Sample Chapters: The Now Generation

Share on

Introduction 

Now Is the Time 

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
(1 Timothy 4:12, NLT)

It’s fair to say, my primary school football team wasn’t very good. We had lost every single game of the season and, to make matters worse, we hadn’t even scored a single goal. Actually, it was even worse than that, because our team wasn’t even the ‘A’ team, we were the ‘B’ team – you know, the kids who just get a game because the school is kind enough to create a second team – but deep down everyone knows you aren’t really that good; you’re in the ‘B’ team for a reason. So, coming into that last game of the season, no one was particularly expectant of a positive result. 

The usual ending to a game was the referee blowing his whistle, the opposition celebrating and our team crying owing to the fact that we had been thumped 6-0. We would then wander back to the changing room to get out of our smelly and muddy kit. In the process of getting changed, you would be more than likely to see most of us sulking, while the rest of the team hurled insults and blame at each other; the occasional muddy sock was also thrown. Sadly, I participated in all of these post-match acts of blame-shifting and disappointment.  

At ten years old I was a very angry and very negative boy. On the pitch, I made sure others knew when they had made a mistake and I was hot-tempered when things didn’t go the way I wanted. Believe it or not, I was actually the captain of the team; although, at that time, I clearly didn’t tick any of the usual boxes to be classed as a good leader.  

However, things in that department did begin to change. 

After our team’s second-to-last game of the season, where we faced the usual battering, team arguments and general negativity, my dad decided to talk to me during our car journey back home. 

‘You need to change,’ Dad said to me. ‘You are supposed to be the captain and leader of this team, but all you are doing is speaking negatively about everyone. Good leaders don’t make other people feel bad for their mistakes; they help people overcome them. 

At the time I was so mad at everyone for how the team was performing, that this talking-to by my dad was not what I wanted. In my head, my dad should have been on my side; he should have been blaming everyone just as much as I was. Thankfully, though, my dad knew better than I did, and what he said next changed my entire life: ‘At the next match, this is what I want you to do: every time you open your mouth to speak, only let good things come out. Make everything you say be positive. And don’t stop talking!’ 

I listened to what my dad said and I thought to myself, ‘Well, we are getting walloped every week and none of the team actually like each other, so I may as well give it a go. We’ve got nothing to lose.’ 

The final game of the season came around and within a matter of minutes we were losing 3-0. Usually, we would have conceded a goal and then given up trying for the rest of the game. Not today! This wasn’t the same old story; it was a different game altogether. We kept going! In fact, we were relentless.  

My dad’s advice was right, and I could hear it ringing in my ears throughout the match. I didn’t shut up all game and all the words that left my mouth were filled with positivity and encouragement (actually, there was one moment I phrased something negatively, which my dad heard; he glared at me. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to do that again!).  

You know what? It was incredible to see first-hand how speaking with positivity could change the environment around me.  

As the game continued, our team’s efforts remained as high as possible. In the end, we got our reward, a moment I will never forget. There was a boy in our team who was capable of producing a long, looping throw-in and we had been given a chance for him to utilise this ability. I remember him throwing the ball in, my legs running as fast as they could towards the ball, the ball colliding with my head and then flying past the goalkeeper into the back of the net. We had scored! Everyone was absolutely buzzing! The whole team all piled on top of me in celebration; it was a special moment for every single one of us. 

The game finally came to an end with us losing 7-2. Yet the defeat didn’t matter to us; we were bouncing with positivity and the fact we had managed to score two goals – our first two goals as a team. Seeing everyone so happy and encouraging each other in the changing rooms afterwards was magical; our team had truly been transformed through better leadership – we even folded our kit away neatly back inside the kitbag. Although, the best part of the post-match hype for me was walking off the pitch at the end of the game, and seeing my dad smiling at me; his face beaming, his eyes looking at me softly and with gentleness. I knew straight away that he was proud of the positive leadership he had witnessed that day.  

There were many lessons I learned from this experience; I learned what it meant to lead properly, to bring the best out of others, to inject positivity into a team, and I truly learned how ‘leadership is influence’. However, the biggest and probably most important lesson was that you are never too young to be a leader.  

This is the message behind this book.  

In today’s society, whether that be in the media, sport, business or the Church, the term ‘the next generation’ is often used to describe young people. This phrase implies that young people will be the leaders of the future – which they most certainly will! However, it also limits the impact young people can have on the world, as it implies that today, the here and now, is not the time for young people to lead.  

