A Note to Young Leaders… We Don’t Know It All

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Being a “young leader,” I am definitely so excited about the incredible things our generation is doing in the world today.

Whether on the platform of ministry, leading social enterprises to create good, or living out our faith in new ways in the public square, we are doing some pretty remarkable things.

We’ve really got the entire world at our fingertips and are able to connect with people around the globe like never before. We have more available to us than any other generation before us and our potential is really limitless. We’ve seen the landscape of our world be flattened by technology, have lived through massive cultural changes, live in new economic realities, and are able to go and do things that generations before us could have never dreamed was possible.

We  are poised to do incredible things to make our world a better place and see more people come to know Christ and be connected with the local church. We take seriously the words of Christ to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

It’s an amazing thing to witness and something that’s humbling to be a part of.

God has created, chosen, and called us to walk on this earth for this time in history… amidst times of massive change, great need, cultural revolution, and technological advancements, we’ve been given the keys to shape the future. That’s a pretty tall order.

In our passion and zeal to change the world and create good… with our commitment to Christ and desire to lead the Church forward… and with our drive to do go against the institutions or “the man,” let me, as one of you, humbly confess, we don’t know it all.

Now I know we all share a lot of doubt about what we’ve inherited. We can be disillusioned by faith and have distrust for the church as we know it. We can be dissatisfied with the way things have been done and want to do things dramatically different. I know that it’s easy to write off the past and press forward to create a better future. I’ve felt the pain of being looked down upon because I was young. I know the frustration you can have if people who are older or who are in leadership over you “don’t get it.” I know sometimes it would be easy to just want to abandon the trail and blaze your own path. I get it.

But I’m also learning [and sometimes the hard way] that there is a lot we don’t know. There’s a lot we haven’t experienced. There’s a lot we don’t fully understand. There’s much, much more we have to learn. In our youthful exuberance we can miss some vital wisdom.

Simply put, we need to be teachable. And we need mentors.

We need to be willing to be teachable and to be able to take correction. We need to pause in the midst of creating great output and get input. And we need those who are further down the path to invest in us and impart wisdom they’ve learned along their journey.

We need men and women in our lives who have lived a little bit longer and experienced more to help us as we navigate our journeys and pursue our callings. We need people to point out our blind spots and lovingly correct us and give us  words of caution. We need to admit we don’t know it all and pursue wisdom from those who have gone before us.

We stand on the shoulders of giants and what we have today is the result of the faithfulness of those who sowed their lives, passion, and energy into us and the churches, organizations, and workplaces where we lead today.

We do a great disservice to ourselves and to God by thinking we know it all or that we have all of the answers. While we are poised to be used by God to great things we cannot neglect the need we have to be discipled and mentored by those who are wiser, older and more experienced.

It seems to me that a lot of us have jumped right into doing things for Christ [which is great] and the expense of being discipled to be more like Christ [which is not so great, at all].

I also realize the frustration you may feel for the lack of mentors that it seems we have.

I’m nearing the age of 29 and have been in ministry for over decade and have lacked a true mentor. I’ve learned a lot through my experience in ministry [and I do believe wisdom can come in the form of experience] but the only significant person I’ve had consistently listening and giving me advice is a counselor I pay to meet with every week.

I’m discovering that mentors won’t come through a program at a church or by filling out a check box in a bulletin. In order to find one, you’ve got to pursue one. You’ve got to be intentional, prayerful, and courageous to pursue those types of relationships.

We can complain there is a lack of mentors and write it off [which I have sadly done in the past] or you can become proactive in seeking one out [which I am currently doing]. I haven’t gotten one yet [yes, this is shameless “ask” to those of you who are older!], but I will say pursuing one may be one of the greatest investments we can make in our lives and development as young leaders.

We need mentors. We need wisdom. We need correction. We need someone to point out our blind spots and to share lessons they’ve learned the hard way. We need to be teachable. We need to be open to what God wants to speak to us through the life, wisdom, and experience of someone else.

We need to also realize the need to “mentor up.”

There is a lot we do understand that others don’t. We get technology, we get what’s happening, we see the changes happening around us because change is a part of our everyday lives. Mentoring can be a two-way relationship. As someone else invests in our lives and speaks truth to us, we need to also be willing to share what we know and candidly speak [in humility!] about the reality of our world and generation today.

There’s much we have to learn and share.

So, would you agree we don’t know it all?

Would you agree that we need mentors?

If you have one, how did you them?

If you are older, what’s stopping you from investing in someone that’s younger?

If you’re younger, what’s stopping you from pursuing a mentoring relationship with someone that’s older?

We need each other.  


Tim Schraeder is a church communications specialist, working with churches across the country through his role in church relations with ChurchSolutions Group and as co-director of the Center for Church Communications, the parent organization of Tim is also the generaleditor of the forthcoming book, . He blogs his thoughts on church communications at and blogsin under 140 characters @TimSchraeder.

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