Our Youth Can Lead

Written by Dr. David Fugoyo, Vice-Chancellor of Africa Renewal University

Most of Africa’s problems are related to leadership. “Everything begins and ends with leadership.” John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Good leadership results in a healthy Africa; bad leadership results in a miserable Africa. But in many African countries, leadership is viewed as the prerogative of older generations. Youthfulness is associated with immaturity and an inability to lead. We believe our youth cannot lead.

Africa’s largest population is the youth. According to African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), “About 41% of the people in the continent are below 15 years old while another 19% are youth between 15 and 24 years old.” These statistics show that the youth constitute the bulk of the African population. Furthermore, with the projected growth of the African population, the percentage of the youth will almost certainly increase. Wisdom, therefore, calls for the utilisation and empowerment of African youth to lead.

Culturally, youth are not leaders until they are fully grown up or mature. They are leaders in making. Their leadership opportunities lie in the future. But in this article, I will urge the involvement of the youth in leadership. I have worked among the youth for many years and witnessed many gifted youths who are mature and capable of leading.

JESUS AND LEADERSHIP

The man Jesus was a youth! Many times the religious leaders opposed Jesus because he was young. He did things expected to be done only by older people, the community’s elders. On one occasion the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders asked Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things…who gave you authority to do this?” (Mark 11:28). In the context of the day, only trained religious leaders (or older people) could do the things of God. Having a young man teaching people about God was more than unacceptable. It was unimaginable. But Jesus broke this custom.

But In John 3 we learn that Nicodemus saw a different quality in Jesus and his teaching. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a religious expert. Yet he opted to visit Jesus at night. People could have criticised him; his colleagues might have disqualified him. But the story of Nicodemus and Jesus teaches us at least two lessons in relation to youth and leadership.

1. Youth Can Lead

Rabbis were teachers. They were well trained in the affairs of religion and culture. They were respected leaders in their communities. Nicodemus recognised Jesus as a rabbi (John 3:2)—a respected leader. Furthermore, he confessed that Jesus had come from God. Nicodemus confessed this not because he believed Jesus was God. Such recognition only comes later in the Gospel. Nicodemus said what he did because of what he saw Jesus say and do. He was convinced that Jesus was a leader.

2. Youth are Qualified to Lead

Young age is not tantamount to lack of ability to undertake the tasks one ought to undertake or accomplish. Jesus knew something important which Nicodemus did not know. Nicodemus had no idea what new birth meant. He asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (John 3:4). The young Jesus explained to him what he did not know—the concept of new birth. When Jesus was young, he argued with the teachers of the law (Luke 2:41-48). Luke reports that, “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). According to Luke, Jesus answered the teachers of the law well because he had the understanding of the law.

In the same way, Jesus taught Nicodemus things Nicodemus did not yet know. Nicodemus knew God religiously, but Jesus led him to the knowledge of God so he could have personal relationship with God.

AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE YOUTH

Believe in Yourself

Believing in oneself generates energy for greater achievements. The youth need to believe that they are able to lead. They need to study profiles of other youth who have led successfully. Paul encourages Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12). Youth doesn’t disqualify, just as age doesn’t automatically make one learned and capable. Rather, the measure of a leaderis character and maturity. “Set an example.”

If the youth continue to think they cannot lead, they will not lead at all. The youth should refuse to accept the axiom that they are unable to lead because of their age. God does not look down on the youth. This should encourage the youth to believe in themselves.

Engage in Leadership

But merely believing in oneself is not enough. Action is required. Paul trained Timothy and provided leadership opportunities in the church. Timothy was a youth. Yet he was a leader in his church, in the challengingly cosmopolitan city of Ephesus. Therefore, youth should seek and get involved in leadership. We might go as far as saying: there is no leadership position that the youth cannot hold. So let the youth persist in leading. With time, the society will accept the leadership of the youth.

HOW TO SUPPORT YOUTH IN LEADERSHIP

Offer Encouragement

Youth need encouragement from their respective communities. Youth are yearning for words of affirmation. They need to hear that they are able to do great things for the betterment of Africa. Words of encouragement can cause the youth to do what they have not imagined they might. The story is told of a young African man who met a snake on the road to his home. But he fled in fear from the snake. When the neighbours saw him run, they shouted: “You can kill that snake. You are strong.” Hearing this, the young man grabbed the snake by its neck and tore it into pieces. That’s the power of encouragement.

Train and Trust the Youth

Leadership requires training. Youth need training in all its forms. They need education, they need mentoring and coaching. The communities in Africa must prioritise the training of the youth in leadership. This could be through sessions, community discussion, school curricula, etc. African communities need to trust the youth more. There should be no fear that youth will misuse leadership or mislead the people. Africa ought to trust her youth and entrust them with more of the responsibilities tied to leadership.

OUR YOUTH CAN LEAD

There are arguably more distractions today than ever before. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp allow teens – as well as everyone else – to waste hours weekly. But the youth have an active role to play. So let us not affirm the growing habits of mindless media consumption. We need leaders. And we cannot wait for 15 years for the youth to meet our respective cultures’ age requirements for leadership. Checking ourselves we must also exhort the youth, whom God does not disqualify because of their age. We must, therefore, encourage the youth to have forums to discuss leadership related issues. I strongly recommend that the communities in Africa encourage and give leadership opportunities to the youth. The youth need mentors, they need education, they need support on top of knowing God their Creator.

Elusive Hope

Have you faced a time in your life when hope was elusive? A time when overwhelming thoughts came rushing in… when you were alone in a room, or perhaps a parked car, and the weight of your circumstance rose above your constraint to form tears that only you know about? Perhaps the hurt was business-related, perhaps it was a loss of a family member or a close friend, perhaps it was a person that let you down, or perhaps it was a grinding chase to cover the family’s bills. Maybe for you it was the feeling of not measuring up to the peer pressure that our society advertises each day.

It’s times like these we distinctly feel a sense of helplessness paired with a sense of longing to receive help. We think to ourselves, “How can I face the day?” “Is rescue coming?”

What is it that comes to mind in your life?

Whatever it is, you are not alone. Suffering in its various forms is one of our global equalizers. We all experience it.

For all our stresses in the United States, I often wonder what the unsponsored child in Uganda thinks about. To provide some context, I came across a March 2019 UNICEF report titled, “Multidimensional Child Poverty and Deprivation in Uganda: Volume 1”. The statistics are hard to comprehend:

  • “56% of Uganda’s children experience multidimensional deprivations and a low standard of living.”
  • “43% of all children are unable to read or write.”
  • “77% of multidimensionally poor children are unable to go to a health facility or afford prescribed medicines when ill.”
  • “48% of all children and two-thirds (66%) of poor children do not get three meals a day due to a lack of money.”

I imagine these children ponder and cry and toil over similar thoughts… “How can I face the day?” “Is rescue coming?”

My friends, we are privileged to live in the United States. As we enter this Christmas season, if you are not yet sponsoring a child, would you consider it today? By sponsoring a child through Africa Renewal, you will have the blessing to participate in extending hope to a Ugandan child that has dreams and longs for more. In loving the child, you also are loving the family of the child, and your faithful giving leads to the greatest hope… the opportunity for our Africa Renewal team to share the gospel of Jesus Christ that pierces all poverty and darkness and brings everlasting peace and security in heaven.

John 16:32-33, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Brian Park, USA Board Chairman