Here are two articles that represent one church’s polycentric leadership model. Heart of God Church in Singapore is employing this creative approach.
GUEST POST BY HEART OF GOD CHURCH – SINGAPORE
5 Senior Pastors at the Same Time
Heart of God Church (HOGC-Singapore) is introducing and pioneering a model of senior leadership. Pastor Lia has been building and championing GenerationS for the last 25 years. This has put us in a position where we have capable homegrown next gen senior pastors. Hopefully, this will become a proof of concept that “GenerationS are Reinforcements” can be applied at the highest level of leadership.
5 senior pastors leading the church together
3 GenerationS of senior pastors at the same time in shared leadership—a model where different generations are represented, ensuring there are senior pastors who can reach, connect with and champion youths.
“Different generations are represented”
In this model we will have Gen X, Y, Z (future) senior pastors. Every generation will always be represented. Every generation has a voice and a seat at the table.
“Reach, connect with and champion youths”
Most importantly, a youth church should have young senior pastors. Having a 3-Gen structure will include senior pastors who are closer to the youngest generation in the church (Gen Z, Gen Alpha).
For HOGC, at this point in time, we are still at 2-Gen senior pastors. Pastor How and Pastor Lia are Gen X. Pastor Garrett, Pastor Charleston and Pastor Lynette are Gen Y (Millennials). The 3-Gen Senior Pastor Model is our ideal and goal. This 3-Gen SP Model puts in place a timeline and deadline, ensuring the intentional raising of future Gen Z SPs. By God’s grace, in another 10+ years, we will have a few more SPs from Gen Z.
The 5 SPs are also in shared leadership. There is no single constant decision maker… Neither is it a committee where we make decisions by voting. While one person can take the lead in respective domains, all 5 SPs have equal authority and they lead the church as a team.
There is precedence for this shared leadership structure in the Bible. We often have an image of Moses dying and passing the leadership to his successor Joshua. That was what I thought all my ministry life too, until I read:
Numbers 27:18 (NIV)
18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him.
Numbers 27:20 (NLT)
20 Transfer some of your authority to him so the whole community of Israel will obey him.
The keyword here is “some” of your authority. In other words, shared leadership!
Team leadership. 2 generations leading in tandem. For those who are interested, read from Numbers 27 to Deuteronomy 34.
“At the same time”
Heart of God Church has 5 SPs who lead concurrently and as one. Our 3 homegrown SPs are reinforcements for me and Pastor Lia. We now have a Deep Bench of 5 SPs. By God’s grace, HOGC will be a Strong Church for GenerationS.
Why a 3-Generation Senior Pastor Model Makes Sense
By Pastor Lia & Pastor How
In 2023, we promoted 3 new senior pastors. Now we have 5 SPs concurrently. This is unique to Heart of God Church and I am not suggesting that other churches follow this leadership model. For us, it just makes complete sense. Having championed GenerationS and raised youths for the last 25 years, we found ourselves in a sweet spot where we have 3 capable homegrown senior pastors.
So now the final step – a Deep Bench of senior pastors! True to the heartbeat of my teaching on GenerationS, they are homegrown Reinforcements (not replacements!) for How and myself. It takes 25 years to raise homegrown SPs
Let’s recap the definition: 3 GenerationS of senior pastors at the same time in shared leadership – a model where different generations are represented, ensuring there are senior pastors who can reach, connect with and champion youths.
7 Advantages of the 3-Generation Senior Pastor Model
1. Different generations are represented
These days, “having representation” is a constant catchphrase. In most government structures, “representation” is defined by constituents, ethnic groups, interest groups or political leanings. In our church however, we want our representation to be by generations!
The 3-Gen SP Model means that we have Gen X and Y senior pastors, as well as future Gen Z senior pastors. At the highest level of decision-making in this model, every generation is represented. Every generation has a voice and a seat at the table, especially the younger generations. Gen Y and Z are not just invited to the party, they are organising the party!
2. Diffuse generational tensions
I have heard so many stories of generational friction in churches. This is sad because it is not God’s intent. His heart is that every future generation should go from glory to glory.
Here is the conundrum: When you have an older senior pastor in their 50s or 60s, the young feel they cannot relate. When you have a younger senior pastor in their 30s, the older people find it challenging to trust or even allow themselves to be led by a younger person. With this 3-Gen SP model, you can mitigate these tensions and concerns.
With younger and older senior pastors in shared leadership, you can have both relevance and experience, both strength and wisdom (Proverbs 20:29). You not only have the best of both worlds – you have the best of both generations!
3. Future-proof your church
A senior pastor in their 20s or 30s? Why not? This is not a foreign concept in the business world. Look at Silicon Valley. It is bustling with startup CEOs in their innovative 20s. This startup culture is exactly what we need to welcome into older, established organisations. This is how we renew and reinvent ourselves. This is how we future-proof our church.
Churches are losing their youths because they feel that leadership is outdated and out of touch. Having a younger senior pastor bridges this relevance divide, and ensures that the younger generations are heard and spoken for. This is how the 3-Gen leadership model can continually reach, connect with and champion youths.
If anyone still has trouble accepting a senior pastor in their early 30s, do remember – Jesus was also in His early 30s when He changed the world!
4. Trigger a timeline to intentionally raise future Gen Z SPs
To install an SP in their 20s/30s to HOGC’s senior team in shared leadership, this person must have the same vision, values and DNA. In other words, he or she must be homegrown. We cannot just parachute in a pastor from outside.
It takes years to raise and disciple an SP. And if we want them to be ready in their 20s or 30s, naturally they must have been serving in church since their youth. They must also have skin in the game.
When we think like that, the 3-Gen SP Model triggers a timeline and deadline, ensuring the intentional raising of future Gen Z SPs. By God’s grace, in another 10+ years, we will have a few more SPs from Gen Z. It compels us to work and act. Not just pray or dream.
In 2022, just 16% of protestant senior pastors were 40 years old or younger. The average age of a pastor is 52. (Source: Christianity Today)
5. Nothing “lost in transition”
I have witnessed many transitions and seen so much “good” built up over the years wasted. When you have 3 GenerationS of SPs concurrently, there will be no transitional waste.
All the relationships built will not be lost when the older SP exits. All the trust equity built is preserved. Older members will feel a sense of familiarity and stability because the older SPs are still on board. The younger SPs can focus on connecting and building relationships with the new generations.
At the same time, experiences and wisdom are not wasted because the older SPs don’t have to exit abruptly. The younger SPs don’t have to start from scratch.
6. Smooth, seamless transition
This transition period is effectively 10-20 years long. The best part is that the church will not have to adjust to the “new” SP or miss the “former” SP. The staff don’t need to acclimatize to their “new” boss either. It is going to be business as usual… a turbulence-free transition.
7. One SP will not be able to effectively lead the modern church
Or to put it bluntly, one senior pastor cannot “survive” pastoring the modern megachurch. There is so much to say about this that I wrote an entirely separate article about it.