Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Can Churches Do to Train Future Leaders?

Picture this scene: a group of people are gathered in a room. Someone, the president, gets up and calls the meeting to order. A few reports are given. Some miscellaneous business is discussed. Then the people begin getting up and giving ten-minute speeches on various topics. What organization is that?

If you are in the business world, you might say, “That sounds like Toastmasters.” And in fact it does sound like that well respected organization in which people learn leadership and speaking skills by doing. But the scene I described comes from a monthly youth meeting I attended when I was a teenager. The churches of the Cane Creek Baptist Association held these meetings (still do) and called it the Youth in the Harvest.

At one point or another, I held most of the jobs within the Youth in the Harvest. I had to give “a part.” I was elected treasurer. I led the singing. I was vice-president. I was president. And not once did I think, “I hope they elect me.” Not once did I think, “I hope our church is on the program next month, so I can give a part.”

Just as I never appreciated the beauty of the where I grew up until I moved to Texas, I never appreciated the Youth in the Harvest until I could look back and see what it gave me. As much as I hated participating, I look back now and realize that the Youth in the Harvest shaped the way I conduct myself in business meetings, in committee meetings, in teaching situations, in meetings at work. What a wonderful gift to have been taught as a youth what adults are seeking to learn through Toastmasters.

I’m a member of a larger church now and it is a member of a smaller association than the Cane Creek Association, so things are different. In some ways, they are better, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re failing to teach some of those things that I learned from the Cane Creek Association’s Youth in the Harvest. Because of the size of our church and the size our youth group, we don’t have the need of a monthly association sponsored youth meeting. But that also removes opportunities to learn to conduct meetings, to learn to teach a lesson, and other things we hope they will do later in life.

Association sponsored youth meetings are far from perfect. It is hard to get some churches to attend. Some pastors end up giving “the part” when their youth refuse. The value of the business meeting comes into question when adults become too involved in it. But I believe there is a need for churches to develop ways to hone the leadership skills of their youth. I don’t know what that should look like when it takes the form of a church ministry instead of an associational meeting, but I believe it is worth pursuing.

So let me ask you, what can medium sized and large churches do to prepare their youth for the leadership roles they will have in the future?