TOWARDS A CULTURE OF INTERGENERATIONAL LEADERSHIP IN THE COMMUNITY OF FAITH

Rev. CB Samuel

Broadly speaking, there are five generations in any community. For want of  better categorization, I begin with the popular terms: (1) Traditionalist, born between1929-45), so in the age group of 74 and above (strictly speaking 74-90), (2) Boomers, born between 1945-1960/64 and currently between 55-74, (3) Generation X, born between 1961/65-1979 and now 40 -55 years old, (4) Generation Y, born between 1980-95 and in the age group of 24-39, (5) Generation Z, born after1995/96 and in the age group of Age 9 – 24.

The different generations are the same in the church too. The last category, Generation Z, is broken into three groups: Pre-teens (9-12), Teens (13-16), University Students (17-21) and Early working groups (22-24).  

Most of our churches, especially those in the cities are multi-generational.  Each generation has assigned space for functioning and expression. In some cases, there are sub-groups that  are also gender based or interest based.  Each of these groups function independently, defining their activities and purposes.  However, usually these multi-generational groups function not  as inter-generational.

Before I proceed further, it is important to spell out what I understand as the key task of leadership. Leadership is about decision making. While an important component of leadership is influence, the key task of leadership is decision making. So when we consider the generational inputs into leadership table, one important criteria is their ability to add value to the decision making process. Where do we go? What values encompass our directions? How do we ensure the assimilation of vision and values? These are some key leadership questions.

Another important aspect to remember is that irrespective of the generation types, there are essential givens about the church. First, the church is the body of Christ, and every person belongs to that body because of the redemptive work of grace, and our belonging being affirmed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is therefore, obvious, that a person belonging to the Traditionalists generation may be a new believer and a child may be spiritually ahead in years. So the popular categories of generations, may be in relation to physical years and even emotional and mental age, it may not reflect one’s spiritual age at all. Second, the church is built by the Spirit who gives gifts to enable everyone to make their appropriate contribution; and the gifts are given irrespective of the generation one belongs to; and the gifts are given according to the will of the Spirit.

It is obvious also that the generations go through a certain process in their shaping. Some of the key external factors that shape each generation in specific phases in their lives are family, community, peers, the economic pressures, understanding of success and of failures. For instance, those in the age group of 74 and above, passed through the history of world war, the movements for freedom and independence. Those would have been their initial years. Then they moved on therefore to be builders of their own aspirations against all odds. Today they are rich with resources of experiences of perseverance in all aspects.  They are most likely done with work hours, pay checks, and the likes so bring to the leadership table and its decisions a desire for peace. They will place a very high value on people and regard people as more important than programs for the most part;  this generation more than any other will ask the question “how does this decision make everyone happy” They are still with us, but to some extent they are like the great cloud of witnesses whose learnings could be very useful to discern what matters from what does not; to go deeper as much as extending our tents.

The Boomers as they are called in the Western literature, in the Asian context generally those whose early years belonged to the early years of the independence of their nations. I prefer to call them Dreamers, instead of Boomers. While they may not have struggled for freedom, they were recipients of hopes, and worked to make the dreams a reality. It was a generation that make things happen and shape a new future. And in most situations, they worked to make what is seen today from what was not. They are confident on possibilities. They bring to the table today the capacity of planning and developing a blueprint to translate plans to reality. This generation would probably be in a phase of life where they are riding the wave of their own time and relational investments. 55-70 is generally a time when you are working in a consultancy role given all your experience and expertise at whatever you spent your life doing. They will bring to the leadership table that concept of “what’s the focus, the most important one thing you want to do”.

The next generation belongs to the age group of 40-55. Most often they have rich experience in managing the implementation of the plans. Like the Dreamers, this generation too inherited the freedom and opportunities. They were driven by the desire to consolidate, upgrade and expand. They bring to the leadership table the strong belief that with hard work anything can be achieved and the focus on growth is their very valuable contribution.

Generation Y, is largely driven by being alternate and innovative. This group brings to the leadership table, the enquiry of doing things differently and out of the box. 

