How do you invest in the next generation of leaders and why is it so important?

By Andrei  (3WLN Participant from Russia) 

It sounds like a really good question for the church to always keep in mind if we want to reach our maximum and want our ministry to be effective. Without investing in future generations the Church, or any other organization in this world, has no future. A classical passage that comes to mind in this regard is from 2 Tim. 2:2. It contains a call of the Apostle Paul to succession in ministry that includes 1) Paul – the first generation of Christian believers; 2) Timothy – a representative of the next generation (here – it is a second generation); 3) reliable men (i.e. the third generation in this sequence); and 4) others they are supposed to be able to teach (i.e. the fourth generation). 

Because of faithful followers of Christ who lived out this principle for hundreds of years despite persecution and risk taking, the precious gift of faith was brought to us. How can we stop this? How dare we? 

Last summer, as I was spending some time with my family at a very beautiful place by the lake in Middle Asia., I was surprised to see an alley of birch trees there leading to the lake making the place even more beautiful to anyone from Russia. We associate the birch tree with home because they grow in most places throughout Russia. What else struck me about those birch trees is the fact that amidst the tall, evidently mature trees there were some young ones. They were probably replacing the trees that had died or had been cut down for some reason. Profound spiritual lesson learned from gardening… 

Those young and beautiful birches became a symbol to me of being intentional about raising new leaders who may be young and inexperienced in some things, but who must be with the older and more mature ones learning from them and teaching them, too. Today the changes in our daily lives are so fast and overwhelming that only ‘youngsters’ can not only keep up with the pace with which the changes come and go like swirling wind, but can even thrive and enjoy the constant change of things. We need each other to support, bless, encourage and serve in a manner that will be constantly glorifying God! 

I was ordained when I was only 22. Too young, too little experience in life, too little self-confidence, too great a task. But fortunately to me and other church leaders I serve with, I had people in my life who invested so much into me when I was making my first steps in my faith. I am eternally grateful to my friends and mentors for their time and all their effort. Because of this practice in the Chelyabinsk church from the very beginning, investing in the next generations has become a part of our DNA. We are constantly looking for people who can help us in ministry: leading or co-leading a small group, a seminar or a meeting, reading a Bible passage during the church service, preach, counsel, do worship and so on and so forth. We must do to others what previous generations of missionaries and church planters – mostly from the USA – did to us when the church just got started. 

. We are excited about the internship program for pastors that we first observed in the Hong-Kong church some years ago. We have a young guy, Zhenya, who is now interested in giving it a try. We pray for wisdom in how we can do it better as a team of four pastors so that new generations of pastors follow in our footsteps. I will have the privilege of investing and learning together with Zhenya for the next few months, and I am looking forward to this journey. 

But when do we start investing into others? I believe that the answer to this question includes or should include all ages: from babies – onward. Babies physically and spiritually also. We cannot afford wasting time and numerous opportunities that every age brings to model succession of our faith, experience in ministry, of our very life in all its complexity and unpredictability – to the next generations. 

Jesus did it. The apostles, including Paul, did it. Generations and generations of church leaders throughout church history did it. Now it is our turn and chance to do likewise. May Jesus bless us all!