Leadership: yesterday, today and tomorrow

We’ve all heard of the sandwich generation – that time in our lives when folks in our 40’s and 50’s are still taking care of our fast-growing children while also finding ourselves spending more and more time helping to take care of our aging parents.  My colleague Shannon Williams wrote about it in a recent blog.

I’m part of that sandwich generation, living both of those realities everyday.  But I’m feeling sandwiched in areas other than just my family circumstance.

This morning, I sat in a room with ten great members of my church. We have agreed to serve on a task force to consider ways to improve stewardship (giving).  It’s an important task and one that will shape how, how quickly, and how significantly our church can live into its vision for reaching, teaching and serving others.

As our conversation began, I realized that in this room were several beloved, long-time members of the church who have provided great leadership in ministering to our congregation and community, in guiding successful building campaigns and other efforts to expand evangelism, missions and outreach, and in carefully managing our church’s finances for decades.  Also in the room were newer members and folks many years younger than me who are more recent members of our church.  They are joining this stewardship effort with great enthusiasm and interest – eager to step forward and share their gifts of time, talent and treasure for the good of their new church family.

There I was, in the midst of those two amazing groups of leaders.  Group one, the older, wiser, experienced folks who know our church inside and out, have built relationships with members over many years, and who have great affection for the church's history and the ways it has touched generations of families and those touched by its two centuries of mission and ministry.  Group two, the younger, newer members of our growing congregation with limited perspective on the historical significance of the church but who are involving themselves in the exciting new worship services, missional communities, and service opportunities that have drawn them and hundreds of new worshipers just like them to our 200+ year-old congregation. The discussion was energizing.  The questions were thought-provoking.  The ideas were exciting.  New relationships were started.  And a shared commitment to finding the best solutions filled the room. I left the meeting confident that together we are going to do something meaningful for our church.  

Our team at Armstrong McGuire spends a lot of time thinking about the changing face of leadership in our nonprofit sector.  We ask lots of questions.  What new and effective solutions will young leaders bring to the many challenges facing our sector? Will they be more or less committed to their roles than pasts leaders? How accepting will the long-time leaders be when new ideas and new approaches are suggested that may not fit with their way of doing things?  The answers may be as varied and complex as the nonprofits themselves. All I know now is that when I listen to the great dialogue taking place in meetings like our task force this morning, I am immensely grateful, both for the wisdom and work of those who have come before us and for the commitment and willingness to serve of those who are stepping forward for the first time.  If we can harness the best of both, as well as the immense talent in our sandwich generation, imagine the great things our nonprofits can do!

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