What Millennials Want In Leaders

I am called to minister to the largest generation since the “Baby Boomers”. The Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are close to my heart as I fall into the older side of that generation. But you know, not “old” old. So I am reaching out to my own. With that in mind I count it a privilege to equip these young ‘uns (Alabama slang) to reach their peers, their city and their world. But what do they look for in their leaders?

The answer to this would help us all. Knowing this massive generation better holds one key to helping them shape our future.

Dr. Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway, posted some insightful characteristics that Millennials want in their leaders. He came about these characteristics in research for his book “The Millennials” a few years ago. You may be surprised at what he found. Dr. Rainer writes:

  1. Mentoring. This generation has great respect for those older than they are. Most of them have good relationships with their parents. They have learned from older people all their lives, and they don’t want to stop now. They want to be led and taught in their places of work, in their churches, and in their families. They particularly want to learn from couples who have had long and successful marriages. Many Millennials see such examples as heroes to emulate.
  2. Gentle spirit. This category is easier to describe by what Millennials do not want in leaders. Divisive, loud, and acrimonious persons turn them off. They loathe politicians and political pundits who scream at each other. They are leaving churches to some extent because they see many Christian leaders as negative and prone to divisiveness. They are repulsed by business leaders with harsh and autocratic spirits.
  3. Transparency and authenticity. I wish Jess and I had counted the number of times that Millennials used the word “real” to describe leaders they want to follow. As one Millennial told us, her generation “can smell phony and pretentiousness a mile away.” They don’t want phony; they want authentic. They don’t want pretentious; they want transparent.
  4. Integrity. The Millennials are weary of politicians who don’t keep promises. They are tired of Christian leaders who fail basic moral standards. They are fed up with business leaders who are more concerned about personal gain than serving others. They want leaders with integrity.

To read more see the original article over at the Lifeway site: What Millennials Want in Leaders.

Check out the book “The Millennials” right here.


Thank you, Clements

Clements Baptist Church,

The way you have treated me and my family during this transition has been beyond our wildest expectations.  The love and support you have shown has done so much in nourishing our spirit.  Last Sunday was a “defining moment” in our life and ministry.  You will forever have our gratitude for the years we had spent there and especially for the launching of us into a new frontier over the past few weeks.  We will treasure every moment, especially those at the very end as we poured out our hearts to each other.

I will say this:  Don’t let your Pastor, church staff and other leaders go long without letting them know how you feel about them.  It will encourage and feed their soul, spurring them on to a greater understanding of their calling and ministry in our Lord.  It has done so for us.  Tell them soon…and often!

Thanks for all the cards, texts, comments, posts, gifts and prayers.  You truly have launched us in an unforgettable way.  We love you guys dearly.

Forever grateful,

Justin, Mandy, Josie and Rece

A New Beginning

Our family is embarking on a new journey.  We will be leaving Clements Baptist to begin a new chapter in life and ministry at Willowbrook Baptist Church in Huntsville near the end of this month.  Below is what I tearfully shared with our church family yesterday.

Jan. 12th 2014

Church family,

Mandy and I accepted God’s call to ministry here at CBC after heartbreak.  In 2006, we had planned on moving to Argentina and attend a Bilingual Bible institution called Word of Life for at least a year.  But God shut that door and it was a very difficult thing for us.  After that God saw fit to give us an opportunity here with vocational ministry in 2008.  Since then we have known this is where we should be.  Without a doubt.  And if He ever chose to move us from this place he would.

So, it is bittersweet news that Mandy and I have for you today.  After much prayer over the past several months (since the late summer) we must let you know that the time has come for us to answer the call of God in leaving Clements as your pastor of students, college and young singles.  God has led us to begin a new chapter in the life of our family and in ministry at Willowbrook in Huntsville as their High School Minister.  After many meetings and interviews with their pastor, staff and leadership I accepted this position from them last month.  This past Sunday we had a chance to meet their church family and that night they voted us onto their church staff unanimously.

Mandy and I would like you to know that this new position is not something we went looking for.  We have never before desired to leave this sweet fellowship at Clements.  However, the Lord laid it before us.  There is no reason for us to leave, only the call of God on our lives to do so. And that’s all it takes.  We were perfectly happy and overjoyed with ministering here at Clements with great people to great people.  We also knew for certain this was where God had planted us for nearly 12 years as husband and wife and the last 6 years for me as a staff member.  We have always prayed that we would be where God would have us.  And He would now have us at Willowbrook.

As you know, God has a way of taking our plans and intentions and turning them upside down if he deems it fit for our good, for His purposes and for His glory.  After praying hard, we knew, without a doubt, God wanted to close this chapter in our lives and open up a new one.  A fresh one.  One in a different place, with different people but with the same focus:  ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ in the lives of young people.  We are excited about the future there, but sad we have to leave this faith family.  We are not doing anything that we don’t constantly challenge our students to do:  Give God our “yes” no matter where he calls us, even if it’s to very different and unexpected places.

