I joined Scripture Union Nigeria (SU) when I was eighteen years old. I met older members who were mentors. I grew through the ranks till I am sixty years old plus now. I was ordinary member without portfolio. I took up various leadership responsibilities up till serving as the Chief Executive Officer. I begin this discourse with my observations in Scripture Union Nigeria as an organization I have served for more than 42 years.
Scripture Union of Nigeria as a movement comprises and impacts three generations of the Church: children, youth and adults. The adults who are members by second decision of commitment to Christ in the ministry are full-time staff and voluntary workers. They are the working-class group in society. The adults who are designated “pilgrims” constitute the national leadership with the servant-leadership role in relationship to the youth and children. The youth could be members of the Union who are of the age to be in either the secondary or tertiary institutions. The children could be members who are of the age to be in primary schools. Adults, youths, children could be members at the grassroots levels by joining township fellowship groups, campus fellowship groups, secondary school fellowship groups and Bible clubs in primary schools. The adults are more at the giving end while the youth and children are more at the receiving end in their relationships.
Presently, group committees are represented in zonal committees; zonal committees are represented in area committees; area committees are represented in the regional committees and regional committees are represented in the national council. The national council and the committees formulate policies and lead in strategic implementations of the ministry evangelistic outreaches and missions. These links of leadership tiers constitute the older present generation of leaders in the SU national movement. However, there is the purposeful need of relationship between all the formations down to the children’s level to be reproducing leaders for the subsequent generations. Without vision and commitment to reproduce servant-leaders, there would be leadership gap in between the generations in Scripture Union of Nigeria.
The problem Greenleaf tries to solve in his book Servant Leadership is the whole issue of ‘leadership gap’ in our institutions and societies. Leadership gap means that at the exit of a generation of leaders there were no replacements or rather there were no handing over. One of the reasons contributing to leadership gap is lack of mentoring relationship with prospective successors. There may be the formal training but not that informal borne out of life impartation.
The historical and social factors that could bring about “leadership gap” in Scripture Union of Nigeria movement might be organizational. Only lately, were the University students involved in national council. In the social structures, the I still look forward to seeing children, youth, involved together with adults in management of institutions such as family, schools, and Christian ministries.
Ford points out the possible lapse of growing churches and organization as Scripture Union of Nigeria, he says, “Large and complex organizations can inhibit the development of leaders. Impersonal societies can create a sense of powerlessness. Overspecialized training can drain off the potential leaders.” (Ford 1991, 24) Likewise, large church congregations and ministries have the tendency to hinder the development of leaders as many members may be overlooked, under nurtured, and ill prepared.
Scripture Union of Nigeria like other organizations has an ongoing need for new Mission Leaders to help Scripture Union reach more children in every generation with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Mission Leaders as servant-leaders will help to pioneer new missions or continue with established missions.
Reflecting on the story of the young king Rehoboam of Israel in 1 Kings 12: 1, 3-14, 16-19, it is a food for thought why he rejected the better advice given by the elders and followed the wrong counsel of his peers, “Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men.” This leads one to ask the following fundamental questions:
- Why would the young prospective leaders in institutions – churches, para-churches, businesses and even countries not follow in the footsteps of the older generation?
- What leadership styles widen or bridge the leadership generation gap?
- What leadership qualities are necessary to facilitate leadership transition between generations?
- How can there be successful leadership transition between generations in such ministry as Scripture Union of Nigeria?
- How can the staff and volunteers in Scripture Union of Nigeria be motivated to facilitate servant-leadership movement as their service to the churches and the world in need?
- What are the resources available to facilitate servant-leadership movement through Scripture Union as an organization?
BOZEMAN – – The term “generation gap” was coined by sociologists and anthropologists in the 1960’s and is often still used today. One concept of the generation gap is that parents and offspring have different values and beliefs. As a result, many parents fear that they will lose influence with children when peer opinions become highly valued.
Is there is a generation gap in society today?
One survey compared four generations, aged 18-30, 31-48, 49-62, and 63 plus. Several questions were asked to tap into underlying beliefs and values, such as, “Hard work is the key to getting ahead,” and “America is the very best place in the world to live.” There was remarkable consistency in the answers across generations.
Many surveys of youth also refute the notion of a generation gap. These studies show that while youth tend to value their peers’ evaluations over parents’ on things like music, clothing and what’s “cool,” they continue to look to parents for basic values and guidance in the more important areas of life, such as life and career goals.
