Young Leaders – Train or Control?

I don’t think any supervising leader intentionally sets out to control a young leader, but it happens. The young leader is inadvertently not trusted or trained and thereby not empowered to lead. Perhaps this is not exactly the same as controlled, but it “feels” that way to any sharp young leader.

This common scenario is set in motion by the combination of pace and pressure. The pace is fast and the pressure (to get things done) is high, so there is little time for conversation and training. The young leader is tossed in the deep end of the pool, and in some cases they don’t know how to swim. How could they? Who taught them?

12Stone Church Residents, the best young leaders in the country!
12Stone Church Residents, the best young leaders in the country!

This is how the principle plays out:

  • The less investment in training, the greater the perceived need to control.
  • The greater control is emphasized, the less training has been invested.

It’s easy to spot that in any church.

Let’s break it down further.

The more you train leaders, the less need there is to control them. When you develop, you can empower. This means you trust that what you have invested in them will be expressed in their practice of leadership, and result in more effective ministry.

The less you train (equip and develop) your leaders, the more you may feel a need to control them, to tell them what to do, micro-manage, and withhold trust and responsibility because you’re afraid they will make a mistake.

The Impact of “Control”

Consider with me the real impact of “control.” Does it ever really work? I don’t think so. If you think about parents who failed to train their kids, by the time their kids are teenagers, does it really work for the parents to attempt to “control” them? Nope. If the kids are out of control, it’s so much more difficult at that point. Training is essential and it needs to be early. Then you can trust them and let them go. Will they make mistakes? Yes, but they’ll be fine, just give them a chance.

It’s the same with your leaders, and especially your young leaders.

The word “control” may sound too dramatic. As I’ve indicated, no one would agree that they control their leaders. But this scenario is closer to reality and more common than most would imagine. You can soften it by saying the supervising leader might unintentionally hold them back, shut them down, or micro-manage, but however you want to say it, it all comes down to these two questions.

  • How fully do you trust?
  • How well do you train?

3 Practices to move from control to training.

(which leads to empowerment.)

1) Extend genuine trust.

It all starts with trust. Take a risk. Give someone a chance. Someone likely gave you an opportunity when you were a young leader. The outcome is not certain, but the potential for success is high if you follow the next two steps.

2) Give real responsibility.

Trust gains meaning when connected to real responsibility. Let the young leaders carry real ministry weight. If you give them something where they can’t really make a mistake, and no one would care if they did, you’ve not trusted them with real responsibility. Don’t load them up so far over their head they are crushed, but with enough to stretch them.

3) Train for competence.

This is the fun part! Invest in the lives of your younger leaders with great training that involves both equipping and developing. I promise that they are hungry for it. Teaching leadership and coaching leadership skills will take time, but it’s worth it! You don’t have to be the best coach in the world, just pass on what you know! Everyone grows. The result? You grow, the young leader grows and the church grows!

There is more to it, but this is a good start. It’s a place for you to ask honest questions and start good practices.

Read more about: Empowering Leaders.

2 thoughts on “Young Leaders – Train or Control?”

  1. Ciara Jane Mckinney

    I see so much of this balance of equipping leaders or controlling them within youth ministry internships. Due to the short amount of time within these internships some pastors run off of fear of putting that much trust in an intern. I’ve seen internships vary between a lot of control with little trust and probably too much trust. Overall such great advice for how to handle those we desire to raise up as next generation leaders.

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