Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. James 3:4

A friend of mine, Sam Bass, recently sent an email which starts with this quote: “A ship cannot cross the Atlantic Ocean on a single compass heading. Winds and currents will require numerous adjustments along the way. Similarly, in life, changes, challenges, and opportunities will come along requiring adjustments.”  This is the gist of this post – the function of a rudder on a ship that makes course changes on a journey of life.

Without a rudder to alter course and change directions, a boat can end up on rocks or crash into other boats. In the case of the Titanic, the collision was with an iceberg at night.  The rudder is the means of changing course, as well as the means of pointing the boat in the right direction.

One aspect of ruddering (or steering) is found in the spiritual gifts.  Each Christian has his or her set of spiritual gifts, and if you don’t know what they are, you can find out for free at the link at the end of this post. The list of spiritual gifts is found in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.  Some people are gifted with the gift of administration. They have a role to play in life, and often in the church or on boards as leaders.

Dr. Larry Gilbert provides an analogy of those with the gift of administration: “A kubernesis (in the Greek) was a steersman for a ship. He had the responsibility of bringing a ship into the harbor—through the rocks and shoals under all types of pressures.”  Chuck Swindoll then makes the connection and says “A kubernesis was an expert in the midst of a storm.”

This is a good working description of someone with the gift of administration in a church. They are “take charge” people who jump in and start giving orders (sometimes whether or not someone else is in charge).  They act as rudders for their church, giving it direction and harmony by keeping people on the same page.

In life, a person needs both a rudder to change course and a kubernesis (or pilot) to be the steady hand giving directions. Some course changes are small and imperceptible; others are drastic.  The storms of life can cause a shipwreck, and the millennials today are facing a lot of challenges.

In my presentation on mentoring, I use the following quote to describe millennials:  They (the next generation) are like a rudderless ship on a sea of uncertainty.  This was my short hand way of describing the millennials who largely don’t trust institutions of any kind (government, business, education or religion), and they shun taking risks.

They are digitally oriented in learning, and don’t read books.  Their path in this world is clouded by economic malaise – many are just trying to survive economically by living with their parents into the early 30’s and twenty percent of them have college debt because they borrowed money to pay for their education.

Thirty-nine percent of them between the ages of 18-30 are still being supported by their parents.  In America, the jobs they sought just haven’t been there since 2008.  They have extended adolescence into their late 20’s, and are Asian in outlook and philosophy which means that they don’t view truth as a high value.  Truth or honesty, then, becomes relative, and their answers to questions often will be dictated by the context. (See my post on “Honesty”).

I showed my presentation to people in Cameroon which contains the above profile of millennials, and my friend, Juliet Njock, said that she observed the same traits in the next generation in her country, too. This profile of millennials is not limited to America, but describes the next generation in many other countries as well.

On the plus side, millennials want authenticity in their lives, and I have found that the vast majority of them desire to have a mentor in their life to help them navigate their journey.  While a mentor doesn’t actually act as a rudder in their life, he does act as a kind of pilot or GPS for them.  A mentor can point them in the right direction, and caution them that certain directions may lead to crashing into icebergs or rocks which might not be obvious.

How does a mentor help?  Well, in most cases, a mentor’s life experiences have shown them where the rocks of life are – some of which are not visible to the naked eye, such as an underwater reef.  They have that “been there – done that” type of background which can be useful to the next generation who are trying to figure out what is the best direction for their life. Mentors don’t need any training in life experiences.  They’ve already experienced them and the lessons from those experiences can prove invaluable to our next generation.

Sadly, however, most of those valuable experiences go wasted.  All too many of the older generation – the gray hairs – haven’t seen the pressing need for mentors by the millennials.  Valuable life experiences that can help someone else are worthless if they are not shared with the next generation.

The challenge here is to both sides of the equation.  If you are part of the next generation, be proactive in seeking out someone you admire and ask them to spend some time with you so you can “pick their brain”, as it were.  They might not have mentored before, but that’s probably because no one ever asked them. If, on the other hand, you have gray hair (or at least salt and pepper), consider becoming a pilot in the life of someone in the next generation.  It can be one of the most rewarding experiences that you have ever had for both you and your mentee.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  For a useful article on the Gift of Administration:

For an online free spiritual gifts inventory:

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “I Will Follow“:


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