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From Generation to Generation

At my last place of work, the college administration organized an informal mentorship program for all new faculty. I don’t remember all the details, but I do recall that the Dean promised to pay for coffee or lunch anytime new faculty members met with their faculty mentors. The program wasn’t perfect, but it at least indicated an awareness of the importance of passing on wisdom, and listening in the process. In just a few years, after all, it’d be time for that “new” faculty member to mentor the next generation.

Today’s post considers how organizations steward -- or don’t -- the transition from older leadership to younger. It goes beyond questions of mentorship, however, to engage questions of stereotypes, expectations, and invitations to serve. 

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders

From Generation to Generation

Amanda J. Garcia

I looked around the boardroom table at a dozen faces of varying degrees of wrinkling -- mostly men, mostly white, all in similar, comfortable financial brackets. I quietly listened to their concern for the future of their organization, the lack of leadership among younger members, waning interest, and financial support that was going the way of their dying constituency. “Why don’t Millennials care,” they asked each other, “and how can we convince them to?”

While I respect the wisdom and experience of my colleagues in situations like these, and highly value their opinion and approval, I am often disappointed by the little responsibility they seem to feel for stewarding their next generation of leaders.

When I was a toddler, my dad loved to buckle me into a little seat on the back of his bike for long rides on the Prairie Path. When I got bigger, he put me on a bike of my own with training wheels on our quiet neighborhood street. Eventually he took off the training wheels and ran behind my bike, steadying it, letting me try on my own, and was immediately at my side in the ditch when I crashed. He encouraged me and supported me, but he never, ever pedaled the bike for me. That was my job, and he was training me to do it well.

Soon we were riding side by side on those longer treks, taking turns leading, pushing each other to stay steady, to climb -- or pull back, coast, take a break. We were a team. I never doubted that he wanted me to succeed, and I trusted his coaching.

I am curious how different our board meetings would be if members shifted tactics, focusing on growing their organization via the growth of its youngest members. How different would leadership of organizations, companies, and churches be if we intentionally invested in the leadership development of the young and took time to build trust, identify gifts, and cultivate an environment that supported crashing with confidence because they knew they wouldn’t be left alone in the ditch?

Perhaps the greatest misconception about Millennials is that they do not care. According to many reports, they care a great deal and want to make a difference in the world in ways unique to all previous generations. The tragedy is that instead of stewarding these incredible resources, so many current leaders are doing all the pedaling, leaving their passengers stuck on the sidelines, frustrated and ready to go someplace where they’ll be allowed a partnership.

Of course the idealism, passion, and righteous anger that are characteristic of the Millennial generation often breed the timeless impatience of youth. The difference is that Millennials are also characteristically resourceful, creative, and determined, and the energy, ideas, and sheer fact that they are the future is a gift that should not be buried or squandered.

What I wish I had said back in that wrinkly boardroom is that Millennials do not need to be convinced to care, but they do need to be convinced -- as all humans do -- that they are valued. As a gardener tends young plants to yield a great crop, and a parent teaches a child to generously give to others, so leaders might cultivate their communities by offering space to work, a seat at the table, and a voice to be heard -- and all in the name of good Christian stewardship: investing in the greatest good for the most people to the glory and honor of God.

More Information

Amanda J. Garcia is a freelance writer and owner of ColorWord Creative, a communications firm in Elgin, IL. She worships at Zion Lutheran Church and serves on the delightfully diverse and empowering board of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.

Upcoming Stewardship Education

Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising: Luther Seminary, in partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving, is hosting a four-day intensive course, May 1-4, 2017. For more information visit: Lake Institute or Lifelong Learning.

Lakeside will present the Generosity and Stewardship Conference on August 6-9, 2017.  Major keynote speakers include: The Rev. Dr. Clayton Smith, Executive Pastor of Generosity at Church of the Resurrection, J. Clif Christopher, author and founder of Horizon and Bishop Ivan Abraham, former Presiding Bishop of  Methodist Church in Southern Africa.  Lakeside Chautauqua is located in Ohio along Lake Erie with a beautiful backdrop of spiritual opportunities, educational lectures, cultural arts performances and recreational activities.


Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

"Platinum_Equity_27" image by K2 Space. Creative Commons image on Flickr.

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