As older leaders, we long for the younger generations to meet Jesus and experience his healing power, be restored, and become influencers for global missions. Here are three ways we can come alongside them in the process.

A UNICEF report[1] from October 2021 revealed that ‘suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds. Every year, almost 46,000 children between the ages of 10 and 19 end their own lives—about 1 every 11 minutes.’ In addition, an ‘estimated 13 percent of adolescents aged 10–19 is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder’.

These statistics are heart breaking. And as the report indicates, these figures have only risen through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This UNICEF survey also shows that ‘a majority of people in most countries believe that no one should have to deal with mental health challenges on their own and the best solution is to share experiences and seek support’.

The implications are manifold for our churches and Christian ministries. The question for many millions around the world will be whether or not they have somewhere to turn for help and someone to walk alongside and talk with. Can we as the church be that place, that person?

In our own Movement, we surveyed younger leaders in our Younger Leaders Generation (YLGen) initiative in December 2020 about the challenges of the past year. Most indicated that 2020 was indeed a challenging year, with COVID-19 being the greatest challenge (65%). This was followed by workload (38%), work-related stress (36%) and lack of funding (36%). 30% of the respondents (152 people of 766) reported that they have struggled emotionally during the pandemic. And sadly this continues.

Hearing these latest figures should serve as a wake-up call. This young generation will one day take on leadership (if they are not already at the helm) and I wonder how they are being shaped by the responses of the older generations.

Senior leaders and older mentors, this is where you are so needed.

1. We need you to champion the young generation, to believe the best of them and to integrate them in all levels of leadership—all in a spirit of friendship and discipleship.

‘You so often speak about us—what this generation needs, etc.—but you are not speaking with us.’

I remember being at a European mission meeting a few years ago where a young Latvian leader stood up with tears in her eyes, saying, ‘You so often speak about us—what this generation needs, etc.—but you are not speaking with us.’ This really hit me and I made a personal commitment to always have young leaders with me, asking them what they need instead of just assuming I already know.

As a leader, I am intentional about having young leaders in all the various leadership positions I am in charge of. One way we encourage this in the Lausanne Movement is to involve younger leaders at various leadership levels, like issue network or regional teams having a younger leader on board.

Sometimes I need to ask myself the tough questions: Am I ready to share my God-given stage? Am I willing to see younger leaders overtake me? It is important to agree to this and know it is us together building the beautiful kingdom of God.

2. Our younger leaders are looking for people who can share about their struggles in life and leadership in an open, honest, and vulnerable way.

Sometimes I need to ask myself the tough questions: Am I ready to share my God-given stage? Am I willing to see younger leaders overtake me? It is important to agree to this and know it is us together building the beautiful kingdom of God.

Younger leaders in general love to learn from others. They like to know what works and what does not, from peers but also from people who have walked before them. Therefore, we offer mentoring relationships within YLGen, but also know that many more have mentors from within their own circles and the majority of them already mentor younger people than themselves.

One way we explored this was within the Lausanne Germany Younger Leaders team. We wondered what we could offer specifically around the character of a leader, as we knew many leaders who have been struggling during the pandemic and heard about global leaders falling into sin and having to leave ministry.

In March 2021, after we had to postpone twice our planned weekend, we prayed and felt we should offer three virtual gatherings for younger leaders working on ‘HIS’ lifestyle—a life full of humility, integrity, and simplicity, values that are important to us in the Lausanne Movement. Raphael Anzenberger (France) spoke to us about integrity, and Pranitha Timothy (India) spoke on humility. They are incredible leaders, and hearing these voices from outside Germany and even outside Europe was deeply inspiring and challenging. The next one is planned for January 2022, where a European millionaire will speak on simplicity and what it means for him to invest in the kingdom of God.

3. Today’s youth and younger leaders are hungry to meet in person and celebrate together. We must meet with them.

Though the pandemic is not over yet, youth and church work are coming back to life in-person in many nations in Europe. In many places, however, it still feels very slow, with people who are reluctant to come back. Psychologists term this phenomenon ‘the cave syndrome’[2].

But there is also a real hunger to meet in person and celebrate God together. Ministries like Josiah Venture[3], operating in 16 countries within Europe, have even seen a growth in their ministries.

We need to provide safe spaces where people are not judged but encouraged, listened to and challenged to stay on track, to run the race of life well.

Therefore, I would really like to encourage national gatherings where young leaders not only have the chance to meet in-person but also have time to sip coffee with senior leaders. We need to provide safe spaces where people are not judged but encouraged, listened to and challenged to stay on track, to run the race of life well. In YLGen we pray for ten nations each year holding some kind of gathering, especially when some of us slowly come out of the pandemic.

As older leaders, we long for the younger generations to meet Jesus and experience his healing power, be restored, and become influencers for global missions. As God has not given up during the pandemic, neither should we as leaders, whatever he places in front of us.

One way of celebrating this will be our first-ever Lausanne Europe gathering in November 2021. Sadly, it can only take place online due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but we are expecting more than 1,000 leaders of which 20% and more are younger leaders.

As Christians we were made for such a time as this. And as we drink deeply from the well of living water, we can freely pass it on to the next generations, wherever we are situated.

Editor’s Note: Interested in what God is doing in Europe? The Lausanne Europe 20/21 sessions will be soon free to watch. Learn more at https://www.lausanneeurope.org.

Evi Rodemann calls herself a ‘cheerleader of the next generation’. She has been engaged in various national and pan-European youth networks and events and for nine years served as the CEO of Mission-Net. She currently chairs the new organization LeadNow. Since 2015 she has been part of the Lausanne Europe team and facilitates younger leaders’ interactions in Europe and Germany. She is also part of the Lausanne YLGen team, encouraging global younger leaders through gatherings, friendships, and research. When Evi is not found among young people, she works part-time in Germany’s largest aluminium company as their event manager, living a missional lifestyle. She is from Hamburg, Germany.

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