We all talk about “empowering young leaders” and there are many upsides to that: We get new talent to fill slots. We are able to influence the ministry longer because we are influencing the next leaders. We get the satisfaction of having invested our time, not just spent it.

Recently a colleague and friend of mine Lenny Luchetti characterized this theme in this tweet:
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I agree wholeheartedly… However, we need to admit that truly investing in young leaders comes at a cost.

Let me tell a story:

Joe_SawyerOne elected Wesleyan denominational leader back in the 70s took a young talented Wesleyan pastor from Ohio on the road to speak at his events (instead of speaking himself) and people raved over how great he was and the events were an overwhelming success. By featuring this other leader he launched his translocal leadership career and gave him an unprecedented platform to communicate.

However, the denominational leader was consequently not reelected. A big reason why is that people were seeing the young pastor speaking and not him. So the denominational leader went on to serve the kingdom in other ways. That man’s name is Joe Sawyer. You might not know him. But I do–and really respect him for this!

maxwellWho was the young Wesleyan pastor from Ohio? That would be John C Maxwell You might have heard of him.

I serve in my current capacity in our tribe’s denominational headquarters. So this story is one I’m processing lately. May I serve like Joe did with such selflessness and identify young capable leaders and empower them to lead now, even if it costs me something! I have seen my boss Dr Jo Anne Lyon do this over and over again (and of course appointing me to the role I’m in is a sign of that in the first place. I don’t deserve this role, but it is a great sign of empowering someone under 40 to serve beyond their experience, and maybe even skill.)

When I planted my first church right out of seminary we needed to get a certain amount of money in that first week just in order to make it as a church (it was a low-budget experimental emerging church plant in the 90s, before those terms were even used.) I remember opening the mail that week and getting absolutely no funds but for one check from a retired minister I barely knew who had heard I was starting a church.

I’ll remember to this day the name signed on that check written to empower a young leader just starting out of school on a big risky adventure?

Yep, it was Joe Sawyer.

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