By Aaron Earls
They might not agree on much, but young adults are certain that society is facing a crisis of leadership.
In a recent global survey from Barna, 82% of 18- to 35-year-olds believe we are in the midst of a leadership crisis because there aren’t enough good leaders right now.
This statement had one of the highest levels of agreements among young adults surveyed, with 43% strongly and 39% somewhat agreeing.
When asked about the biggest challenges to leadership today, half of respondents (50%) say everyone is too busy and distracted.
Around 2 in 5 point to competition in a global marketplace (43%) and society becoming so fragmented (41%).
Close to a third blame older adults not letting younger adults lead (38%), younger adults not putting in the time to become great leaders (35%), and people following news headlines instead of leaders.
A quarter of young adults (26%) say no one wants to be a follower anymore.
One-third say that what it takes to be an effective leader is changing.
When asked about being a leader themselves, 30% of young adults say they don’t think of themselves in that way, including 22% who have never considering themselves a leader.
For those who say they are a leader, they are most likely to say that shows up in their family (47%) or their job (34%).
Few young adults (9%) see themselves as a leader in their church or faith community.
Among the young adults involved in a church or religious group, many feel like they’ve had opportunities to learn what it feels like to be part of team (45%), been given real chances to contribute (42%), been inspired to live generously based on examples of people at their church (41%), and better understand the needs of the poor (39%).
Fewer say they’ve had access to leadership training for ministry through their church (21%), been inspired to be a leader based on the example of someone at their church (26%), been inspired to be a missionary based on the example of someone else (19%), have the opportunity to serve the poor in their community (33%), find a cause they’re passionate about (27%), or better understand global poverty (32%), the needs of marginalized people (31%), or social justice (31%).
“The connected generation is looking for the church to provide real, tangible, meaningful opportunities for development,” said Barna president David Kinnaman.
“They want the church to be a laboratory for leadership, not just a place for spirituality. They want their faith to intersect the realities of life and, as budding Christian leaders, they want to address real life issues.”
Kinnaman also notes the lack of effective pipelines and processes to form young leaders. “Based on U.S. data collected over three decades, we know that institutions in general and churches in particular are performing below ‘replacement levels’ when it comes to identifying and preparing new leaders.”
A previous study from Barna found churches are struggling to find young Christians who want to become future pastors as the average pastor grows older in America.
In 2017, half of American pastors were older than 55. In 1992, less than a quarter of pastors in the U.S. (24%) were that old.
There are now more full-time senior pastors who are older than 65 than under 40.
The message is clear, Kinnaman said. “If we’re not making room for younger leaders today, they won’t be around tomorrow.”
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.