulthood, and we’re already adults. So that makes sense until you consider the fact that the world today and culture in America is so fundamentally changing. They may have intuition on where culture is going more than, than the baby boomer does or a Gen Xer does. So I think we need to meet in the middle. So think about this. It, it’s, it’s really simple to say; it’s hard to do. The older generations, that would be boomers and Xers, have timeless insights. We pick them up. They’re timeless. They’re scriptural, but we know these timeless insights. The younger two generations, millennial and Gen Z, bring timely intuition about where culture’s going. I’m saying, what if we got these two together? Certainly, they need to learn, younger people need to learn some timeless biblical truths that never change: discipline, initiative, responsibility, love of God. But, they bring this intuition on how we might be able to leverage TikTok for marketing or whatever it is. In fact, let me tell a quick story. In the book, I talk about Tony. Two years ago, Tony was graduating from Ohio University, and he got a part-time job at a major retail brand paint store. While he was working at the paint store during that time, he got a TikTok account, and he started posting pictures of himself, you know, mixing blueberries with white paint and doing something very creative with them. And while he started posting on TikTok, his account went viral. When he had 1.8 million followers and 37 million views, he thought, “I better share this with the executives here at this paint store. We could monetize this, you know? We could turn this into another million and a half customers.” So he puts a slide deck together. Takes it to the executives, but Tony does not get one person interested in hearing from him. Doesn’t get one set of eyeballs on his slide deck. Tony did get something he did not expect. He got fired because those managers were just sure he was stealing the paint or doing this on company time or distracting to the customers. So they let him go. Well, get this; Tony leaves, graduates, moves down to Florida now has over two million people following him, and he started his own paint store. Now, there’s probably lots to the story we don’t understand, but one thing is for sure: they could have listened instead of just lectured this young whipper snapper and maybe leveraged it for the purposes of that mission of that paint store. But I think far too often, we think we’ve got all the answers. They don’t get it. And we never turn the frustration into fascination. We just stay frustrated. And the gap just keeps getting bigger and bigger. This is why, I think, 70% of high school kids today wanna be an entrepreneur. They wanna start something, not just join something. Well, we’re asking ’em to join something they see as antiquated, maybe. And I’m saying, let’s, let’s set up intrapreneurships for these entrepreneurs. What if inside the ministry, we had places they could do startups and pioneer something and start a new project and feel like they’re starting something, but they’re within a great established environment where we can love on ’em, mentor them, coach them. That’s what I think the church is gonna need. So that’s, that’s what I lobby for, of course, in the book.
Yeah. Well, Tim, what do you think, thinking specifically about the workplace…
What do you think some of the most common things are that create discord between the generations?
When I interviewed respondents from five generations, Generation Z, millennials, Gen X, baby boomers and builders or the silence, I asked them, “What do you want from other generations when you interact with them?” Well, you can imagine I got a whole lot of responses from all five generations. But three responses came up in every single one of them. Here they were: the first one was humility. In other words, young and old alike were saying, would you approach me with humility? Meaning I think I probably still have something to learn. The second one was respect. I think very easy, the old can approach the young and vice versa with disrespect. You don’t get it. You don’t get, get it. You know, both sides are saying that. But what if we began with belief? Meaning we just hired Cam in our office at Growing Leaders. Cam is 22 years old, right out of the University of Michigan. Well, I started with, oh my gosh, I bet this, this guy could teach me a bunch of things ’cause I need it. But when I began with respect and belief, you know what I got reciprocated right back? Respect and belief.
