I can still remember the day. I don’t know the date but I can recall the day. I was Senior Pastor of our church and went home one day to share with my wife a shocking revelation. A tipping point had arrived. A transition that I had not planned for had taken place. A reality had snuck up on me and bit me with a painful new awareness. What was so shocking? It dawned on me that for the first time in my life the majority of the people in our church were younger than me. I was no longer a part of the young crowd. I viewed all those twenty-something couples as my peers. But they did not view me that way. Hmm, geezerdom had arrived in the middle of the night and I was now a part of the older crowd. Now numerous years later I have embraced my ever-aging role.
I have been around church leadership teams and congregations long enough to see the graying of the team in many places. Now please know that I am fully in favor of respect for us old folks and many of us have a lot of Kingdom mileage still left in us. Yet I have also watched all too often where the old guard fails to train up the new infantry and where those of us moving toward twilight struggle to release the steering wheel of leadership. I’m not in favor of the ‘mature’ generation simply handing role and responsibility off and walking away. I am, however, in favor of the older crowd welcoming the younger crowd to the table, giving a voice, and sharing leadership.
One pastor recently shared with me that he had some younger guys he might like to see join the elder board. Numerous elders resisted, saying that these whippersnappers were too young and not ready yet. The pastor then went around the room and asked each of those elders how old they were when they started in the role. Almost all of them had started younger than the age of the potential new men under consideration. Someone had taken a risk on them once. Now, would they pay it forward?
We need teams that are balanced in gift mix and skill sets. Balanced in age and experience. Balanced in perspective and ministry philosophy. So how does it look at your church? I was curious about that question in relation to the active licensed workers of our district. We have 193 active licensed people in ministry (not counting those who are retired or unassigned). I was afraid we might be skewed and unbalanced in our age representation. I was generally encouraged in what I found:
- 64% are under age 55
- 52% are under age 50
- 28% are under age 40
- 8% are under age 30
- We have more in their 30s (40) than we have over 60 (38)
One hundred and one of our licensed ministers are under 50 years old. If the Lord tarries, this is the upcoming generation of Kingdom leaders and servants who will be legacy builders in the Lord’s work. We need to invest in them. We need to develop them. We need to listen to them. We need to share leadership with them.
So again I ask, what about your church? Are you intentional about raising up the next generation of godly leadership or do you simply hope they will materialize at just the right moment? Are you apprenticing those who will be co-laborers for years to come? Do younger leaders feel encouraged and empowered, heard and helped? When the sun sets on your days, who will you be handing the mantle of godly leadership off to? Today is a good day to start to wade into this whole wonderful dream of raising up others who will carry on with us now, will carry on without us someday, and who will actually exceed us in the coming generations.
By Jeff Miller, District Superintendent