A friend posed this question:
"Why is the church so concerned with the age of leaders these days?" via Craig Wilson
I must admit that I am a little biased when it comes to this question - .I am forty and have felt this issue personally at some levels... Even though I am only forty, in the ministry world that I just left (youth ministry), forty is kind of old... I MUST SAY I am thankful that the church I am on staff at did NOT factor my age as an issue in leading the youth ministry.
(You can read about my transition out of that ministry position in a blog post I wrote back in April - Here: Ministry Transition...)
While there were moments when I felt the sting of my age in youth ministry, all in all, I was encouraged by many who told me that the things I did well in ministry were a reflection on my years and experience in youth ministry. I served in that area of ministry for eighteen years...
However, I did see some of my friends get passed up for ministry opportunities in youth, worship, and lead pastor ministry positions for younger and less experienced candidates - one friend was even told that it was because of his age, and he was only forty-two years old... I have also heard stories where ministry candidates as old as thirty-three were told to "young-up" if they wanted to be looked at for ministry opportunities...
(Only in the church-world can people be told they are to old to be hired and the hiring churches not get a lawsuit filed against them)
You can hirer quality young candidates for less money than you could with a more mature/older candidate who have older and more advanced in age families. New hirer costs are big factors for a lot of churches, especially if the trends are accurate about giving being down in American churches as found in a 2012 survey done by the rocket company.
So the bottom line is that money for some churches is a big influencer on who they can hirer. The issue of money affects all sizes of churches, small church, medium church, large church, and mega-church.
We live a youth culture dominated society. If you don't believe me just look around you. We can see this in marketing, television, movies, politics, world issues (Arab Spring was driven by youth movements), teen parenting styles (Focus on being the teen's friend), and etc... Which brings me to the issue of image.
Many churches today are trying to reach a younger crowd and they feel they need someone who can relate and connect with the 20 to 30 something age group. They want their pastor to be look and be relevant to the younger generation.
For many churches it is an image-thing. I don't mean this is in a flippant or shallow tone, I really do believe there are some churches that believe that the young can only reach the young... And in some ways they are right.
In youth ministry, there were times when a younger youth coach (volunteer) could move deeper into a conversation with a student, because the student felt the younger adult could relate better... Just to serve as one example where youth can be affective in reaching other youth.
Of course there is the negative side to this. There is a recent trend in churches where the focus or desire is to entertain church goers and make church more like an event than the gathering of God's people. this could be the effects of an Attractional/Event-driven style of youth ministry that has permeated our young Christian youth for the last 20 years...
Most young guys would pick Jessica Alba any day over Cate Blanchett, which I think shows their lack of wisdom (Can you say Galadriel). Or better yet, most young people would rather see One Direction live than the current version Aerosmith live... These might not be the best examples, but you get the point of what I mean with these examples...
Let me say that I DO NOT believe older people have the corner market godly wisdom. The Holy Spirit can and does use people of all ages in great ways to bring about kingdom advancement and gospel preaching, look at a young King David, King Josiah, Mary (Jesus' mother), and some of the Apostles like John. All of these people were young and inexperienced in life, but yet they had the godly wisdom to make the right decisions.
At the same time, we can see examples in scripture like Abraham, Moses, Proverbs, some of Paul's writings address the issue of age when it comes to wisdom, leadership, and examples to follow for young people.
BUT do I believe the church has a fascination with image. And if we aren't careful it can lead to unwanted results within the church long-term... You can read more of my thoughts in a previous post here: Image is Everything
The church-world isn't the only sector dealing with the issue of age and leadership. Even in the non-religious world is dealing with the age of it's leaders, and it seems to boil down to money and image.
A few things to chew on...
- Is it wise to have young adults lead young adults in the matters of spirituality, parenting, job related issues, money issues, relationship issues, and life in general?
- Does innovation come from young minds or well traveled and experienced minds?
- Why does it seem that some of the best led churches are by people in their 40's, 50's, and 60's? Mars Hill (Mark Driscoll), Central Christian Church, Las Vegas (Jud Wilhite), Saddleback Church (Rick Warren), North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley), and North Point Christian Church (Mike Farra)...
- What does the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the community of believers say about the issue of age and church leadership?
What are your thoughts? Should age be a factor in who a church hirers as it's leader?