Impacting the Leadership of Gen Z Christians
Last November, I chaperoned a group of Champion Christian School youth leaders to the ACSI re:CONNECT Student Leadership Conference. I expected speakers to talk about trade publication biblical models of leadership geared for teenagers, and specifically I expected the focus to be on traits, or behaviors of leaders. I guessed that there might be sessions on self-awareness similar to Manz’s (2001) reflections on Matthew 7:1-6 that emphasized self-reflection before judgement. Instead, with our group of highschool students, I sat through session after session about biblical values. I think I heard the term leadership used once during the whole conference. The design of the conference was to consider, define, and defend biblical values in a post-Christian world.
The self-awareness concept in leadership theory is bountiful. Spears (2002) defined awareness as one of the ten themes of Greenleaf’s model of servant leadership. Authentic leadership and psychodynamic leadership models also address self-awareness (Northouse, 2013). It even fits into Bass’s (1996) transformational leadership model under the idealized influence factor. Farling, Stone and Winston (1999) stressed the importance of leaders’ values on leadership; Values affect how a leader thinks, behaves, and feels. West (2008) posited that values inform ideologies, which in turn, informs leadership. By understanding and defining their own values and worldview, leaders can work toward consistency in their behaviors, cognition and feelings.
The Gen Z youth I chaperoned are growing up in a post-Christian world, where cultural relativism – value and ethical relativism – is embraced (Impact 360 Institute, 2018). Only 4% of Generation Z, those born between 1999 and 2015, have a biblical worldview, and many respondents in a recent Barna study reported feeling confused about biblical values and current cultural trends (Impact 360 Institute, 2018).
Peter Drucker (1999) further considered self-awareness a step further than the other authors above; Self-awareness is only as good as the action that follows, and self-reflection must lead to change. With the everything-goes mentality, in which our youth are emerged, how can this generation turn values into action, when in their stated confusion they cannot even pinpoint their values?
By sharing biblical values with our youth, we are teaching them alternative ways to think besides relativism. Many parents already know this, and in a recent Barna Group (2017) study, researchers found that current and prospective Christian school parents most often selected instilling strong principles and values as a goal for education. Values-training from Christian Schools does not just leave temporary marks on students’ lives. A Cardus survey (Sikkink, 2018) found that in adulthood past evangelical protestant schoolers had a higher frequency of attendance of church than their public school peers. Personal prayer, Bible reading, and marriage in adulthood were also positively affected by evangelical protestant education.
Christian Schools are already answering the call for today’s large need of value training in leadership. That training is leaving a permanent mark on our future ecclesiastical, business and government leaders.
Lin M. Podolinsky
Director of Operations of the Christian Family & Children’s Center, which operates Champion Christian School in Western PA
Barna Group. (2017). Multiple Choice: How parents sort education options in a changing market. Ventura, CA: Association of Christian Schools International.
Sikkink, D. (2018). Walking the Path: The religious lives of young adults in North America. Cardus Education Survey. Retrieved from http://www.carduseducationsurvey.com
Pennings, R., Seel, J., Neven Van Pelt, D.A., Sikkink, D., & Wiens, K.L.. (2011). Cardus Education Survey. Hamilton, ON: Cardus.
Drucker, P. (1999). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 64-74.
Farling, M.L., Stone, A.G., & Winston, B.E. (1999). Servant leadership: Setting the stage for empirical research. The Journal of Leadership Studies, 6(1), 49-72.
Impact 360 Institute. (2018, January 23). Who is gen z? Live Conference [Webcast]. Retrieved from http://www.whoisgenz.com/live
Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.) Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Spears, L.C. (2002). Tracing the past, present and future of servant leadership. In L.C. Spears & M. Lawrence (Eds.), Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the 21st Century (pp. 1-16). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
West, G. R. (2008). Implications for leadership in the evaluation of Scripture: An ideological review of Matthew 8:5-13. Paper presented at the 2008 Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA. http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/bpc_proceedings/2008/west...