In addition to the obvious financial challenges facing many charitably funded organizations today, Cameron identifies leadership as an important challenge.
In 2007, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation launched a series of national conversations in an attempt to listen to people, and discover what were the most critical issues facing their arts organizations. (As an aside: it is interesting that the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation should perceive that listening is the beginning of the way forward in addressing a difficult situation.)
Among the insights that emerged out of these “national conversations,” was an understanding that organizations today are being affected by a radical shift in the way leadership is viewed.
We heard concern about an impending generational transfer of leadership, as a generation of founders retire or depart. And while much of the concern was around where we might find their successors—especially given different expectations from young people around higher compensation, shorter hours, in essence less patience for the sacrificed lives of dignity and the financial masochism that were the givens for so many in my own generation—this conversation brought to my ears, at least, a new strand of the conversation: the unwillingness of emerging leaders to be mere custodians of organizations they inherit. “There are plenty of us eager to give ourselves to the arts.” they said, “But unless we are given the same authority to reinvent and reshape organizations as you yourselves were given, we are not interested”—a point of view that raises far more questions about an organization’s capacity for change than about the identity of an heir apparent.
There are two insights here that are crucial for the church.
1. The church has depended for generations on an unhealthy model of leadership. I remember a senior clergyman saying to me twenty-five years ago, “I would rather burn out than rust out.” He made the statement as if it were a sign of virtue that he was willing to work himself into an early grave in the service of God. I cannot count the number of clergy meetings I have attended in which the clergy of my generation announced with pride how long it had been since they had a day off.
If church depends upon a group of professional church workers willing to sacrifice their physical, psychological, spiritual, and family health for its survival, then the church deserves to die. In my experience Cameron is right that the emerging generation of leadership is less willing to accept the “sacrificed lives of dignity and the financial masochism that were the givens for so many in my own generation.” The church should not be sad that this is the case. We should rejoice that a new generation of leaders is determined to find healthier, more balanced, more integrated ways of living than seems to have been primarily the case in earlier generations.
2. The emerging generation of leaders wants to be able to “reinvent and reshape the organizations” in which they are called to exercise their gifts of leadership. Again, we should rejoice that this is the case. Those of us who are nearing the end of our professional church careers must resist the temptation to feel threatened by those who are beginning to exercise their leadership in our midst. They are the ones who are going to be required to carry the church forward.
The emerging young leaders are the ones who are equipped to meet the challenges of these rapidly changing times. I do not understand what “Twitter” is. It is not that I am unwilling to be open to new technologies. It is simply a generational reality that “Twitter,” and its successors will never be a major part of my consciousness in the way it is for someone who is twenty-eight.
It is to be hoped that emerging leaders might feel drawn to seek out those who have been “in the business” for many years in the hopes of gleaning wisdom, encouragement, and guidance. Sadly, I am not sure my generation of leaders has done much to convince emerging leaders that we are a particularly hopeful place to look for wisdom and insight. Perhaps those of us who have only a decade left in our careers might spend that time trying to re-focus in a more reflective and contemplative direction in an attempt to gain some of that depth that might enable us to support a new generation of leaders in moving forward in healthier more life-giving directions.
What model of leadership does the church need today?
In what ways is our exercise of leadership in the church today unhealthy and bad for the well-being of the church?
How can I support the church in moving towards a more healthy model of leadership?