Personally, I do not believe that this is true, or that this limiting language is what God would use to describe the young people He has created. God has gifted young people and He has called them to set an example to others, in many different ways, as it says in 1 Timothy 4:12. Therefore, God has placed things within young people to do this, so they can impact the world today, not just tomorrow as the phrase ‘the next generation’ suggests. As a result, I am certain that young people should not be called ‘the next generation’, but rather they should be empowered as the now generation because now is the time for young people to step up, lead and positively influence the world. It’s time to rewrite the narrative.  

As someone who had his first job in leadership at thirteen years old, I can testify to being part of the now generation and having influence from a young age. Throughout this book I will share my experiences of being a leader as a young person. In sharing my story, illustrating pictures of leadership and offering some general tips of application, my prayer and hope is that you would see that you are someone who is able to lead and have influence on the world and those around you today. You don’t need to wait for tomorrow; now can be the time to start the journey of leadership, no matter how young you are.  

To help you progress on your journey of leadership and influence, this book will be split into sections: 

  1. Definitions. This section will identify and define what leadership is. Through this section, we will see how leadership is not merely about holding a position, but is about having positive influence and impact on those around you.
  2. Learning to Lead. Whenever you start anything new there are always lots of lessons to learn. The ‘Learning to Lead’ section will help you take hold and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. This will also show you how it is important to be nurtured by others and how to go about learning from people further along the journey than yourself.
  3. Taking the Lead. As you continue to progress in life and in leadership, it is natural that you will gain more responsibility as time goes on. The ‘Taking the Lead’ section will show you how to steward this responsibility well and to work effectively as part of a team. 
  4. Helping Others to Lead. The best thing any leader can do is make more leaders. This section will show you how to take others with you on the journey of leadership and help them reach their own full potential, maximising the positive influence on the world. 

I wrote this book with the aim of demonstrating how you can lead as a young person. Regardless of what you may have heard or the discouragement you may have received, everyone can lead and be a person of influence – including you! This book is about helping you take the steps to become the best possible version of yourself, in order to reach your full God-given potential and have the greatest influence in every sphere of society, relationship and interaction that you find yourself in. Through this book, I hope you too will see that you are a part of the now generation, and that no matter what your age, you are someone who can bring influence, have fun and leave a legacy. Today!  

Now is your time…  

Part One 

Definitions 

Definitions are important in many areas of life, including leadership. One of the main reasons why people can often feel like they are not a leader is because they have a wrong definition and understanding of what it actually means to be a leader. This opening section will provide you with a number of pictorial definitions of leadership, which will show you how everyone is a leader – including you!  

 

1 

Leaders Are Ships 

In every interaction with someone, you are always leading them somewhere. 

When you think of a leader, what sort of person do you think of? Perhaps you may think about those in government who have the huge responsibility of leading a country, or you may think about your teachers and coaches who have helped you to learn in school, or you could think about those people who stand on stages in front of crowds of people and give talks. Whoever you have thought about, it is likely that they are in a formal position of leadership and probably get paid to lead a group of people and do what they do.  

However, leadership is not merely about position. Just because someone holds a particular position or status does not always guarantee that they are a good leader. On the other hand, even if someone does not hold a particular position, it does not mean they are not a leader. Leadership is about influence. Having influence on another person has nothing to do with your position, but has everything to do with your relationship.  

The reality is that everyone has influence, every day.  

Every day you will have an impact on other people – even in what may seem like the most simple, normal and ordinary of ways. For example, if two friends meet up for a coffee and have a conversation, they will leave the conversation thinking one of two things: that the conversation was a positive experience, or that it was a negative one. This is because, in every interaction with someone, you are always leading them somewhere.  

Recently, I met with my friend Caz for a coffee and a chat. We had an incredible time together! There was laughter and there were terrific, deep, meaningful aspects to the conversation. As a result, I left my time with Caz feeling great. But if Caz had spent the whole conversation on her phone and had not been interested in anything I had to say, I would have left our time together feeling very disheartened.  

You see, this is how simple leadership and influence is. Caz was just being a friend to me as we spent time together, but there was something much greater going on: she was having positive influence on my life.  

Leadership really is that simple. Leadership is not about position, but positive influence.  

In looking at this simplicity of leadership it is clear that there is a big emphasis on friendship and relationship to bring positive influence. You could also say that the same is the case with discipleship, as it can happen in the everyday of life through our normal interactions with others who follow Jesus.  

Interestingly, if you look at the four key words in those sentences … 

  • Leadership
  • Friendship
  • Relationship
  • Discipleship 

… you will see something that each of these words have in common. Can you see it? Yes, they all have the word ship at the end. As we look to give pictorial definitions of leadership in this opening section, the first picture we are going to look at is how leaders are ships.  

