Leadership

Should Age Be A Factor in Who A Church Hirers As It's Leader?

ImageI want to throw out a discussion starter. One I think needs to be addressed if the church is going to continue to follow and go where God already is and where He is moving too...

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)

ImageFor churches that overlook or pass on older pastoral candidates it seems to be that there are two main factors... Money and Image.

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

Image

 

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?

This Week's Top 5...

SONY DSCIf you missed a read this week… Here's the Top 5 most read posts for this week: 1. When is being selfish in the church okay...

2. You're more beautiful than you think you are... 

3. I just can't get rid of this burr under my saddle...

4. Monday Mashup

5. What's On The Other Side Of This Life

Thanks for reading this blog. If your not a subscriber to this blog, I want to encourage you to do so. You can follow along or subscribe here... Please, comments and feedback about this blog are valued and appreciated.

Transition...

Now this might news to some of the readers of this blog, but I recently resigned my position as Lead Youth Pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church. Fortunately I am not leaving the church. I am transitioning out of the student ministry and into a new role at LifeBridge. Our church is moving towards a neighborhood emphasis and I will be one of the Neighborhood Pastors. I started this transition back in January, which will come to complete closure in mid-May. We have hired a new Lead Youth Pastor and I will assist in his transition as much as need be... I will write more about this transition later and about our journey of being a Neighborhood Pastor and our church's emphasis in the neighborhoods of Longmont as we go... Below is the resignation letter we sent to the staff, parents, and students. I did not add the portion that contained the bio of our new Lead Youth Pastor... Please pray for me, my family, our students, their families, Luke Pinder and his family (New Youth Pastor), our youth staff, and our church during this transition...

A note from Joe Puentes, Director of Student Ministries:

Over the past nineteen years, I have been blessed to serve and lead students in helping them discover grace, grow in grace, and live gracefully. These past five years, I have had the privilege of leading the student ministry at LifeBridge, which have been some of the most exciting and fruitful years of ministry for my family and me. We have been blessed with rich relationships with both students and their families. Without hesitation, I can say these have been some of the best ministry years I have experienced.

A little while ago, I went to Rick telling him that I felt God was stirring in my heart a passion to be more involved in the neighborhood focus of our church, and that I was feeling a sense that it might be time for me to move out of student ministry and begin a new ministry journey, exploring other ways to serve in God’s kingdom. After sharing our thoughts and concerns about me moving out of the student ministry, Rick asked me to pray about the opportunity of becoming a Neighborhood Pastor. After praying for a period of time and having conversations with my wife, I have decided to resign my position as youth pastor and accept the neighborhood pastor position.  I’m able to do this in part because I have a peace that our students and the ministry will be cared for and led well by the other associate student pastors and our volunteer youth coaches.  This is one of the best student ministry teams I have had the good pleasure of serving alongside.

I want to thank the leaders of LifeBridge, our students, and their families for allowing me to serve and lead them these past five years. I have been tremendously blessed by all our past and present students. We can trust that our students will continue to discover grace, grow in grace, and live gracefully during this transition (I currently have two of my own kids in the high school ministry). We can also be sure that the leaders of LifeBridge have done everything humanly possible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find my replacement to lead our students. I am excited about the future of the student ministry being led by our next youth pastor. Once again, thank you for the honor and privilege of being a part of your family’s journey of growing in your relationship with Jesus.

Grace & Peace,

Joe

A note from Kevin King, Administrator:

We are thankful for Joe’s leadership provided to the Student Ministry here at LifeBridge over the last five years.  He has built a solid team of staff and coaches that will help carry us forward to the next phase of Student Ministry and will provide our new director a great foundation on which to continue building.  Please be praying for Joe and his family as he transitions from Students to Neighborhoods.

Conversation on Acts-like insurrection strategy...

Recently, I posted about a conversation a few others were having about a new strategy for discipleship and church growth (the original posted can be found here Adam McLane). Within the blog post and ensuing conversation, I commented some of my thoughts to the blogger of the original post... I thought it would be helpful if I shared my thoughts on the conversation. Also, this whole conversation started with a blog post he did on reaching parents of students - The Parent Gap. Below is what I posted in the comment area in response to Adam McLane's blog post on finding a new strategy...

"As a church, we have been praying and thinking about the command by Jesus to in-short “love God and love our neighbors.” Through this, it has caused us to rethink the how we do church, our measurements for success i.e. “wins” and over-all strategy. We are nowhere near having things figured out, but the conversation of being the best neighbor our neighbors have ever had, and loving our neighbors not because we want them to be Christians, but because we are Christians have caused us to have deeper discussions of how church would look different, be different, and act different.

I recently launched a home Bible study this summer in my house for high school students. The book we are studying is the book of Acts. I started off the study by telling the 30 high school students it would be great that if one day “soon”, they were the ones leading a Bible study like this in their homes, neighborhoods, and schools and not me! One student said, “then we would be doing your job and the job of our adult leaders. You would be out of a job!” My response was that it would be great if that happened, because then they would all be doing what Jesus commanded and that is to make disciples, and not just me doing it…

Its hard for those of us who are paid staff to think about “new strategy’s” for church, because it can cause disruption and uncertainty in our own lives and livelihood. I have been on staff as a youth pastor on a couple of mega-churches, and I am currently on staff at a mega-church. I know the leaderships' heart is to make disciples, and to see people fulfill the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. However, realizing that discipleship really begins with depth, which leads to numerical growth, and not the other way around can be daunting and paralyzing for churches of all sizes… It is a cultural thing in many ways.

One of the commentators above stated this about the America church, “They are looking for ways to “keep” people in church, upping their numbers. The church in America has basically been stagnant for decades.” This can true for many churches and staff persons in the U.S.. However, I am encouraged by bloggers such as yourself, others, and conversations similar to this that are popping up all over the country. I am excited that the Father seems to be moving in the U.S church and the hearts of His people, both big and small to realize His plan for the kingdom."