The generation gap exists because we refuse to become vulnerable enough to build a bridge or two, admit an error or two, accept another who differs with us on a thing or two, and look for a few more alternatives. It is very difficult to bite while talking. It is even more difficult to have a temper tantrum while thinking clearly, and vice versa.
–B. E. Junkins in The Mission Bay Christian, December 1, 1971.
The ‘generation gap’ has existed for all of our lifetimes, but it is not an inescapable fact of human life. It is common to claim that the generation gap has always been with us, from cavemen on down. There may certainly have been some form of friction between young and old before the twentieth century, but it was as much the friction between wise and foolish or weak and strong as anything else, and even this was acknowledged as the natural order of things.
Our generation gap is far more than the wildness of youth. Our generation gap is a generational war, a war between cultures, in the same way that Muslims and Christians war. It is the friction between people who do not understand each other, the same friction and frustration felt by businessmen and tourists traveling to completely different cultures.
Of course, general trends such as these can’t always be applied to individual cases. In our case, we may genuinely feel there is an uncomfortable “gap” between us and our teens. If so, what can we do to bridge it? Here are some good tips from an article titled “Bridging the Generation Gap,” by Barbara Mendenhall, a marriage, family and child counselor and executive director of Family Education Centers.
Show respect. An attitude of respect and faith is contagious. Young people tend to see themselves the way their parents see them, so when you show that you respect their ability to make decisions, learn from outcomes and survive mistakes and adversity, this strengthens them.
Listen more than you talk. Questions we ask may sound like interrogation to teens. Instead, adopt an attitude of curiosity rather than trying to control or manipulate your teen. Ask questions like, “How so? What do you think now? Were you surprised? Now what will you do? What’s your plan? Is this something you want help with?” If your object is only to listen, you won’t be preparing your response while your teen is still talking. You’ll hear better that way, and your teen will be encouraged to talk more.
Ask whether he or she wants to hear it before sharing your point of view. Only proceed if your teen says “yes.” Then be brief. Don’t lecture, and don’t expect your teen to agree with you. If you state your case with a “This is what makes sense to me” attitude as opposed to “This is the only right way to see things,” he or she can listen more openly instead of planning rebellion.
Think “we” instead of “you.” “We have chores to do before we leave the house; how can we take care of what needs to be done?” or “Since spills seem to happen, let’s not eat or drink in the living room.” (As opposed to, “Since you spilled, you can’t eat in there.”) Any way you get across the message, “We’re in this together,” bridges gaps that conflicts can otherwise create.
Don’t “catastrophize” or you’ll lose credibility. Instead of “You’re ruining your life!” say “I’m concerned about what might happen if . . .what do you think you might do in a case like that?”
Remember that hypocrisy and double standards are some of the biggest ‘put off’ for teenagers. Don’t expect them to follow rules you don’t follow yourself. Whether it’s about checking in by the phone, putting things away or drinking out of the milk carton, “Do as I say and not as I do” will not improve the relationship.
Admit your own mistakes and talk about what you are learning from them. Showing self-acceptance and tolerance of imperfection in this way is very encouraging to teens (as well as other people around you) and tends to make you easier to approach with questions, regrets and challenges. Apologize when you wish you had done or said something differently, like losing your cool or saying something mean during an argument.
Enjoy them. The humor, energy and sense of possibility teenagers often have can awaken parents to positive sides of themselves they had forgotten or neglected. When teens experience themselves as like-able, they usually act more like-able.
And how do we translate these generational differences into something positive, instead of divisive? “We found out in our research that many people feel that their generation is not just undervalued, but disliked by other generations at work,” said Lancaster. “That can also apply in a family setting, where both children and adults feel misunderstood.”
Here are a few of Stillman and Lancaster’s tips for crossing the generational divide:
Give people the benefit of the doubt: Don’t assume everyone is playing by your rules with your definitions. Too often, somebody might feel that a rule was “broken” by a colleague, when in reality, that person didn’t even know the rule existed in the first place.
Flexibility is in: employees of different generations thrive in cultures where they can be who they are and express themselves, where they are encouraged to learn from, not become one another.
‘In my day’ doesn’t mean it’s ‘the only way.’ Instead of being stuck in one mindset, we need to let “in my day” be a way to connect with one another. We need to listen, to consider other possibilities, to not assume that our way is always best— something that all generations can be guilty of.
“Exposing ourselves to generational diversity can offer wonderful insight into how the world once was, how it is today and where we all might be in the future,” said Stillman. “The next time you bump into somebody [of] another generation, stop and remember that no one is right or wrong—we’re just different.” And those are the kind of differences we have to learn to live with.
