Growing up in China, Peggy was not always a young Christian leader. The daughter of a loyal Communist Party member and a devout Buddhist, she came to know Christ in college through a campus fellowship group. Encountering Jesus and growing in discipleship began to shape her own vision and calling as she graduated and moved into senior management positions as a consultant. ‘Jesus not only taught and evangelized, he also helped the marginalized and the needy. So how do we as Christians play a role in the broader community to help the marginalized and the needy?’ In a country where the disabled and poor are largely invisible in society, Peggy desires especially to use her skills in management consulting to empower leaders across China with a heart for the marginalized.
She realized that in order to make this vision a reality, she needed a guided space to reflect on her experiences, targeted learning for her area of interest, and a wider perspective of the world through a diverse and supportive community. In short, what she needed was to enroll in a good graduate program. But she did not have the finances to afford it.
Across the continent in South Asia, Carlos shares Peggy’s conviction that leaders are the key to bringing lasting social change. Early on in his career, he co-founded an award-winning organization that has helped more than 20,000 people become better leaders. He went on to found a community that works to bring socioeconomic transformation in Asia through empowering thinkers, entrepreneurs, and investors to live out their Christian values in and through the workplace. He now finds himself needing a globally-recognized degree as he grows his influence outside the country. But like Peggy, a graduate degree overseas is simply not financially feasible.
Peggy and Carlos are not alone. The problem of not being able to afford or have access to globally-respected graduate-level education was one of the most common issues expressed by the hundreds of carefully selected younger leaders from around the world who met in Indonesia for the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG2016), of which both Carlos and Peggy were participants. The resulting YLGen (Younger Leaders Generation) is a 10-year commitment by Lausanne to walk with these younger leaders as their influence expands.
Now, three years out from the gathering, a new opportunity has made it possible for them to move forward. Carlos and Peggy are among the first 15 recipients of a full scholarship through YLGen Educate. The new initiative matches partnering universities and seminaries with younger leaders of emerging influence who wouldn’t be able to afford or access graduate and doctoral education otherwise.
‘Not everybody in the world needs higher education to do what God has called them to do,’ says CJ Davison on the YLGen Educate team. ‘But we believe there are specific situations where God is calling young Christian leaders to a significant role—regionally, in the country, or globally . . . and a graduate or doctoral degree might be required in the future for some of these younger leaders.’
In September 2018, Carlos and Peggy began a one-year online Master’s in Organizational Leadership program at a university in the US, and it’s already bearing fruit. For example, Peggy has been able to design a cultural fluency assessment for an Australian leader struggling to lead her Chinese team at a center serving autistic children. ‘That was really helpful for her because she’d never thought that some of her leadership challenges had been simply because she didn’t understand the culture,’ says Peggy.
Through experiencing an education not embedded in his own culture, Carlos has been able to sharpen his thinking about board advocacy and become more skillful in navigating the often choppy waters of cross-cultural teamwork. He cites the real-time case studies of diversity leadership and challenges as giving him ‘the framework to solve the current challenges I face and to equip me for the future’. That future for Carlos includes hopes to establish a school for training young board leaders.
So far, 12 universities and seminaries have partnered with YLGen Educate to offer potential scholarships totaling over USD 750,000. ‘God’s using the YLGen Educate team and the ministry, reputation, and history of the Lausanne Movement to really open up doors that would otherwise not have been opened,’ says CJ. ‘That respect in history and faithfulness has gone a long ways, and institutions know that. That’s why they’re willing to open up incredibly generous gifts to us, and in return, we connect them with the kind of younger leaders they’re looking for.’
Peggy and Carlos represent only a small snapshot of what emerging leadership looks like around the world. But for many younger leaders, a graduate program is the necessary but unattainable key to unlocking their visions. CJ and the YLGen Educate team hope to continue making that key more attainable in the coming years. ‘A big part of our vision would be to expand our range of partnerships with institutions,’ he says. ‘We want to add more programs globally so that younger leaders can study closer to where they live, in a language they are fluent in.’
Thoughtful, well-educated, skilled young leaders in every region are the up-and-coming movers and shakers of the world, whose lives and ministries have the potential for broad, deep impact. To equip and support them is to lay the foundation for a brighter future—for all those whose lives they touch, and for us all.
Learn more about the Younger Leaders Generation initiative and YLGen Educate.
Names in the article have been changed for security.
Sara Kyoungah White is the Communications Editor for the Lausanne Movement. She currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.