This one led to a sobering moment.
The discussion was to how many megachurches seemingly have so many leaders.
I know, many of you are thinking – “we don’t have enough”. Or you are thinking –“ we don’t really have a formal leadership program and the like.”
But well functioning, growing, healthy churches often have fairly defined leadership development systems if you were to look at them as an anthropologist would.
Oh sure, I shared with the superintendents ways that megachurches have formalized systems, online systems, coaching systems and the like. (And by the way, besides the university based, student teacher based systems – the school superintendents were coming up empty.)
But the question was really more of - How are megachurches good at inspiring the young to aspire to work at these places?
Oh. That is a different question.
Well in some churches it is a matter of just “taking folks along” in the journey. I told them that many leaders see in a young person a certain gifting, a passion and just say “why don’t you follow me around for a few days.”
If the person seems to enjoy it, they will get assigned some tasks. The reward is not money, but time with the leader.
And church youth groups and teenagers seem to be always pressed in service doing “real stuff” on mission trips, Vacation Bible Schools and other service related projects. If the church has “summer camp” for kids, it is usually staffed by the teenagers and college students and some adults. There are lots of opportunities to begin serving when you are very young.
As Bill Easum and I wrote some years ago in “Beyond the Box: Innovative Churches at Work” – the apprentice tradition is fairly common in non anglo churches. These aren’t really formal internships, but mentoring and discipling programs that come natural for these leaders.
And some pastors actively seek out a few students each year to have them follow him/her around and see what happens on a day to day basis. Sometimes they pick kids that need a little attention and encouragement and sometimes they are picking for potential. But the experience for the kid becomes another vision casting, life transforming, real life encounter.
One of the school superintendents said here’s how the dialogue often goes between a teacher and student:
Student to teacher: “I may want to be a teacher some day.”
Teacher to student: “Oh no, you don’t want to do that. You are bright. You should be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, anything but a teacher.”
The superintendent said: “I just want to wring the neck of that teacher. Don’t they have any loyalty to where they get their paycheck.”
As I told the group – I certainly understand the sentiment and anger you feel at that teacher. Perhaps it is some of the work conditions, and I know everyone needs to be able to pay their bills. But I would never frame that sort of conversation around money. I would frame it exclusively around calling. About the joys, in spite of the difficulties, of helping students become all they can be.
As I added: I don’t know any church leaders that talk to students about how much money can be made working for a church.
But what if every teacher in the high school selected two students to serve as junior teachers each year and they spent an one hour after school showing them what it really means. And what if in the second semester each year they let those kids “teach” a class once every other week? Would that make a difference?
What would that cost in the budget? – 0
What would be the benefit?
But it has to be a “selection” not a “volunteer”. The teacher needs to see in a student the potential.
More thoughts later.
Feel free to push back whether you are an educator or a pastor.