What’s one of the biggest pitfalls experienced leaders fall into as they mentor and develop leaders from the younger generation? Defaulting to methods instead of principles. It’s so easy for us to think that what worked well for us will work well for someone else. But there are two variables we aren’t taking into account: 1) this is a different generation and ministry context, and 2) this younger leader may be a quite different person from you in terms of gifts, strengths, weaknesses, personality, style, etc. Let’s look at generational context first. 

Context matters

mentoring young leaders

Each generation needs to find its own way. At the same time, there are certain timeless principles that are true regardless. As the more experienced leader, you need to disconnect yourself from the ways (methods) that have worked for you. Then you need to look deeper for the principle that method was based on. The method is nothing—it’s just copying how someone else did something. The principle is everything. That’s the challenge: linking their goals to the principles that will get them there. 

Principle over methods

Let’s take worship as an example. What worked for other churches? These kinds of songs, these kinds of readings, this style of sermon, this type of environment. So we take them and plug them in. They might work; they might not. If it’s a different generation, the likelihood is that they won’t work. It’s form without function if the method has no congruence with the people involved. 

But let’s identify the underlying principles of worship. In worship, the people are connecting with God, both personally and corporately. Then they’re responding to God. What methods or forms might help these particular people do that well? The leaders will also need to practice skills like reading the room well. What do they see? What do they notice? How do these observations inform the changes that need to be made? 

See the difference? Principle over method. Function over form. That’s how young leaders need to facilitate their people’s journey effectively. What’s new method or form that will work… based on an old and timeless principle? 

David in Saul’s armor

The other big issue is that the young leaders you are coaching are not necessarily similar to you. I am an organized, strategic person who studied the sciences and was raised by an engineer. I am coaching a young, relational artist. Even without the generational divide, what worked for me wouldn’t work for him. 

Everyone needs to learn to, say, manage their time well. But the methods that worked for me, which are quite structured, logical, and sequential (I love a good flow chart or the use of spreadsheets), would be challenging for him to implement. For him what works well is to consider blocks of his time, how he is spending those blocks, and then tracking his energy level based on them. 

For instance, when he has too many projects at once, or too many people-intensive events, he feels drained. When he is able to focus on one thing for a block of time, he finds it life-giving and refreshing. Given the reality that he can’t always do what is his preference, he has learned he needs to plan for downtime in advance when he knows he’s going to need it. For him, that means listening to and accepting where he’s at and what’s on his heart. 

I liken situations like this to David trying to wear Saul’s armor. That armor worked great for Saul; it was a good method. But when David put it on, it weighed him down so much he could hardly move in it. Different people are different; therefore, different methods will be appropriate for different people. Customization is key. 

How can you share your wisdom and experience with younger leaders? The answers are nuanced and many, so we’ll be spending a few weeks on this topic here on the Logan Leadership blog. You can search for “mentoring younger leaders” here to find the whole series when it’s completed. 


As you think through how to share your wisdom with younger leaders, consider that every person is different and we all reflect God in different ways. The Discipleship Difference* lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are. Also in Spanish*.

Linear discipleship programs fizzle out quickly because every person is in a unique place in their walk with God and the circumstances of their lives. The Guide for Discipling is a choose-your-own adventure discipleship program that is engaging for seasoned Christians and those who are just starting their journey with Jesus. Also available in paperback*.

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