5 Ways to Lead Millennial Church Leaders

Millennials are a hot topic right now.

Leadership expert, Simon Sinek’s video “Millennials in the workplace” has 7.8 million views on YouTube.

You either hear praise of their innovative and entrepreneurial skills, or of their poor work ethic and entitled attitude.

Both I think are right to some degree. But overall I think that millennials receive a bad wrap. While there are some glaring weaknesses, they have grown up in a unique world that has developed unique skills and perspectives.

I have worked extensively with millennials. I led a large young adult ministry for 4 years. Our mission was to engage and disciple millennials. I was surrounded by them - almost 200 every Sunday night! I now lead a staff team that has 18 millennials on it. This means that over 50% of our staff team were born between 1982-2002.

To add to all of this: I am a millennial myself.

So I get them. I am one. I lead them. I listen to them. I work with them. I am passionate about them. I believe in them.

So as I have been leading millennials, here is how to lead them well: 

  1. Give them flexibility with their schedules

Gone are the days of the stereotypical 9-5 church job. Varying weekly schedules (youth nights, different service schedules) don’t allow a blanket expectation that you are to be shackled to a desk. In my experience, millennials value flexibility over wage.

Don’t get me wrong, we are clear about 40+ hour work weeks and ask that all staff are working hard and passionately in their area. But in the midst of all different types of schedules, flexibility is key.

Instead of bringing out the handcuffs and policy manual, you need to be flexible with millennials. Understand their weekly schedule and rhythm and make their schedule fit into it.

I hear the pushback: won’t this allow them to take advantage of the arrangement and work less than they should?

I would argue that if you are worried about a staff member working as little as possible and taking advantage of your generosity, you need to re-visit your hiring process as they shouldn’t be on your team in the first place.

  1. Give them a voice and influence

When I started working at my church, it took all of 2 weeks to have the ear of my Lead Pastor. I was a new and I had a desire to influence, to be listened to and built into. His availability and initiative started an amazing mentorship. He took time to listen and coach me and has had the most impact on my ministry and leadership than anyone else.

I have been able to model this to the young leaders on our team. There is space on virtually every team for millennials. I have fought to give them opportunities to lead the wider team (not just their ministry) and influence the direction of our church. This means that they have spoken to our vision, strategic plan, new hires, capital projects, and church-wide events.

Of course, the foundation of all of this is trust. Tasha, a millennial leader on our staff team said, “For me to flourish in a church leadership role I need trust from older leadership.” It’s pretty simple.

If you desire to attract millennials to your church, you must get millennials to lead at all levels in your church.

[bctt tweet="If you desire to attract millennials to your church, you must get millennials to lead at all levels in your church." username="christhroness"]

  1. Give them clear boundaries 

I know this is leadership 101, but you have to be reminded about this again. The source of almost all resentment in church staff situations is unclear expectations. So how do you fight against this resentment? Clear expectations. This is important with every person on your team but is most important to this generation.

I have found that if you are explicitly clear with millennials they are a joy to work with. As long as they know the parameters of the sandbox you have asked them to work and play in, they will flourish and so will your church.

  1. Give them space to dream 

Last winter one of our millennial leaders approached me with an idea to host an outdoor church service. Our city had just built a new amphitheater - a perfect place for a few thousand people to gather. I was skeptical but heard him out and gave him some things to do and research.

The long story short: Church at the Lake was one of the best attended and momentum gaining events in recent memory for CA Church. We had over 2000 people attend, 5 people accept Jesus as Lord and baptized 6 people. This would never have happened if I would have rolled my eyes, lead with fear and stonewalled the idea by putting up red tape. There are young leaders in your church who have equally as crazy (and effective) ideas.

They just need to be asked and empowered.

  1. Give them an engaging culture to work in 

I admit it -  you very well could exchange “engaging” with “fun” but I didn’t want to perpetuate the millennial stereotype.

But let’s just say you had the option to work at Church A: known for it’s demanding and stagnant environment. Or at Church B: known for its fun, engaging and forward-thinking culture. Which one would you pick? It seems clear to me.

What this has meant for our team is that we work together, but also play together. We intentionally craft engaging environments and activities for our team to experience both during work hours and after hour events. This builds unity, clarity, and momentum for the team and for the mission as we work together.

This is one of the reasons why we have obtained a “Best Christian Workplaces” status from the Best Christian Workplaces Institute two years in a row.

A great question to ask yourself: would you want to work at your church? If not, then maybe some changes are needed.

[bctt tweet="Would you want to work at your church? If not, then maybe some changes are needed." username="christhroness"]

So what? 

The first step forward is to change the (your) narrative around millennials. Of course, there are complaints - remember 50% of our staff are millennials - but you would be better served to engage, equip and develop these leaders.

They are the leaders who will take over the Church next, so let’s do whatever we can to lead them well.

Conflict or Coasting? 3 Situations where you need to initiate conflict

The Reality of Conflict

Everyone is a little bit scared of conflict.