And finally the Generation that is soon to be more than 40% of the population.  Up to the ages of 12 this group is catered to in the church by teaching and opportunities to participate. The ages of 13-16, has a strong desire to express opinions and is predominately shaped by their peers. It is in this age group many even come to know Christ and are filled with the desire to know and are open to be shaped and directed. However, in this generation, the leadership value is brought to the table by those in the age groups of 17-21 and 22-24. They have a high level of energy, relevance-driven, capable of innovative use of technology, sensitivity to broader issues and keen on public involvement. While the 17-21ers are confident of working things out, the 22-24rs are realistic due to experiences of difficulties and failures. There is a good mix of aspirations, and caution to risk taking.

So intergenerational leadership is bringing the strengths and learnings to the leadership table in shaping directions of impact. The caution however is that as much as there is a divide between leadership and management, even here it is possible to mistake intergenerational leadership to intergenerational management. Some generations are richer in leadership resources and others in management.  

Christian leadership is essentially spiritual leadership. At the heart of spiritual leadership are essential characteristics such as hearing God, recognising and discerning God’s voice, keeping to the text, perseverance despite difficulties and opposition, and attitude of Christ-likeness in success and failure. These are not competencies that come from the world but through years of faithfulness.

Intergenerational leadership, therefore, thrives in an environment of hearing God, discerning God, hunger for God’s word, discipline of obedience to the Word in personal life and perseverance in public space witness of the gospel. It is not a strategy but a culture of the faith community. If not, it gets reduced to making space for each other with an attitude of condescension and desire to be entertained by each other. In contrast, where a culture prevails there will be an attitude of learning rather than applause and mutual fan-club groups.

Visitation of National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia & Cambodia

NATIONAL EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP OF MALAYSIA

A Visit with the Chairman of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) of Malaysia, Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Eu Hong Seng in June 2019.

We are grateful for the enthusiasm of the NECF in hosting the next AEA General Assembly and the AEA Conference on Intergenerational Leadership in May 2020.

NATIONAL EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP OF CAMBODIA

In July the GS visited the National Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia (NEFC).  There was an opportunity to meet with the Board and the members of NEFC, where the AEA GS shared the Vision, Mission and Core Strategy of the AEA, as well as the Program Design and the outcome of the World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly.

The GS also invited the Church leaders in Cambodia to participate and engage together at the AEA Conference on Intergenerational Leadership to be held in Malaysia on May 13-15, 2020.

At a small group meeting between the GS and the core leadership of the NEFC, the Chairman, Rev. Heng Cheng presented the Apps for the MK2021 (Mission Kampuchea 2021).  The MK2021 was initiated and founded by senior leaders of Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia (EFC).  It is a movement with a vision to plant a church or cell group in every village in Cambodia by 2021.  It has been operated independently from the NEFC structure because the senior leaders of NEFC would like to see all churches in Cambodia, from different associations/ councils (both EFC members and non-members), joining the movement.

Participation at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and Interfaith Dialogue Exchange Programme July 13-27, 2019

Ms. Yamini Ravidran – Director of Religious Liberty and Social Justice of NCEASL, Executive Director of the Religious Liberty Commission

Mr. Godfrey Yogarajah – Deputy CEO of WEA, General Secretary of NCEASL

Ms Yamini Ravindran and Mr. Godfrey Yogarajah attended the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom (July 16–18, 2019) organised by the US State Department.

The Ministerial brings together leaders, civil society actors and other stakeholders from around the world to discuss challenges facing religious freedom, identify means to address religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, and promote greater respect and preservation of religious liberty for all.

Ms Ravindran addressed the gathering on the opening day, speaking on behalf of the Evangelical Christian community in Sri Lanka in the wake of the Easter Sunday terror attacks. She relayed the story of 06-year-old Debby, a victim of the attack on the Zion Church in Batticaloa and detailed her slow and painful recovery. She further voiced concerns relating to incidents of violence following the attacks.

While at the Ministerial, Ms Ravindran met and liaised with Secretary Mike Pompeo and highlighted a number of pressing concerns facing the Sri Lankan Evangelical Christian community. She emphasised the need for the official recognition of Evangelicals and the introduction of a special desk within the Department of Christian Religious Affairs to probe the issues facing Evangelicals.  She further highlighted the need to revoke the circular issued by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) in 2008, which regulations registration constructions of places of worship.

