Multi-Generational Teams: Why Youth Needs Wisdom

I attended an event once where the presenters talked about marrying the passion of the young with the wisdom of the older. The thought has always followed me. Some organizations, churches and teams embody this principle well, others not so much. The latter tend to focus on one of the spectrum or the other. They insulate veterans from the emerging generation because they like the system they have. Or they become youth obsessed and, in the process, jettison the insight of their experienced members. Both approaches are dangerous.


There’s a cautionary tale in the Old Testament about rejecting multi-generational teams. In this scene, King Solomon has just died and his son Rehoboam is taking the throne. One of his first actions as ruler is to consult his father’s advisors about how to navigate the leadership transition. Solomon’s team, who cut their leadership teeth working with the wisest leader in Israel’s history, proposed a plan. “You father demanded a lot from the people for his massive construction projects. The kingdom is tired. Give the people a chance to reboot and re-energize and you’ll win their trust.” It was wise counsel.


But then Rehoboam asks his peers, his childhood friends, for their advice. Their input couldn’t be more different. “Don’t take your foot off the gas,” they bark. “Your father pushed them hard, you should push them harder. Let them know who’s boss. Impose your will early and you’ll intimidate them into a lifetime of compliance.”


2 Chronicles 10:8 says, “Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers.”


Rehoboam only had one task: lead the people well. And only one group is best equipped to help him get there: People who had worked with his father. Instead, the young king elevated his peers to roles that far exceeded their leadership capacity. He failed to let the elders do what they do best: assist in the transition. They knew the landscape better than he did. Worst of all, he ignored the wishes of the people.


The result? A civil war that split the kingdom into two nations. Rehoboam may have earned the reputation he wanted, but he lost the kingdom he was called to lead. When we refuse invest in the current generation, we might lose the future. But when we reject the wisdom of those who have gone before, we lose the present.


Craig Custance