It is possible to mentor younger leaders and make a difference. What strategies are really the most effective? We sat down with Dennis Bachman of ViaCordis, who spends a good deal of his time working with younger leaders with success to find out. Here’s Part 1 of our interview:

mentoring younger leaders

Dennis, tell us a little bit about yourself and your current ministry.

After 30 years at New Song Church in a variety of staff positions, including Senior Pastor, I have now assumed leadership of ViaCordis, a group of disciple-making cohorts. ViaCordis began as a house church movement that Bob Logan helped to found, and we now have 39 disciple-making groups—some abroad, but most in southern California. I work with the pastors coaching and training them, spending a concerted amount of time with those in their 20s or early 30s. I have also consistently discipled groups of college guys over different generations.

What have you learned about working with younger leaders?

I love them! I love their youthful optimism—something that can often be ignored or misunderstood by more seasoned leaders. I like the give and take of their can-do optimism running right alongside their need for the wisdom of older generations.  I have also found that this most recent generation—Gen Z—is not only open to learning from the experience of older leaders, but even hungering for it. 

How can more experienced leaders find those younger leaders who are hungering for investment from the older generation?

Watch for those who show impact potential. This is particularly easy to do with Gen Z, as they’re on social media platforms. Some of them become instant influencers without the benefit of experience or character-building that often took place along the way to that level of influence. So I look around for where I see leadership emerging, those with leadership potential, the standouts, the catalysts, those who take initiative.

One of the groups I lead is comprised of mostly young artists. I look for not only the catalysts there, but also for those who follow through with their artistic visions, and those who are the organizers. I look for those who—when the group interacts—serve as a voice of reason or a voice of influence. I then come alongside those in whom I see potential, recognizing that there are different types of leaders. It can’t be a cookie-cutter approach, especially with younger generations. 

As you’ve come alongside those younger leaders, what has worked well?

Two things: Time and Listening. Let’s start with listening. In general, we don’t listen well. We are too busy seeking to convince rather than to understand. We need to be particularly careful with younger leaders that we don’t prematurely label or categorize them. It’s dangerous to prematurely assume we “get” them or understand them. One word I try to keep with me is “curious”—I want to continue to be curious about those I lead, taking a posture of learning. 

Time is the other major essential. We need to invest time, especially in moments of play. For a generation preoccupied with technology and social media, many younger leaders don’t find ease and skill in face-to-face personal relationships. They need time to interact. For example, I recently went on a trip to visit one of our discipling cohorts in Japan and brought along a young leader. He is an aspiring filmmaker, so we spent two and half hours in a camera shop and then did some follow-up research at second-hand stores. Even though this was nothing in the realm of my interest, I was able to experience Japan through his eyes and understand him better for that. 

Given the challenges of investing time into young leaders, one suggestion I’ve found helpful is “habit stacking:” opening your calendar and inviting a young leader to join you in whatever you are already doing. Doing this guards against overload while simultaneously demonstrating vulnerability and authenticity, establishing trust in the process.

There is no substitute for quality, unprogrammed time where we can each be our authentic selves. I also recently went paddleboarding early in the morning with some young leaders in the back bay of Newport… something good for me as well that I don’t always give myself permission to do. Time spent is a key component—being with each other and with Jesus. That time provides opportunities to speak into each other’s lives and make real connections.  

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. 


Look for Part 2 of our interview with Dennis next week where he share more about common barriers to working with younger leaders, as well as his reflections on this new generation. 

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*.