Even the bravest, outfitted with a personality that fights instead of flights when completely transparent do not enjoy conflict. Sure, it may be a given that conflict can and will happen (even within the healthiest teams), but no one truly likes conflict. These types of leaders know that conflict is a regular part of leadership, but if they are honest it keeps them up at night and they wish it was someone else’s problem to solve.

Others hear the word “conflict" and want to melt into a puddle and somehow escape the room. For them, harmony is what matters most. So they will internalize, minimize, dilute or completely avoid it.  These types of leaders will eventually have to quit running from their fear if they ever want to break through to the next level of leadership and impact.

So whether your one that tolerates or is terrified of conflict, we can all agree that it is icky, keeps us up at night and we wish it was someone else’s problem.

The Reality of Leadership

What separates good leaders from great leaders is not just the ability to navigate conflict, but they actually initiate it.

[bctt tweet="What separates good leaders from great leaders is not just the ability to navigate conflict, but they actually initiate it.." username="christhroness"]

A key component of leadership is bringing a group of people from one place to the next; it is wrestling with the reality of the present, and being able to bring this organization/group of people to the desired future. It is about seeing where things need to go and the ability to strategically bring them there - winsomely and intentionally.

To add to this, the default trajectory of any team is not toward progress but comfort. The senior leader(s) must always be providing clarity, championing the future and wisely driving the team towards it.

It is clear that great leaders know that conflict is not to be simply tolerated, but initiated.

So when should this happen? I see three key situations where you need to initiate conflict.

3 Situations where you need to initiate conflict

1. When the mission has stalled out

Stalling out is not a fun place to be. No one wants to be the person on the side of the road with their hood up, smoke billowing out of the engine, waiting for help. Unfortunately, this is where some of our churches are.

Stalling out means that the dashboard metrics have plateaued and the morale on the team is waning. It means that people have lost interest and your mission is an afterthought to most people - even the ones on your staff. Simply put, people have forgotten and don’t really care anymore.

I get it. It can be easy to put your leadership in neutral. In fact, sometimes it is the most attractive thing to do. But it simply can’t happen. As we all know but don’t want to admit: “I am the lid.” Instead of being passive, we need to step up and initiate conflict.

The enemy of progress (and leadership) is passivity. When a leader starts to idle and disengages, the march towards the desired future stalls out. Not only does this affect the team, but ultimately the mission of the church. This is the time when conflict should not just be avoided but initiated.

Difficult conversations need to happen at all levels of the team - no one is untouchable.

Remember, the mission matters.

2. When you know there is more

Good leaders are only able to see what is happening now. Great leaders are always striving for more; more from themselves and more from their team.

These types of great leaders have been influential in my life. These were the people that God put into my life, at the right time, to speak encouragement to me, but also to challenge me to be more. They could see something I wasn’t: a future me that is closer to Jesus, more reliant on His Word, more engaged in the mission and more aware of how God could use me. Without those leaders I am not sure where I would be.

It’s pretty simple: change doesn’t happen unless conflict happens. There has to be a moment where you sit someone down and cast vision for their lives that they don’t see. To lean in on areas of concern or to shed light on a blind spot they are not seeing. This isn’t just the role of leaders and mentors, but a command given to the body of Christ as we are in community together.

[bctt tweet="Good leaders are only able to see what is happening now. Great leaders are always striving for more; more from themselves and more from their team." username="christhroness"]

3. When you know there is unsettled conflict on your team

Working in a church is difficult as we navigate being “brothers and sisters in Christ” as well as co-workers, bosses, team leaders and direct supervisors. These titles confuse and complicate relationships. Situations are not cut and dry as we feel internally the tension of being the family of God together, and the potential occasion where you could be fired!

Yet every team experiences conflict. The myth is that because we all love Jesus that we won’t bump into each other. If you don’t work in a church and buy into this idea, you couldn’t be more wrong! As the team grows bigger, as ministries are deployed out from your leadership, it is inevitable that people will expect too much, work too little, over promise, under-deliver and will let each other down.

A great leader understands this and does whatever she can to weed it out of the team. Good leaders buy into the lie that a minor conflict won’t cause a major rift. Great leaders understand that this unhealthy pattern in their team must be curbed. Over time unsettled conflicts eats away at the foundation of trust in the team.

So what can you do? At least once a year, you need to provide space for your team to purge - to get things off their chest. Of course, you hope that conflict is dealt with immediately and interpersonally, but often it doesn’t.

Our Lead Pastor and I provide this opportunity. Believe me, it is awkward and strange. Yet, we want to model that conflict is normal, Jesus forgives and the unity and health of our team matters. After a while, the team will understand this is an important mechanism as it uproots the toxic unsettled conflict on your team.

If you know that this happening, it may be time for you to set up a meeting and combat the cancer of unsettled conflict.

It's time for action

So where do you need to initiate conflict today?

Has your mission stalled out? Is there unresolved conflict on your team? Can you identify a leader right now who needs a crucial conversation?

Today is the day where you take action: pick up the phone or schedule a meeting.

You’ll be glad you did.

So will the people you lead.