I hope by sharing this with you, we can continue the conversation and seek to BE the church and not just play church..

On imagination / faith / endurance

Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. – Psalm 119:18

Many things go through my mind when I’m running. Sometimes I think about my family, other times I think about the hurriedness of life. As I was running the other day, three things came to mind that captured my thoughts a few days after my run.

o   Running builds my imagination.

o   Running builds my faith.

o   Running builds my endurance.

If I time it just right, I can run down Mountain View Ave around 6 o’clock p.m. (which is an enormous hill), and I will be able to see the sun setting over the Rockies and especially over Longs Peak, which is the predominant 14ner in our area. The view is outrageous, snowcapped peaks with a violent orangish-red sky, dabbed with blue and black. Clouds encircle the peak, but not enough to cover it completely, yet enough to let you know they’re there willing to do battle with the peak. The beauty is something else… When I’m running I really come to appreciate the artist that God really is. Running builds my imagination, and reminds me that God’s creation is AMazing! As I run, I ask God to open my eyes to the wonders and beauty around me.

Another thing running does is it builds my faith. What I mean by this is that it forces me to have faith in my body and my surroundings. While I can do everything to make sure my body can handle a 10k, I must ultimately have faith that my body’s unseen elements are functioning properly. And that it can handle the strain and stress that I am about to put it through. Additionally, I have to count on and have faith that the conditions of the road ahead of me are safe enough and run worthy. I can do everything I can to make sure cars passing by can see me as I run in the bike lane, but ultimately I must have faith that the driver of the car sees me and is aware that I am also on the road.

It’s easy to quit when running gets hard, but it’s so rewarding to endure the run and cross the finish line. Endurance has been one of the fruits that I have gained through running. By pushing myself out the door and running when I do not feel like it, I have been able to grow in the knowledge and understanding of my limits - just how far and how fast I can run. The more I run the more I grow as a runner I become stronger, and can push myself even farther. Despite fatigue and stress, I gain the ability and strength to continue and last. My endurance becomes a quality for not only running, but also a lasting quality or fruit for life.

These three things seem to encapsulate the Christian life – Colossians 1:10-12…

Second Chances

Barnabas and Leadership

In his writings, Greenleaf discusses the need for a better approach to leadership, one that puts first, serving others. Additionally, Greenleaf stated, the difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant—first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served (Spears, 2005, p. 2). Moreover, Stone et al. (2003) stated that the Servant-Leadership theory emphasizes the importance of appreciating and valuing people, listening, mentoring or teaching, and empowering followers (p. 4). Along with this, Anderson (2008) stated Greenleaf’s mantra for what a servant-leader “The servant-leader is servant first.... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first…” (p. 8).

Through Greenleaf’s words on Servant-Leadership, we see the living manifestation of them in biblical characters. In his book on the biblical theology of leadership, Howell (2003) defines for the readera the genesis for servant-leadership as defined in the Old Testament and New Testament definition of servant and slave. Accordingly, Howell shapes this leadership theory on several Old Testament figures, as well as on several New Testament personalities. While there are many figures in both the Old and New Testaments who demonstrate servant-leadership elements and dynamics, Joseph the Levite, also known as Barnabas “son of encouragement” encapsulates servant-leadership to the core of his being.

Son of Encouragement

When Jesus addressed the two brothers James and John as they sought to obtain authority and leadership in Jesus kingdom (Matthew 20:20-28, New International Version), Jesus told them in essence, that seeking authority and leadership positions in His kingdom have no place. Instead, Jesus told the two brothers that the standard or the culture of kingdom living is that of a servant. From its inception, early church leaders were instructed and lived out this cultural modus operandi and form of leadership ascendancy.

Esteem vs Generosity

In addition to this, Read-Heimerdinger (1998) with regards to Barnabas, stated how Acts demonstrated the high esteem with which Barnabas was regarded by the early church in both Jerusalem and Antioch, and how he played a leading role among the first Christians (p. 40). However, Barnabas did not seek out or intend to carry such esteem for himself, as seen in his example of the spirit of generosity in the sacrificial gift of the proceeds from the sale of a field he owned, and in stark contrast to the pretentious actions of Ananias and Sapphira (Howell, 2003, p. 230). Additionally, Read-Heimerdinger (1998) suggested that Barnabas’ role in the community of the disciples as that of comforter or encourager, and who had already gained the reputation for being righteous (p. 51). The biblical text clearly shows that Barnabas demonstrated some key servant-leadership elements such of appreciating and valuing people, listening, mentoring or teaching, and empowering followers.

Character of Second Chances

Consequently, Howell (2003) describes two incidences that capture the very essence of Barnabas the servant-leader. He shows how Barnabas demonstrates his selfless character by leaving his promising work in Antioch, where he was the recognized leader, to undertake a difficult pioneering work in Cyprus and Galatia (p. 233). This is also seen in the restoration of the failed brother John Mark. In the end, Barnabas’ policy of giving a young man a second chance produced salutary results both in his life and in the churches, a legacy that Paul acknowledges (p. 236).

References

Anderson, J., (2008). The Writings of Robert Greenleaf: An interpretive analysis and the future of servant-leadership. Servant          Leadership Research Roundtable, NA, 8.

Howell, D., (2003). Servants of the servant. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Read-Heimerdinger, J., (1998). Barnabas in Acts: A study of his role in the text of codex Bezae. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 72, 22-66.

Spears, L., (2005). The understanding and practice of servant- leadership. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable. NA, 2.

Stone, A., Russell, R., & Patterson, K., (2003). Transformational versus servant leadership: A difference in leader focus. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable, NA, 1-10.