She also met with representatives of the State Department; the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback; and President Donald Trump.

Furthermore, Ms Ravindran and Mr Godfrey Yogarajah met with Christina James, the Foreign Affairs Officer at the Office of South and Central Asia of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, to discuss trends in religious persecution in Sri Lanka and Asia. They also met with Lucius Thompson, the Director for Security at the McLean Bible Church, to discuss physical security considerations for Sri Lankan churches. As a result of this meeting, Mr Thompson agreed to travel to Sri Lanka and conduct a training of trainers on physical security measures and important consideration which should be adopted by vulnerable churches.

Other Advocacy Activities by Religious Liberty Commission:

  1. Written submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHR) on the 39th, 40th and 41st Regular Sessions of the UNHRC during the reporting period. 
  2. In partnership with WEA RLC, conducted national training to over 40 pastors, women, lawyers and youth in Vietnam on the importance of advocacy for religious freedom, biblical basis for human rights, and the use of social media for advocacy.  
  3. Met with the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed on August 16, 2019 during his official visit to assess the religious freedom landscape. The Executive Director raised issues of religious violence, discrimination, legal restrictions, the lack of recognition for Evangelical Christians.

NCEASL Interventions for Sri Lanka Easter Sunday Bombing Victims

Sri Lanka faced a series of devastating bombings last Easter Sunday, targeted at Christian devotees attending Easter Sunday worship services and Easter celebrations at luxury hotels. The reported death toll following these attacks currently stands over 359 people, including women and children. The attacks purportedly carried out by an Islamist terrorist group has left a hole in the fabric of society and resulted in rising tensions between communities.

As a response to the ongoing crisis, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) has rallied to reach out and rebuild families and communities affected by this tragedy in whatever way we can (written statement made by NCEASL). While these heinous attacks targeted Christians, the blasts killed indiscriminately and victimised more than just the Christian community. The grief and horror of these events is felt by all Sri Lankans.

Support and Prayers from Evangelicals Alliance Leaders on Easter Sunday Attack in Sri Lanka

Leaders from The World Evangelical Alliance and Evangelicals Alliance were deeply distraught and condemns in the strongest terms the Easter Sunday (21 April) terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka targeting the Zion church in Batticaloa, St. Sebastian’s church in Katana, St. Anthony’s church in Kochchikade and leading luxury hotels in Colombo.

Continue reading “Support and Prayers from Evangelicals Alliance Leaders on Easter Sunday Attack in Sri Lanka”

STATEMENT OF THE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION OF THE WORLD EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE

On April 26th, The World Evangelical Alliance, Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC) release a statement in response to Easter Sunday Attacks Targeting Churches and Luxury Hotels in Sri Lanka. WEA RLC stands in solidarity with the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks and against these brutal and barbaric acts of hate. Moreover, the WEA RLC implores all Sri Lankans to remain calm and in constant vigilance during these troubled times, and call upon all Christians to pray for those affected in the attacks and actively support efforts to restore peace in the country.

Image: Coutesy of Reuters with black/white editing from web admin.

Easter Greeting from General Secretary of the AEA

Easter commemorates the most important day in history of the universe. A day of Victory, of Power, of Life, and of Hope.

May the Power of His Ressurection empower, inspire, and energize your life, love, and ministry.

Annual Meeting of the Executive Council of AEA

Video of the Annual Meeting of the Executive Council of Asia Evangelical Alliance (AEA). Held last February 26-28, 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand, Rev. Dr. Bambang Budijanto was installed as the new General Secretary replacing Rev. Dr. Richard Howell.

Greetings from the Asia Evangelical Alliance Meeting in Bangkok

Watch WEA Secretary General and CEO, Bishop Ef Tendero, sending greetings from the Asia Evangelical Alliance meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, where Dr Bambang Budijanto was installed as the new General Secretary and Dr Richard Howell was thanked and honored for his many years of faithful service.

With 60% of the world’s population living in Asia, the region has great relevance for the global Church. Bishop Ef shares about the challenges but also the work of God on the continent.