Personally, I don’t have much experience in, on or around ships, unlike my grandfather, who spent much of his early life living on various ships. He was a radio officer for the Merchant Navy, meaning he spent much of his working life travelling on ships to many various parts of the world. There were so many great stories he had to share with us as a family about all the places he had visited, as well as the people he worked with. As I reflected on my grandfather’s stories and experiences, it was clear to me that there were key characteristics and functions of the ship that are also key characteristics in positive leadership. 

  1. Direction on the journey 

As I said, my grandfather would tell us about all the different places he had visited while in the Merchant Navy. However, it was talking about the ships themselves that gave my grandfather the greatest joy. This was because he spent more time at sea on the ships than he did on dry land. My grandfather would remind us that if it were not for the ships fulfilling their purpose, he would not have had the opportunity to reach the many different parts of the globe that he did. 

Leaders do exactly the same. Leaders take you on a journey and help you reach places and purposes you wouldn’t reach without them. There are so many people I can think of who have done this for me during my own life – many of these ships you will hear about throughout this book – though the principle at play here is that no matter who you are, you can always take others on a journey. Again, any relationship and friendship will see this happen. So no matter what your age, you are never too young to journey through life with others and help them on their way to reaching where they need to be – even if that is just helping them with one step.  

  1. Emphasis on teamwork

Naturally, because relationships play such a huge part in having a positive influence on others, teamwork is also of high significance. One of the things that made life on the ships so memorable for my grandfather was the people he shared the events with – in other words, these people led him to have many positive experiences.  

If you ever watch a movie that includes pirates and a pirate ship, one of the things you will notice is how the pirates always work together – even if it is for unlawful reasons! OK, I know there is the occasional mutiny, but when there is good leadership at the helm, the pirates pull together as a team to work towards a shared goal… or the promise of treasure.  

Even though you and those you interact with may not be pirates, all of us need people to help us on the journey of life. Very early on in the Bible, even God says, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18). Whether we like it or not, we all need people; we were designed by God, for relationship with Him and with others. We truly are better together. There are people who need you in their life, to be the ship that they need, and vice versa. After all, everyone needs a helping hand from time to time. This is where teamwork really comes into its own. So have confidence in yourself. You can bring people together and have a positive influence on a group.  

One of the common things you will see in leaders who are ships is their ability to bring people together. I am sure you can all name people in your friendship groups who do this. For example, they are usually the first person in your group chats to suggest getting together at the weekend. They often come up with good activities that you may be able to do as a group and they are the ones who will be willing to speak up and make a decision when no one else in the group has the confidence to do so. Whatever the case, these people bring the group closer together, creating a place for relationships to grow and blossom.  

  1. Protection through the storm

Finally, as part of bringing direction to people’s journey through life and allowing people to be part of a team, leaders who are ships will also carry people through the storms of life. Sadly, life is not always perfect and it is inevitable that storms will arise from time to time – you will see this through some of  my experiences. Leaders are not exempt from the storms of life and need to know how to guide themselves and others through them.  

Thankfully, ships are very helpful in storms. They provide protection and are designed to withstand the harshest of conditions to carry those on board to the golden skies, calm waters and bright beaches that await on the other side of the storm. Friends are great at this!  

As I have tried to portray in this chapter, leadership plays a part in the everydayness of life and this occurs naturally through ordinary, day-to-day relationships. And when it comes to storms, friends are the best people to help lead anyone to the peace-filled waters on the other side.  

This is because good friends will listen well, give sound advice when needed, and stay close throughout the stormy season. I’m sure everyone has been on both sides of this scenario. When you are that friend who plays the role of being the steady base of support for someone in the midst of their storm, you are being the leader, and the ship that they need to carry them through.  

Everyone can do this, because leadership happens in the everyday and is for everyone.  

   

Summary: Leadership happens in the everyday activities and normality of life. In every interaction you can lead someone to either a positive experience or a negative experience. Being a leader who is like a ship means you can always take people on a journey, bring forth opportunities for open communication, and are a support for people when the inevitable storms of life arise.  

Tags:

  • Andy Monks

    Andy is Head of Children and Youth at Ascension Balham, in south London, having previously led a professional football club...

  • The Now Generation

    Andy Monks

    Young people are often called the ‘next’ generation – but what if they are the NOW generation, called to lead not just tomorrow, but also today?

    In this dynamic, fast-paced and inspirational book, Andy shares how he was empowered to step into leadership from a young age, and how you can be too...