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When is a good time to pass on your leadership?

We can all read good books, attend all the leadership schools that there are on the market, and have all the know-how in leadership theory, but I wonder if we sometimes need to look at leadership more as a form of art.  

When it comes to passing on your leadership you may never really know if you get it right, but you try to time it, try to feel it and you feel within yourself what you can contribute to ease the process.  Most of us will probably not get the timing perfectly.  Some of us may get it closer than others, based on our ability to read the times, our own ability and capacity and recognition of God’s voice in the midst of it all. 

Many years ago we passed on the leadership of our community. It was a good experience. We thought it was time for us to step back, still being a part of the community, but letting others run forward with it. Today I can reflect back and say that this was good and at the same time, it could have been done better.  But there is true joy in passing on something that you have nurtured and pioneered, worked long days for, and then to see that you have other leaders who are capable to take it further on.  I am continually blessed to see the community going strong today and knowing that my investment in it meant something for many people. 

As I reflect, I think it is important to own your ministry, meaning if you pioneer or lead a community or a ministry, you should treat it like it is your baby. We nourish it, care for it and its people, while looking forward to seeing it develop and grow up. 

I am a father of four boys, and enjoying the different seasons of their lives have been important.  From the baby that is completely in my care, to the adult that is now married and creating his own path.  No sane parent would leave their  baby to create their own path, as they are not capable and ready or even close to standing on their own feet. At the same time, no parent would like to keep their children as babies and hold them back from maturing towards an adult life.  I am glad I did not need to find my son a wife. It was his choice and therefore also his responsibility. (I love my daughter in law, but you get my picture.)

Leadership is similar to parenting in that you must know the season that your ministry is in. You shouldn’t pass on leadership too early when it is in its infant or toddler stage as the baby will not be able to stand on its feet and it will collapse, or worse it will be dead before it is even taking off.  

At the same time, it’s important to not take the place of leadership for too long. My son is married and has been out of the house for a good number of years. But what if I treated him as a baby or teenager way into adulthood? It would not do him any good and he would miss a great part of life experience that he was to have in his 20s.

I am concerned that we have leaders in our mission that are not making room for the young generation of leaders because they don’t have a good concept of parenthood.  We need the different generations working together and some of us need to grow into being grandparents, supporting from behind and allowing room for the younger ones to take the lead.  As we make space for them to grow up in their leadership, offering our wisdom and support, the mission will be blessed by all that their generation has to offer.  If we continue to treat them as children and remain the ones in control we will truly miss out. 

The fine art of passing on leadership will look different from location to location, nation to nation, and for each individual. For me it was 10 years of a lot of labor in a city that was full of corruption, and with that social problems of different stages. After seeing the impact we were making and our community growing to more than 30 staff, I just felt it was time for someone else to be in the front seat, pressing in to God for our city and community, and for me to move into a different role in the community, and so we did. 

My conclusion is that there is no right time, but we can try to hit it as close to the center as we can get.  As there is no right time for children to move out of the house, or for our babies to start walking or speaking. But there is a certain time frame where it starts to feel possible.  Everyone that has seen a baby learning to walk knows that it comes with some bumps and falls. And everyone of us who have moved out of our childhood home knows that it comes with some challenges. Sometimes we miss the safety of our childhood home, but we also know that we are in the process of making a new life and home for ourselves, just as we should as independent adults.

In our YWAM family we have all generations serving together and I am so thankful for that. Its not about passing on our calling and giving up our fire but creating room for other’s callings and to light the fire in a new generation of leaders. Timing is a part of that art!

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