So the third term along the way, this was interesting: curiosity. Every generation said, “I would love you to approach me, curious about what I might have to offer about what I might share.” So imagine a church. Imagine a ministry. Everybody was interfacing, old and young, with humility, respect and curiosity. It would transform. So to answer your question backwards, I think we don’t do those well. I think we have an established group of elders very often who are older. And we get it, and they don’t. So, let me add one, something I put in the book, but I rarely talk about. Fifty years ago, Margaret Mead, the great anthropologist, made a prediction about the future. And it’s so fascinating because it has everything to do with church. She said in the beginning of human history, everyone lived in what she called the prefigurative society, which meant all the things were established and it was prefigured. And the young had to learn everything from the old. We perpetuated customs and traditions down through the centuries, never changed much. You know, if you’re a son, you did what your daddy did. If your daughter, you did what your mama did. You know what I’m talking about. Okay? As we moved into the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, we moved into what she called the cofigurative era because chain was in the wind and reason became king. Now, young and old figured out life together. Okay, we hold these truths to be self-evident. That was, we would’ve never said that a thousand years ago, but we would’ve said it 200 years ago. So cofigurative, young and old figuring it out together. Margaret Mead predicted as early as 50 years ago. I believe I’m now seeing we’re moving into the postfigurative era, where the young will figure things out faster than the old. Now, are they gonna need to learn some things? Of course they will, but they have intuition on where things are going. I mean, this sounds so silly, but at my age, if something goes wrong with my iPhone, you know who I give it to don’t, don’t you? I give it to a young person; they immediately know how to fix it in five minutes. And I say, “How did you know to do that?” And they go, “How did you not know?” You know, that’s the conversations I have. So, I know that sounds just silly and cheesy and cliche, but I feel like the church must wake up and add timeless insight, wisdom to timely intuition and welcome the young, even though they’ve got a lot to learn. So do we because the world is rapidly changing. So, I’ll stop there.
I love that. Tim, one of your chapters is all about managing preferences, tensions and expectations. What makes each of these so challenging yet so beneficial for leaders to manage?
Yes. Good, good, good, good. So, first of all, I remember learning from Andy Stanley long time ago there’s a difference between problems to solve and tensions to manage. Problems do need to be solved so we can do away with them and move on. Tensions are things that will always be with us. I think there’s probably always gonna be a little tension between young and old. Did you realize that Socrates, thousands of years ago, said, “Kids are disrespectful in my day.” That could have been written last week, you know, so I’m just thinking that’s a tension to manage. We just need to know it’s always gonna be with us. But here’s what I’ve noticed. Generation Z is coming into job interviews with a great sense of agency and audacity. I mean, they’re asking for more money and expecting more things and more this or that. And if you got a, you know, a 50-something that’s the boss, they’re going, what are you talking about? You didn’t, you’ve not worked a day in your life. You know, you’ve been in the classroom, not the workroom. So there’s a divide there. So I think in the job interviews we need to talk about what are preferences, meaning you wish that were true but it doesn’t have to be to make it here. What are demands, meaning this is core to who I am. This church better be about Black Lives Matter or whatever. And you can say right there, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I probably ought to stop the conversation now ’cause I don’t know if we’re gonna be suitable for you.” You know, that sort of thing.
And I think we, in the, in the body of Christ, especially as leaders, need to have the courage to say, “This isn’t a fit.” And then expectations, oh my gosh, this is such a huge issue because every generation comes into either a church or a workplace with a little different expectation based on when they were raised. Think about this. We all know where a person grew up has a lot to do with how they turn out: China, America. I think when a person grew up has a lot to do with who they become and who they turn into. So I think we, in job interviews and even just in interactions at family reunions or church services, need to be asking ourselves, “When were they born and how that might, how might that shape their worldview?” And I think those three issues—those tensions, those expectations, those demands, those preferences—are all gonna be big, big discoveries to make on everybody’s part.
Tim, well, I think one of the interesting dynamics between the generations is how quickly we tend to move to stereotypes. And I, I, again, part of the Gen X; I’ve shared this previously, but way back when my generation, one of the nicknames for my generation was the slacker generation. And that was kind of a stereotype for everybody my age.
And I think sometimes, well, I know, sometimes those stereotypes really get in the way of us understanding the individuals that we’re trying to engage with. So, what are some ways that leaders can better, better understand the generations they work with without stereotyping them?
Yeah. Oh, it’s a great question. So, in my opinion, stereotypes are mental shortcuts. We’re too lazy to do the work to really understand the person in front of us. And we wanna take shortcuts. You know, we hear one story about a Gen Xer that’s a slacker, like you said, or a Gen Z that’s a fragile snowflake or a millennial that’s all narcissistic. All of ’em are, you know, that sort of thing. And you know what’s odd to me? We draw these conclusions, but we don’t want anybody to do that to us. We don’t wanna be stereotyped, right?
