The vision of this project is to help mission leaders face the demands of global ministry in the twenty-first century together by building deep spiritual friendships, developing leadership communities across multiple cultures and generations, and drawing out the best that older and younger leaders collectively have to offer. In pursuit of this vision, this project set out to test hypotheses related to the current state of relationships and relationship gaps between older and younger leaders; the impact those gaps are having on older and younger leaders and on the communities they lead; and what it will take to bridge those gaps and transform those relationships. The intervention included:
(1) encouraging the development of intercultural and intergenerational friendships and communities among mission leaders; (2) creating experiences and models that enable older and younger leaders to actually practice developing these friendships and communities; and (3) building a convincing case to motivate senior leaders to initiate such friendships and communities with younger leaders within their spheres of influence.
The scope included ongoing initiatives in three mission groups: the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission, International Partnering Associates, and the Wycliffe Global Alliance. These separate but overlapping initiatives served as practical learning laboratories whose lessons could be applied more widely to each of the other groups and beyond. The three initiatives were informed by research into the role and influence of reflective practice, spiritual friendship and mentoring, and power relations. That research was complemented by exploring God’s intentions for His people as a community, His exercise of authority and power in fulfilling His mission, and the example and practice of Jesus in developing leaders.
The findings of this project confirmed the deep relational gap that exists between older and younger mission leaders. It also revealed the significant negative consequences of that gap, especially for younger leaders. Younger leaders are deeply aware of and impacted by their lack of relationships with older leaders and by the lack of opportunities to grow in leadership. Older leaders who have the authority and influence to change the situation have largely been unaware that there is a problem.
As a response to these realities, the project findings affirmed the value of bringing older and younger leaders together in well-facilitated forums designed to encourage friendship-building in the context of community. Both older and younger participants in these forums expressed appreciation for the life-giving nature of such interactions, and many indicated their intentions to create similar opportunities and experiences in their own contexts.
The potential of such communities to enable mission leaders to collectively face the demands of global leadership in the twenty-first century is yet to be fully understood or realized. However, the project demonstrated that such potential is both promising and worth pursuing.