Today was the first day of Annual Conference (regional denominational) meetings for my area, the Texas Annual Conference (TAC). One of the issues that we have raised up is the need to recruit and train younger leadership both to bring in persons who can become the leaders that the conference will need in the future and to breath freshness into the conference right now.
Our conference (as I’m sure many others do as well) operates very much on a tenure orientation in terms of who holds what positions of leadership, etc. We have changed the structure of the TAC to align with our mission and vision. But changing the culture takes much longer. We need to bring younger clergy into leadership positions (or near them) now and have folks with more knowledge and experience in those positions take on a coaching role. This sounds good, but the tenure model has produced a system in which choosing a coaching role is not as likely when one could well be within one’s prime years of leadership.
So in the midst of thinking about this in general and talking with my dad about some of this related to some of the afternoon’s agenda today, I was reminded of something that has crossed my mind before. Sharing leadership with those who are younger won’t be all that difficult, I don’t think, when we are in our sixties and looking at only a few years remaining before retirement. Sure, one is in a position of power and influence. But one is aware that it is likely on the downward slope of the trajectory.
When the newer generation of leadership (Gen X/Y) will truly be tested is when we are in our forties to mid-fifties. That is the time when we will be moving into the leadership positions and taking on that responsibility. If we seize that period of time to enjoy finally being on the top of the heap, we will squander away one of the most critical opportunities for leadership in the life of the Church. If, on the other hand, we take hold of that period of time when, under a tenure approach we would be “coming into power” and whatnot, and share or give away power to those younger than us, choosing to equip and coach instead, we can “re-set” the system to produce a culture of learning, preparation, practicing, and coaching.
Conference leadership must see preparation of the next leaders as a core obligation. When we (my generation) get to that period in our service, will we hold onto the power and influence we have so long wanted? Or, will we claim as a part our leadership and legacy a decision to forsake some of that for ourselves, instead sharing power, opportunities to practice and grow in leadership, and coaching and continuing development of younger clergy leadership? I hope we will think around and move in that sort of a direction.