Effective Multi-Generational Leadership

Family portrait of three generations. Mother, daughter and grandmother.

One of the biggest and toughest challenges leaders have face is the challenge of leading multi-generational organizations. And that challenge is probably most difficult within the church. The primary reason for this is that the church is the only organization whose niche market includes everyone.

One of the last things Jesus said to his disciples before returning to heaven was for them to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Jesus did not discriminate in any way regarding who should or could be a disciple. This means everyone. Of course, this presents all kinds of challenges for church leaders, one of which is how to effectively lead a multi-generational church.

At any given time, a pastor is leading a church made up of three to five generations. And if she is not equipped to lead multi-generationally, she will struggle to be an effective leader.

Since multi-generational leadership is unavoidable within the context of the church, let me suggest a few things to bolster be effectiveness.

Understand and appreciate generational differences. This should be your starting point. Take the time to study at least the two generations that precede yours and the two generations that follow yours. Learn to engage with people of these generations so you can better appreciate who they are and what they represent. Failing to do so will almost certainly lead you to make decisions that will not include other generations. Your decisions will be driven by the generation you feel most comfortable with, which is usually your own.

Bring the generations together. This is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts when it comes to being an effective multi-generational leader. Many leaders make the mistake of asking one or two generations to decide for all the generations. This is a recipe for disaster.

Bringing generations together begins with inviting all the generations to have input in what is designed to bring the generations together. To say you are having a multi-generational worship service but having only one generation plan the entire service with little or no input from the other generations is not going to bring the generations together.

When hiring staff or appointing committees or boards, leaders should make a conscious effort to have representation from all generations at all levels of church and community leadership.

Find the common ground. While there may be multiple generations in your church, you might be surprised to discover how many things they have in common.

– They want the church to grow.
– They want to impact their community for Christ.
– They want their leaders to succeed.
– They want their friends and family to follow Jesus too.
– They want the world to be a better place.
– They want the name of Jesus to be honored, lifted up and glorified.

Effective multi-generational leadership is the ability to identify what the different generations have in common and facilitate their working together to achieve those things.

A word of caution. Don’t invite people to the table if you are not going to take them seriously. If you are going to ask people from different generations to be on boards, committees and staff, then you must be prepared to listen to what they have to say.

Nothing undermines your effectiveness as a leader more than asking people to give their time and opinions, and then not to take them seriously.

The multi-generational challenge will always be a part of leading the church of Jesus Christ. It will therefore be incumbent upon every leader to focus attention on doing the hard work of becoming an effective multi-generational leader.

If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at errol@errolcarrim.com to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.