on sharing leadership

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.


Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

6 thoughts on “on sharing leadership

  1. Keep the paycheck. Share the leadership:-)

    Seriously though,

    I think we are all called to lead where we are at all along the “ladder”. (not just when we get our next move up) More than that I think our most important job is to coach or recruit the laity to lead. We are going to be fighting a losing battle if the only leaders we have are the few in pulpit.

    Note: Real leaders wear suits to conference.

  2. A couple of things come to mind.
    1. I see that a resolution is on the floor to find some money to pay for retirees to come to conference. Is that because we need more retired pastors? I know they are on what is called a “fixed income,” but I also remember my student days when I had no real income. If we really want younger pastors, why don’t we have a resolution calling for funding young people’s attendance at conference? (Or do we think that would scare them away?
    2. When it comes to leadership positions in the AC the old model was that people would be nominated to fill slots in the conference establishment. (Yes, I know that’s still the way it’s done.) I see two ways to improve. First, to benefit all, we should shift to a model like the Lay Leadership Committees in our churches are supposed to be doing (though it’s likely still a theory in most places), of looking at the people we have, discerning their gifts and callings, and then employing them in a fitting place.
    Second, for young leaders in general (this is how I think, though I suppose I’m no longer young), I’d say the thing to do is lead. Find an area of interest and calling, of gifting and passion. Show up and start making things happen. Sure, that’ll likely be difficult for those who want power positions, but there are plenty of other places to lead in the conference. If a place doesn’t now exist, start something new.

    From that point of view, there are some areas of conference leadership that’s I’d be happy to have the old crew corralled. Personally, I’d be bored to tears in a lot of those places. I’d rather not stick young leaders in a place they’ll be bored, ill-used and worn out.

  3. Good thoughts.

    I should perhaps have more clear that I’m refering to Annual Conference leadership positions filled by clergy. Raising up lay leadership is of critical importance, but I’m kind of niched in my point here.

    That’s one joy is that I’ve been able to do what you mention here with the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry. I am very thankful for that.

  4. Good thoughts here. I’m glad the retirees want to come to Conference, and understand their financial situation may be tight, however they are not the only ones and the resolution appeared to have too many loopholes. Good thing it is referred.

    As for Conference level leadership, maybe what is needed is young people knocking loudly at the door to serve? Perhaps our youth directors should spend some time on Conference structure and leadership, to explain how it works (in place of yet another evening of pizza and games, dumbing down the program). Perhaps our Wesley Foundation pastors could do the same? Perhaps our pastors could put youth on the committees in local churches and in District leadership so we have young people experiencing leadership, not just talking about it?

    As to young people being bored, my own teens are being bored right out of the pews, never mind on a Conference level committee.

    After the two passionate pleas from lay leaders to develop younger clergy, I dearly hope and pray the Texas Annual Conference is listening and will act.

  5. OK, I am late in the game but have several excuses… one that is 7 weeks old and demands all of my energy and attention… so, while she sleeps, I will try to get down what has been rattling around in my brain since I read this post a week ago. Please also forgive spelling mistakes!

    I think that we make a huge mistake when we equate leadership with power and positions with either leadership or power… I believe that is an old model. There are some great leaders who have no power and then there are powerful people in positions of power who are not great leaders! So, let’s be careful when we say that certain positions make someone a leader even if they happen to make that person powerful.

    My second point is that our conference hasn’t always done things by tenure… some of the folks currently in positions of power and/or leadership have held those places my entire memory of conference experience… I was ordained a Deacon in 1994, so if we back that up a few years of trying to “get in” the system… we are talking 15-20 years ago and those same folks are STILL in positions and haven’t made room for those behind. If we think those folks are now 55-60 years old then they were mid 30s and early 40s when I first met them and they WERE IN POSITIONS of power. It is a generation thing and the Boomers have been “running” our Conference since they were Ordained in huge droves 25-30 years ago… They still see themselves as young (60 is the new 40), therefore, the folks younger than them who they remember “helping get ordained” must be REALLY YOUNG even when we are now the age they were when we met. Does that make sense? The shift of leadership and power happens when the Boomers start realizing that they are retiring and/or dying and haven’t secured the future of our annual conference. I can’t say it enough — the younger clergy have to be wanted for more than the reduction of insurance rates! We have to be wanted for our ideas, our leadership, the changes we want to make, etc. The way to do it is just to lead even when you don’t have the “power”… lead the laity, lead your congregation, lead the Boomers to understand what we need from them… lead and perhaps they will follow.

    My third thought on all this is that when the younger folks are given leadership and power positions, we can’t be lazy and we can’t continue to run it the way that “it has always been done”… we can’t screw each other and be OK with it… we can’t just do what others tell us to… we can’t treat other young clergy like we have arrived and they haven’t yet… more on this is of a personal note and I will attach it to an email to you Guy.


  6. Thanks for the thoughts, Stacy. I appreciate especially the point about making sure we don’t confuse leadership, power, and official positions. There’s more to it than that. And I am with on the point of needing to lead “even when you don’t have the ‘power.'”

    As for the third thought, I definitely think you are right. Leadership positions and power come with great responsibility. Thanks for your email–I’ll follow you there.

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