John Maxwell in his book Developing the Leaders around You remarks that most people believe that each new generation of leaders is born rather than developed. As result, many leaders are willing simply to produce followers, expecting new leaders to show up on the scene when their times comes. However, the success of any leader is to reproduce other leaders.
The apex of Maslow hierarchy of human motivation is ‘self-actualization’. In Africa context, a man’s self-actualization is in procreation, that is reproduction of one’s own kind. This is so serious that Africans believe that someone who failed to procreate is worst of existing or being born at all. This is worthwhile challenging worldview for leaders to see ‘other leaders reproduction’ as their added core value.
Greenleaf gives a performance criterion of institutions as follow:
Every large institution that is to be optimal in its performance should produce leadership out of its own ranks. If it is to be exceptional, it should produce more than it needs and thus export leadership to other institutions. It should import some leaders and other trained persons in order to check inbred ness and to keep the organization stimulated, not because it did not produce enough of its own. Growing people, releasing people for important work elsewhere, and bringing able people from other experiences should be constant concern for any institution that wants to function at its optimum (Greenleaf 1977, 114).
The national trustees, areas patrons, campus fellowships patrons, and secondary school fellowships patrons of Scripture Union of Nigeria need to be educated with this challenge by Greenleaf.
Maxwell recommends the following steps to growing and reproducing other leaders. First, he says, “People who do not already possess leadership skills must have an environment that is positive and conducive to their growth.” An interview through e-mail of one the leaders in Scripture Union, the Africa Regional Secretary who explains how he was mentored illustrate how to do this. In answer to the question: “> Are there such persons who have influenced you in > spiritual > leadership other than Jesus? If yes, how did they > influence you? What gave > them that entrée?” He said,
Yes. Of particular mention is late Tony Wilmot. I came to know the Lord through him. He mentored me, first by inviting me to the weekly Bible Study in his house. Later he took me into his house and when his wife was away in UK to take care of the children, I was sleeping in his bed. I saw him wake up very early in the morning to have a long time of studying the word of God and praying. I took after him immediately in my daily devotion. I also learnt from him the importance of expository preaching. He studies and preaches from every part of the Bible, even the genealogies (Daramola 2002).
Secondly, by expressing a high belief in prospective leaders, one is encouraging them to persevere, to learn from mistakes and failures, to have initiatives and be creative. This is a feature in the mentor of the writer that has contributed much to his leadership development. The second and third leadership generations in Scripture Union of Nigeria (SU) need this motivation the more. The slogan of the retired International training Secretary, Mr John Dean is ‘Train and Trust’. The first generation leaders who are the pilgrims ought to put this slogan into practice more and more. Scripture Union of Nigeria resources to undertake this step is in its regular training programmes and publications of devotionals and other Christian literatures.
Thirdly, Maxwell sees empowerment as another step towards reproducing other leaders. He recommends empowerment in stages in terms of delegating authority – first in small things and then in larger ones. Prospective leaders should also be affirmed publicly. This will reinforce their authority and competency. We see this in practice at the ordination of ministers in churches and commissioning of staff and officers in Scripture Union ministry. In addition, most of the SU activities holiday camps, youth and children rally, fellowship meetings, school visitation provide avenues to affirm others as to their Spirit’s gifting and calling into leadership.
Fourthly, one should plan to put prospective leader in situations that will stretch them. There could be such big projects, as William Carey would say “attempting great things for God” that would lead prospective leaders to seek “higher ground” with God and other leaders. This step helps leaders to discover their weaknesses and how to improve in performances.
The last step we would consider is modeling the life of Jesus in close communal living together with prospective leaders. In other word, adults’ leaders in SU ought to be available to the youth and children to be able to influence them for leadership role.
Jesus spent much time forming a community. In doing so, he aimed at reproducing leaders ‘after his own kind.’ Spiritual mentoring is embedded in the word of the Lord Jesus “Follow me”. In the word and testimony of apostle Paul: 1Thessalonians 1:6-7, 2Tim. 2:2, we can see that his commitment in mission is also spiritual mentoring of others. The most available resource in Scripture Union of Nigeria for this step is camping ministry and programmes.
Spiritual mentoring aims at bringing out the likeness of Christ in the other person’s soul. One of the processes that strongly assist in spiritual formation is the informal model of spiritual mentoring. Mentoring is one of the most influential ways to help us grow into intimacy with God, accept our identity as the beloved of God and discover our unique voices for kingdom responsibility.