As I’ve told you before, we are products of this ministry at Clements.  We were saved here, we met here, we married here and we are raising kids here.  Now it’s time to leave here.  But let us say we are so very proud to have been a part of God’s work here from the first day until the present.  Anything good you can say about us is because of you, this church, and our Lord.  We are the output of this great church’s input.

With that said, two weeks from today, January 26th, will be my last Sunday here at Clements.  The following day will be my first day at Willowbrook.

To our parents:  We couldn’t have ministered without your love and support.  Thank you.

To all our church family, deacons, staff, ministry leaders, parents of students, Sunday school teachers and office assistants:  We are forever grateful for you for your ministry to our family, especially our children.

To Pastor Tim:  I am forever indebted to you for giving me this opportunity.  For seeing something in me I didn’t even see in myself.

To our students, collegiates and young singles:  You all hold a special place in our hearts.  Hold on to Jesus tightly.  Keep ministering the gospel relentlessly.  Love others dearly.  Share your faith passionately.

We love you all!

Justin and Mandy Bedingfield

The Supremacy of God

What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him,  Job 7:17

A proper, high view of God completely squashes any and all selfishness in life. Both Job and David (Psalm 8:4) communicate this truth:  Who am I?

How can a question be a truth?  For me, the question is so powerful, because just as there are not enough words to describe our God there are not enough words to describe the depths of my need for him.  Who am I?

When the sovereignty and supremacy of God are on display in our lives our motives, thoughts and actions move toward godliness.  On the other hand, when we live as if we are owed something by a holy God our passions will always move towards ourselves.  And who am I?

Any view of God that isn’t scriptural (supreme and sovereign) leads to such a tainted view of ourselves and our circumstances.  The work of Christ is the beautiful, bloody demonstration of His “setting his heart” on us while we were dead, pulse-less, helpless and useless.  What have we done to deserve such an unwarranted, inexplicable act of love?  Who am I?

The true answer of who we are is an indictment on our depravity.  The true answer to who Jesus is reveals the beauty that despite me he loved me.  And who am I to have anything in this life?  Not only do I have  a Savior but a wife and children (I shall go to him...).  Not only that but a breath to breathe, an able body, a loving church family, shelter, food and health.

I enjoy the very communion with the Father that Jesus relinquished on the tree.  Why did he lose it all so that I might miraculously gain it?   Who am I?

If I fail to see God as supreme in my life, then I make myself supreme.  I am my god.  And if I’m supreme then I can’t have victory.  Praise be to God he reigns!  From everlasting to everlasting…You. Are. God.


The Pizza Level

This may sound a bit awkward, but one of the great loves in my life is pizza.  As a middle schooler I could routinely consume entire large pizzas in one sitting along with a beverage and room for dessert.

Also, I’m pretty sure someone never got the green light with this business idea:

Anyway, pizza is my food Achille’s heel.  The dough.  The sauce.  The more meat the better.  I even eat cheese on pizza which confounds everyone who closely knows me.  You see, I hate cheese.  I abhor it.  On every level.  Every type of cheese is detestable to me save one…mozzarella.  Even then it MUST be on a pizza for me to consume it.  If I see some mozzarella off by itself, like at the mall or at the movies and it comes up to me I’m all like “Get off me, Mozzarella.  I ain’t all about you.”  But when it’s on pizza…mmmm.  We’re homeboys.  We roll together.  Mozzarella’s got my back.  We play ball.  We jam together.  We’re tight.

How pizza made it’s way into youth ministry culture I’ll never know.  Maybe it’s because pizza attracts young people like Lebron James attracts TV cameras…and entire networks.  (I’m lookin’ at you, ESPN).  Maybe it’s because it’s a cheap and filling way to feed high metabolism laden young folk.  Remember this phrase when you were young…”Don’t forget to bring pizza money!”  Whether it was a church or school event, pizza is where the party is and it’s what attracted youth.

Or at least it used to be…

A recent USA Today article discussed the fact that kids are not even coming for the pizza anymore.  The number of youth attending summer camps fell 22% in 2009, which was a telling sign of youth involvement in churches across the board.  When all the carbs have burned off many churches have found that, SURPRISE, the pizza wasn’t gratifying enough.  It takes more than dough and pepperoni to reach students and have them connect with each other.  That’s why the “pizza fellowship” is not true fellowship.  Yes we can get together and eat but it’s what happens as we eat and spend time together that matters.

The question is “Are we guilty of being genuinely concerned about our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?”  We must be willing and ready to cling to our spiritual family, uplift them, accept them and love them.  Holding each other accountable and encouraging each other.  This is true fellowship.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household”.  Ephesians 2:19

If we are members of God’s household let’s treat each other like they are members of that same fold.  We can’t accept just the pizza level.  Take it further.  Take the next step.  Let’s really get to know each other.  Our struggles, our passions, our real selves.  Remember we are the body of Christ.  We should be united!  We should be concerned with each other on a level deeper than “How’s it goin’?”

It seems as if the most we know about each other is whether we like pepperoni or sausage.  The pizza level.