Conference pastors focus on intergenerational leadership

By Benjamin Sutter, benjamins5@goshen.edu

Harleysville, PA—Sheldon Good and Steve Kriss know what it means to work as an intergenerational leadership team—Good worked as an intern with Franconia Conference for four years under Kriss, director of communication and leadership cultivation. The two men brought their own story of leading from separate generations to this month’s pastors’ breakfast.

More than forty conference pastors and church leaders gathered Thursday morning at the Mennonite Conference Center to discuss intergenerational leadership. Kriss and Good, now assistant editor of the Mennonite Weekly Review, outlined some differences between the leadership styles of Generation X (age 30-45) and Millennial (age 18-29) leaders.

“[Millennials] don’t just use gadgets and Google, we fuse our lives into them,” said Good. He described Millennials as a generation marked by Google, while Kriss reflected on how the PBS show Sesame Street encouraged Generation Xers to embrace diversity.

Kriss remarked at the increasing demographic diversity of leaders in the conference. He noted the presence of women, Asians, and those in their 30s, commenting that it was not difficult to find a panel of congregational leaders who already work with intergenerational leadership teams.

Good and Kriss praised the diversity, but hope that shared intergenerational leadership will continue to develop in more churches. Kriss noted that the conference is credentialing Gen X leaders much later in life than previous generations; both men cautioned that this sets up potential for leadership clash between generations.

“Millennials want to lead now,” said Good. “If they’re told they’re going to lead next, they’ll go somewhere else where they can lead now.”

During the second half of the breakfast, a panel of intergenerational leaders from the conference shared challenges and hopes. This panel included pastors from Philadelphia Praise Center, Ambler Mennonite, and Nueva Vida Norristown New Life.

“We tend to congregate around people who mimic us and seem like us,” shared Andrew Huth, outreach pastor for Ambler. Intergenerational leadership can help bring new and different people into churches, he said.

“Church is a place where we come to discuss and wrestle [with life],” Huth said. “[Intergenerational church] allows for a broader range of people to participate … When we expand a discussion in the church, that can only be a good thing.”

 

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