As a person who started off in full-time ministry at the ripe old age of 21, I write the following out of personal experience and not only observation.
We desperately need young leaders to emerge. We older leaders need to help them come forth. That being said, there are some common mistakes young leaders make that could hinder their progress.
The following are seven of the top mistakes young leaders make:
1. Young leaders often have zeal without knowledge. Perhaps the greatest attribute of young leaders can also be their greatest weakness: zeal. The Bible tells us it is possible to have zeal (great energy and passion) without knowledge (Rom. 10:2).
This can manifest in having great excitement and motivation to accomplish a great task, but in that excitement overlooking many of the necessary details needed to ensure success. They see the forest but fail to see the individual trees that make up the forest.
2. Young leaders often neglect the advice of older, wiser leaders. Like Rehoboam (1 Kings 12), the son of Solomon, young leaders often surround themselves with like-minded leaders their own age and neglect the advice of older, more seasoned leaders. Perhaps this is because the next generation always thinks it understands contemporary culture better than older leaders, or perhaps because of a generation gap. Whatever the reason, young leaders make huge mistakes (as did King Rehoboam) if they attempt to lead without the advice and accountability of more experienced leaders.
3. Young leaders often put their work before their families. All young leaders struggle with having balance in this area. One of the main reasons is because young people have an intense need to prove their competency and accomplish great things to satisfy their egos and lift their self-esteem. Consequently, this intense desire often blinds them to the needs of their families, which often leads to emotionally neglecting their spouses and children.
If this is not rectified soon enough, the foundations of their families will be faulty and they may have huge issues in the future. Older ministers have learned that it doesn’t pay to win the world and lose their families.
4. Young leaders often compete with, instead of partner with, other leaders. Along with an inordinate desire to prove themselves comes an intense, subconscious drive to be more successful than other leaders their own age. (Even pastors fall into this.)
Young leaders need to learn not to compare themselves with their peers since we all have unique gifts and callings others cannot easily replicate (2 Cor. 10:12). They also need to understand how partnering with other like-minded leaders will actually maximize their ability to get things done for the sake of the kingdom.
5. Young leaders have unrealistic goals. Often young leaders believe they will be able to see quick results and bring incredible transformation overnight. Their goals are often unrealistic and idealistic. This recalls the words of an old rabbi: “When I was young I wanted to change the world. When I got a little older I modified my goals and wanted to change my nation. Then, as I got older I was content to merely change my city. Then my community. Now that I am very old I would just like to change myself!”
Although I do believe God can use a young person to change their nation and/or the world (for example, D.L. Moody, Billy Graham, John Wesley, Charles Finney, George Whitefield and Dr. Martin Luther King, to name a few), for the most part young leaders have to avoid being precocious regarding their goals and be more practical in regard to following a process capable of facilitating their vision.
6. Young leaders lack biblical balance regarding truth. Often young leaders are just focused on one area of truth that gives them passion to the neglect of other areas of their lives. For example, young senior pastors may focus on one subject, such as prosperity, healing, deliverance or evangelism, but if they neglect other truths of the Bible, they will build unbalanced congregations. Young leaders need to study the whole counsel of God and not just areas based on their passions.
7. Young leaders often build without a proper foundation. Often young leaders will build a business or even plant a church without taking the time needed to build a proper foundation. Whether it is having a strong leadership team in place or a plan for sustainable growth, young leaders often put the cart before the horse and may even experience immediate success without long-term fruit. The deeper the roots of a tree grow into the ground, the taller it can grow!
In the beginning, young leaders need to take more time building a proper foundation than being concerned about how quickly they can make money and/or grow their businesses or ministries.
Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can read more on josephmattera.org or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.