On Tuesday, Forge Leadership released the findings of their research into the leadership development needs of millennials working across all sectors, including both church leaders and public leaders.

The research, which has a strong evangelical bias in its respondents, corroborates many anecdotal conversations I have had with public leaders over the past couple of years. These findings, and the rest of the report, will be incredibly helpful to those who are line managing millennials. It explains the thoughts and feelings behind some of the unhelpful stereotypes millennials are subjected to.

For example, millennial leaders have a strong fear of failure and need for approval. They value integrity more than any other characteristic. Seventy-eight per cent of online respondents selected having a sense of purpose’ as the first of second most important thing at work out of eight options – financial reward was at the bottom of the list. 


Of particular encouragement was the importance many leaders placed on their early leadership development within the church. Many referred to opportunities to lead in worship, youth groups and more as essential to their growth as leaders. Churches that involve their children and youth in leadership from an early age should celebrate this fact, and churches that are cautious in placing responsibility with the young should be encouraged to take a chance and remember the long-term benefits. Yes, they might stumble through their first time leading a service, but it will be an important moment in preparing for the day they are a CEO or school governor.

Of course, the research also highlighted areas of concern. Millennials feel a deep tension between wanting to apply biblical standards to leadership and a strong desire for approval which can make speaking biblical truths difficult. The positive of this is that, to quote Forge’s CEO Simon Barrington, whereas baby boomers want to get out of the maze, millennials want to live in the maze well”. Millennials know that they live in a place of tension and are looking to be equipped and resourced to be salt and light in that place.

There are places where the research could go deeper – was there any difference between male and female, or older and younger respondents, for example? It’s also worth noting that alongside a strong evangelical / charismatic bias, 93 per cent of respondents were white British and 54 per cent gave their sector as church’ (with another 20 per cent in Christian agencies). Thus, the findings may not fully reflect all areas of society. Further, there are only passing references as to why millennials might express these tendencies. Forge are releasing a book next year which will no doubt delve further into this analysis.

Nevertheless, the report is a helpful starting point for those working with, and in leadership of, millennials. It offers some helpful recommendations to both millennials and the organisations and church leaders who lead and support them. This will be of great benefit to those who struggle to understand and work with younger leaders.

For me, one of the lessons of this generation should be that we must adapt more quickly to new generations of leaders. The Generation Z / iGen is now at university. Many are already influencers through their various social media accounts. How will we prepare for them joining the workforce?

Do you have millennials in your church in positions of leadership in their workplace, community or online circles? The Public Leader is a retreat-based discipleship course which brings together a small group of emerging leaders seeking to develop their leadership through the key themes of character, calling, competency and cultural intelligence. It now runs in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You can find out more here.