Emerging adults are not the future of the church; they are an integral part of the church today and are a key to what the church will become. Emerging adults need the church and the church needs emerging adults.
This is an extremely important issue. We are at a crossroads when it comes to meaningfully engaging emerging adults in gospel ministry in the context of local EFCA churches. Why is that?
Approximately 43 percent of lead pastors in the EFCA are over age 55. As I’ve traveled the country this past year and shared this fact, I have seen some people respond with deep concern about where we will be in a decade as many current leaders retire.
I have a different take on what this means for us: I see it as an incredible opportunity. After all, every generation has both the opportunity and the obligation to effectively invest in the generations that will succeed them.
If we are going to connect with this generation, we need to seriously consider advice from leaders like author Rick Dunn, who are actively taking risks to develop young leaders in their churches. It will take intentional choices.
During the decade of ministry that I spent traveling across Africa, I saw many young leaders underutilized and marginalized. This often led to angst in their lives and missed opportunities for ministry expansion.
I also saw some older leaders intentionally invest in and empower young leaders to step into ministry responsibilities that bore great fruit. Pastor Titus Davis, who was just elected to serve as president of the EFC of West Africa, is such a young leader. Older leaders saw capability, capacity and a clear servant heart in his life. They walked alongside him as he planted churches, started a school and initiated outreaches among refugees who had fled to his country.
As he grew, Titus took other young leaders under his wing, equipping them and casting a vision for them to multiply churches and other leaders. An incredible church-planting movement in three countries in West Africa has taken root as a result, even in the face of the surrounding Ebola crisis.
I first met Titus a decade ago and have been privileged to invest in his life. One of the great joys of my ministry in Africa was to walk alongside him and to have Titus call me his “coach.”
In my own life I can look back at the leaders in my home church who invested in me and took a risk—letting me step into ministry opportunities that ultimately shaped who I have become today. I watched the same thing happen in the lives of my own children as they were given opportunities to do meaningful ministry.
Rather than being threatened by the presence and perspective of emerging leaders, those in my generation must take time to develop relationships with them so that we can listen, learn and understand the perspective they bring to shaping ministry for their generation. I love interacting with young leaders. More often than not I have more questions than answers, but I enjoy the process of prayerfully thinking these things through together.
My prayer is that each older leader in the EFCA would commit to walk the journey into the future with some of those who will lead when we step aside.