Growing young leaders

Where have all the young people gone?

I wonder whether this is the wrong question to ask.

Imagine a farmer standing arms folded and asking, ‘Who didn’t shut the gate?’, while watching his sheep flee up the road and onto the highway. Would he not instead close the gate to protect the sheep still in the paddock, before going out to look for those who are lost?

Likewise, as a church, could we instead ask, ‘How can we love and encourage the young people who are still here, while reaching out to those we no longer see?’

I have met many LCA/NZ young people who have a vibrant faith. They are active in their local congregations and communities, sharing and serving.

Grow Ministries has been working for six years to support and equip congregations to move from isolated programs for children and young people to an intergenerational ministry culture that nurtures faith for life. Part of that process is to share with congregations the 10 Guiding Principles that have been developed to assist congregations to disciple people of all ages, including young people (see page 16).

One way we can ‘grow’, equip and encourage young leaders is through the LCA/NZ’s Grow Leadership (GL) program. GL is an 11-month part-time commitment targetted at young adults. It involves two face-to-face intensives, a ‘Stretch and Grow’ experience overseas (in partnership with LCA International Mission), regular one-on-one mentoring and involvement in local congregational leadership.

The aim is to provide participants with a mentored faith adventure, enabling them to grow in the gospel and empowering them to become leaders with skills to contribute to the church and the wider community.

The 2019 Grow Leadership team met in the Adelaide Hills in July for Intensive 1. During that time we discussed the theme of this issue of The Lutheran, ‘Where have all the young people gone?’ One young person felt frustrated by the theme – ‘It makes me angry because I’m still here!’ As well as asking for their reactions to the theme, we asked why they are still engaged, involved with and participating in the LCA/NZ, including through GL.

You can read their answers below.
‘I’ve been encouraged to be involved in my congregation and therefore feel part of it.’
‘Christian Life Week camps have a big influence. Camping allows you to be vulnerable, is fun and provides a positive experience.’
‘My family has influenced my faith through prayer, word and devotion.’
‘The faith of my grandma has been an inspiration.’
‘I’ve felt encouraged and supported by others.’
‘They haven’t necessarily left the church – you’re just not seeing them at worship on Sunday.’
‘The older generation are not willing to change, even though the world has changed.’
‘They feel they are not listened to or included. Young adults don’t feel they are treated as adults.’
‘What are we doing to keep the young people we have?’
‘They have a busy, busy life today – it’s different to 20 years ago.’
‘Lots of young people don’t attend worship regularly by they have a strong faith.’

Perhaps you will agree or feel challenged. The statements highlight the values which underpin our guiding principles – that the culture of effective ministry with all ages is about building relationships and creating opportunities for those relationships to be formed.

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email For more information, go to

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