This leadership network book probably sat on my shelf for an entire year before I actually sat down and read it. I have read books by Creps before and he’s a really helpful author with sound theology and practices. Last I hear, he had left his post as a seminary professor and began to plant a church, I think in Berkley. So, he’s not just an academic writing about theories; this book helps established leaders to maintain contact with emerging thought in an authentic way. It’s all about a practice he has named Reverse Mentoring, in which an established leader learns from emerging leaders, in order to better serve the gospel.
Written for older (church) leaders who may feel like they have the responsibility to pass on the baton to the next generation, the book asks the most difficult questions and develops solutions that are effective, even if difficult. It takes a certain amount of pride swallowing to be mentored in a reverse way, but it is a great position to be in because some young leaders have the capacity to transform the church and we need to let them. I don’t think young leaders, or supporting pastors, should go out and buy this book for their boss (it will look as passive aggressive as it is!), but I do believe these are the conversations that many denomination groups need to be having – including my own.
I will say that I really did not like section one, which was all about how older leaders deal with a fleeting sense of cool. It was honestly maddening. I don’t know if it was just because I still see myself as young, or as a pastor I am comparatively young – but this pursuit of cool is straight whack for the church (and yes, that word choice is an ironic play). I don’t know why being cool is so important for Christians when I have never met a pagan person who was wanting to become a Christian, but just couldn’t find a church or a pastor that was cool enough for them.
Here’s some really quality lines from this book:
p.xvi, “The concept of mentoring takes its name from The Odyssey, the Greek epic in which ‘Mentor’ appears as the person responsible for guiding Odysseus’ son as the father goes off to war.”
p.41, “In private conversations, I have heard more than one leader admit an almost paralyzing level of obsolescence anxiety, feeling their ‘day in the sun’ passed so long ago that their potential in a complicated new world now approached zero. In the words of on parachurch leader, this feeling can begin as a rhythmic whisper that sounds like, ‘I used to know. I used to know. I used to know.’ Later it reaches a crescendo that drowns out the voice of hope in some leaders while driving others into defensiveness.”
p.51, “By simple virtue of holding a leadership role, then, we become susceptible to the same forces that isolated the Pharisees from reality, what organizational theorists refer to as ‘skilled incompetence,’ the trait of high-functioning people who find clever ways to evade learnings that might challenge their role or function too drastically.”
p.81, “How does the iGeneration, then, find a seat at the leadership table – and would they want one? Many of them find the way we do business tragically out of sync with the world to which they are native, and we often return the favor by framing them as so out of sync with how things run int he ‘real world’ that the thought of their taking over…makes mutual respect harder to come by than it should be.”
p.113, “Many focus groups, for example, have reported that being ‘interesting’ is the primary trait of a great sermon or teaching. One student defined this characteristic by citing the example of a favorite speaker…and conversely noting that a poor presentation usually included the kind of material she could have just read at home.”