By Jen Tringale
“…. I was sitting on a porch swing as I recall, legs dangling and drinking my glass of ice cold sweet tea and my Mamaw (that’s Grandmother for all of you non-southerners ?) was sitting next to me. She was leaning forward, elbows on her knees, graciously smiling and listening to every word this man had to say, as if he were someone of great importance. It was a hot summer day in June and we were in the middle of nowhere, in the Cumberland mountains of Kentucky. We were visiting with a distant cousin we had found at home on his front porch while on our family-tree-tracing weekend excursion. I was 10 years old at the time and after an hour or so of talking I was beginning to wonder what exactly it was that my Mammaw found so interesting about this 90 year old retired railroad man from the sticks! I certainly could not see anything that remarkable about him and he really didn’t seem to know all that much about our side of the family. But she was clearly in no hurry. She knew just the right questions to ask to keep him going if he lost his train of thought - which he did more than once! Even for a 10 year old, I could see this man was having the time of his life! I knew my grandmother was beautiful (everyone said so) but she also possesses a very distinct gift of grace and genuine care for people. She has this way of zeroing in on you when she talks to you, as if you’re the only person in the room and that everything you say is of great importance.
It was this gift and the necessity of finding a part time job to help raise her family that led my grandmother to write her own newspaper column and eventually her own weekly radio show in Cincinnati, Ohio. She interviewed dignitaries and celebrities from all over the world such as President Ronald Reagan, Paul Newman and even the founder of my Alma Mater, Rev. Kenneth Hagin, Sr. Her interviews would always float past the superficial and somehow pull out the real story of the person, beyond what they did to become famous. She would somehow manage to spotlight the hand of God at work throughout their career and upbringing, at times even to the surprise of the interviewee, who had perhaps, never seen it quite like that before.
I have always deeply admired my grandmother for many things, but I will always be grateful to her for teaching me my first lesson in leadership at 10 years old and it happened on that June summer day way back in the Cumberland Mountains. As I sat beside Mamaw on the porch swing, watching her do the same thing with old Ira Turner as she had done with countless celebrities and dignitaries of great notoriety, I learned a valuable lesson of leadership…. Learn to always find the value in the one you’re listening to and what they have to offer and you’ll both walk away wiser people for it….”
(EXCERPT from the upcoming book release, “Your Defining Moment, Finding Your Vocational Calling” by Jen Tringale - Fall 2013)
Generational Synergy, A Leadership Strategy
Generational Synergy is a way of leading that will ignite the potential and longevity within a church, ministry or business. This leadership dynamic is designed to add the unique strengths of multiple generations to your organization, resulting in exponential growth.
With 6 generations alive simultaneously for the first time in our nation’s history, leaders need to be thinking and planning more generationally-minded than ever before! There is a current trend among many churches and organizations to take on a leadership persona of being either young OR old. Many spend a lot of time trying to fight off the stereotype that comes with being branded as one or the other, which often times leads to a disingenuous experience.
Instead of placing value on and utilizing strengths in both young and old in our organizations, a kind of unspoken “generational segregation” becomes the status quo. This trend of generational segregation in leadership creates immense isolation and is stifling to an organization’s ability to grow and succeed. Worst of all, it is counter-productive to establishing a legacy, almost solidifying a stunted one or two generation term of ministry at best.
Synergy leads to continuity, while succession leads to replacement. Generational synergy will bring forth great succession, but aiming for succession misses synergy. Synergy says, “we will go together now", while succession says, “Sit and wait and you will take my place one day.” We need everyone at the table now to secure the future. No longer can a generation gap separate and segregate. But the Abrahams, Isaacs and Jacobs working together, will establish not only a legacy of influence but will also yield exponential growth.
As a leader ask yourself these 2 questions:
1) How does what God has been working to establish through me, carry on beyond me?
2) Am I open, as a leader, to going beyond myself in order to have lasting effect?
The leadership paradigm of “succession” will not afford us the rate of advancement needed to shift our communities, cities and nation, but rather generations working synergistically like Mordecai and Esther; Jesus and the boy with the lunch; and Peter and Timothy. This has always been the mode of operation we see throughout the word of God that has brought the greatest results!
The Hidden Cost:
If you are predominantly surrounded by leaders of your same generation, here is a brief look at what that may be costing you right now.
As A Young Leader:
Separation from older generations of leaders and influencers can push pre-mature decisions to “break-off” instead of being “sent out.” Attempts to lead in isolation cause a wake of casualties with no safety net of wisdom or guidance to steer otherwise. These premature decisions are typically born out of high levels of frustration from feelings of being told in essence to “wait your turn”, instead of being developed and given room to run together.
As An Older Leader:
Without evolving the decision-making table to include younger leaders, organizations are placed in grave danger of extinction. There is no one present to serve up fresh momentum and vitality through creative new methods and innovation, both of which happen to be dominant traits of this next generation. This common protective hesitation to change, on the part of an older leader, typically comes out of a felt frustration toward young leaders who, seemingly, have no real sense of commitment and tend to jump ship too early with reasons of feeling that they “just aren’t on the same page” instead of being planted and allowing a full maturing process to take place.
Invest In The Future.
All of these ways of thinking rob us of a great strength that must be re-established and put back into place in order to have any lasting ministry impact. If it is true that leaders of the same generation, whether young or old, have the exact same generational perspective, then it must be that we are all required to go beyond where we have been. We must trust and see through another’s eyes and invest in days of remarkable expansion rather than showing up on the list of extinction.
Genesis 1:28 “ And God blessed them and God said unto them, “Be Fruitful, Multiply and Replenish the Earth…”
How do you influence a generation of young leaders? Introduce them to a culture of real family connection where every generation is important, honored, respected and vital to the whole; where there is an expectation of growth and development in order to fulfill their purpose and assignment. Validate young leaders around you and look for ways to invest in their success and ability to lead. Having their voice at the decision-making tables and not just to be “seen and not heard” but to hear what God is inspiring in them, will give you great influence with this younger generation.
How do you connect with an older generation of leaders? The principle of honor paves the way for favor. Initiate connections and relationships through respect and honor for what they have done and where they have been. Look for ways to serve and serve to grow instead of ways to serve just to get. Guard against becoming overly familiar and keep valuing and drawing on the gift of God within them. There is no substitute for the wisdom you will gain from these connections.
The truth is, the principles of God’s Word will always stay the same, but the methods change and should change as our culture changes.
In the book of Joel and again in Acts 2, there is the most beautiful prophetic picture of generational synergy: Acts 2:17 “and it shall come to pass in the last days, says God. I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams…”.
The bottom line is that we need each other to complete the task at hand. And in the midst of an era when the benchmark for a world in distress has reached an all time high, this is no time for each of us to burrow ourselves down into what is familiar and become “generational islands” to ourselves. We are the body and we need each other. Fathers and Mothers in the faith, young leaders and influencers alike … lets go together, giving to each other that which each joint supplies and see the body of Christ increase and grow in numbers, yes, but in influence and in unity, until we make the kingdoms of this world the kingdoms of our God.