So, I think we need to stop doing what we hate people doing to us, and we need to do the work. So here’s a good analogy, I think. If you and I were to hop on a jet and fly over to another country, let’s say China or Germany or Kenya, wherever, and we hop off that plane in a new country, we all know we’re gonna have to work harder to connect with people there because they speak a different language. They have different customs. They may have different values. Bingo. I think when I, as a baby boomer, am interacting with a Gen Zer or a Gen Xer, maybe I need to go, “I gotta do the work to connect with this person.” They may be unlike me, but certainly we believe Jesus did this when he walked the Earth, didn’t he? He met with prostitutes and tax collectors, and he was so at home with them. Why? Because he understood them. He did the work. Well, he was son of God, but, but he did the work to understand who was in front of him. I just think we’re lazy. And we stereotype, and we have egos. And so I am, I am pushing in this, in this book, this simple book that I meant to be an encyclopedia really for all generations: How can we do better? And, and, and really help others feel like they truly belong. This is not your church. This is our church right here.
Along those lines, John Maxwell has said before that managers treat everyone the same, and leaders treat everyone differently. That’s, that’s profound by the way. And, and in many respects, true. But tell me about this idea that you’ve written about chess versus checkers in leadership.
And how that plays into the way leaders should be treating others.
Yeah. Well, we’ve developed an entire set of conversation starters, curriculum, if you will, called habitudes. Habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes. And chess and checkers is one of my favorites. So, if you think about it, chess and checkers are played on the very same game board. So it could be tempting to think, “Oh, must be the same game.” That is not true. When I play the game of checkers, all my pieces look alike. They all move alike. So I treat ’em all alike. If I have any hope of winning the game of chess, I have to know what each piece can do: a bishop and a rook and a pawn and a king and a queen. Only in knowing the strength of each piece can I win. I think mediocre leaders or managers play checkers with their people. They treat them all alike, and they get average performance. Great leaders have learned to play chess in the relationships of their life, and they connect with others at the uniqueness of their strength, their personality and their generation. And those people flourish under the leadership. So it’s a simple way of remembering everybody’s a chess piece, not a checkers piece in front of me, and I better know what they can do so I can bring out the very, very best.
Well, I love Tim’s perspective on the different generations and how they’re intersecting in the workplace. Tony, I’m curious. What stood out to you from that conversation?
You know, Amy, as I was listening to Tim talk about the different generations, it, it was a reminder for me that God has created each of us so uniquely. I mean, we are different people, and because of that, we can’t be too quick to overgeneralize who someone is because of their age. So, instead, we really need to get to know each person as a unique individual, especially if we’re leading them and we’re encouraging them to take their next steps in their leadership. So from that conversation, let me just, hopefully, this will be helpful for you as you’re thinking about the people that you are currently leading and influencing and developing. So if you lead a team, list each person on your team, and then for each person, address these specific questions. And we’ll include these questions in the show notes. Where is this person in their faith journey? How has their family and upbringing shaped who they are as an individual? What are their unique strengths that they contribute to the team? And then how can I help them maximize those strengths? What are their unique challenges that could hold them back without appropriate coaching? And how can I help them improve in those areas? And this is a fun question to think about their development because it will really tap into their uniqueness. I ask this question: If they were in my seat, what would they be doing differently and how, how can you encourage them in that? Another question: How can I help them take their next step in their leadership? And that may be, providing resources. It could be creating conversation opportunities with people that are step ahead of them. It could be giving them some specific experience in some areas that will help them take their next steps.
And then the last question: How should I be praying for them? And let me just say this. If you don’t know how to answer those questions for each person that you are leading, you probably don’t know them as individuals well enough. You need to get intent, more intentional about asking questions like this so you know how to continue developing, develop them and pray for them. All that to say, Tim is right. This intersection of the different generations on your team can be an, an advantage for your team. And the intersection of the different generations in your church can also be an advantage for your ministry. And I say that because the healthiest churches we serve aren’t just reaching one generation, they are multi-generational churches.
Hmm. so good. So good. Great questions. Any final thoughts, Tony, before we wrap up this episode?
Well, we’ve just kicked off this new series on empowering next-generation leaders. And I know this is a felt need for a lot of church leaders listening because they’re struggling to fill vacant roles with high-quality leaders. This may be because leadership development has been pushed to the back burner in their church or simply because they’re not structured correctly. And that’s why we’re hosting a free webinar on September 28th. The webinar is called How to Structure Your Staff to Develop Next Generation Leaders. And you can learn more about that webinar and register today through the link in your show notes.
Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Like Tony said, we’d love to have you join us on our upcoming webinar on developing next-generation leaders. To sign up, just use the link in your show notes. And if you don’t yet have the show notes, go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Until then, have a great week.