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



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?

Image is everything...

Image is everything web logo1I've been kind of dwelling on this "image is everything" thing this past week. I had a conversation with a friend the other day where we talked about things that really matter to God. What we both came to an agreement on was the fact that churches and "we" Christians sometimes put more value into causes, programs, movements, pioneering, and innovation rather than dwelling with HIM. I think this is because all of these things whether good or bad give us a better image or appear to entice excitement and mass numbers. In many ways in the church we have bought into the lie that "image is everything."

Being a disciple of Jesus is not about writing books, teaching at conferences, creating causes so people will be excited about church or Jesus. It's not about pioneering or starting movements through our innovation. DON'T get me wrong I know these things can help the mission of Jesus. It's just that sometimes these things take the place of what we are really suppose to be about. It's about abiding in Jesus and going where he is already at. We are then to be obedient to what the Holy Spirit is moving us to do, which is to love God with all that we have, and loving our neighbor they way God loves us, which is sacrificially through grace and forgiveness. Jesus wants us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Ed Stetzer aptly stated, "Too often we pull our cultural values into our grid for measuring church success..." While his context for this statement is talking about church size, I think it could be equally said for how some in the church value appearances or image over people and relationships. Read the whole article here: Rethinking Small Churches by Ed Stetzer

The culture values outward appearances. Success can be only ankle deep as long as it looks and tastes good. That's probably why we are a fast-food nation and why many of us can't wait for the release of the Twinkie next week.

I am not saying that image and outward appearances are all bad. These can be the very things that get a person interested or coming back to find out more about Jesus. In some ways we need to pay attention to image and outward appearances.

What I am saying is that when these things become the measurement of success for the church and for Christians, then we have a huge problem. When we critique a preacher on the delivery of their sermon instead of if they mentioned Jesus at all in their message and preached the gospel. Or if we become so Type-A about whether we kept our people in service too long or the flow of the worship service didn't go right or as we had planned. When these things become the standard bearer for success then we have stopped dwelling in Jesus. If you want to know the end result of this way then read John 15:1-8... Good gospel preaching, causes, programs, movements, pioneering, and innovation should move you to the neighborhood.

I like how Eugene Peterson said about Jesus in The Message, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood..." - John 1:14

People > causes, programs, movements, pioneering, innovation, sermon delivery, tight rock concert worship services... The church's mission is people and sometimes people get messy, life gets messy and all we really have in the end is LOVE. Causes, movements, and programs will never take the place of a life spent abiding with Jesus. We must reveal to people a life that is dwelling with Jesus not our latest shiny new ministry toy.

Honestly "image is NOT everything." The heart of the matter is "what image are you displaying to people..."

You're more beautiful than you think you are... I have been having many interesting conversations with both students and adults, of both genders, about what really matters to them in life. It seems that many people, myself included, live by the fear of man rather than the fear of God. It's as if we are slaves to what other people think of us and we become hindered and paralyzed by this. What's interesting is that many times how we think people see us and what we think about ourselves has become convoluted and twisted. How I see myself isn't necessarily how someone else sees me.

A friend of mine is getting married in a couple of weeks and I'm in the wedding, so this morning I went to get fitted for my tuxedo. As an employee called out my measurements to the another who was taking the measurements down, I became quite uncomfortable hearing the numbers called out aloud... Yep. I could stand to loose about 5, 10, okay about 20 pounds... In the midst of this my mind started racing. I was thinking that if I lost all that weight, I might look like James Bond from the film Casino Royale. How would people see me? Would I draw a lot of looks from the ladies (I say this in jest, just in case my wife reads this)? Would the guys envy me and think I have one of those cool cars parked in the parking lot? Then as the excitement and reality settled in, I came to the conclusion that I am who I am; and that while I do need to loose some weight, I should really be focused on the fact that I just spent the duration of getting fitted for my tuxedo wishing I looked like 007 from Casino Royale, something internally isn't right.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. To be honest I was dreading about getting fitted for a tuxedo. I was embarrassed about how out-of-shape I am. The first jacket they gave me to try-on was bit loose. I knew it! Instead of looking like James Bond, I was going to look like (insert embarrassing description here), and my dream of looking good was crushed!. I was getting a little self-conscious. Then the guy helping me shed some sunlight on my overcast moment; he said that it was much to loose on me and that I had a good physique which needed a jacket that would fit tighter. I realized that how I see myself isn't always the way how others see me. If we could be free for a moment with our thoughts and words we would admit that we are more judgmental about ourselves than others are with us.

Beauty is as much an inner thing as it is an outer thing and probably even more so. Many times we feel outward appearances are the factors in which we are either approved or disapproved by people. So much time and money is spent trying to improve our outward looks that we neglect what really matters and that is our heart. If we come to understand that the heart is where beauty truly is formed then what we look like on the outside really doesn't matter (Please understand that I do believe we need to take care of ourselves physically as well - I'm not discounting that). 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that God does not concern himself with the things that man uses to judge someone's worth which is the outward appearance. Instead he deems someone worthy by looking at their heart. Jesus said it another way when he addressed the religious leaders, who by the way were more concerned with outward appearances, by telling them that it's not what goes inside a person that makes them defiled (outward appearances), but it is what comes out (the heart) of a person that defiles them.

Jesus said, "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” - Mark 7:21-23

Our hearts drive our true beauty both inward and outward. Jesus came to mold our hearts into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). And because of this God sees us differently than the way we see ourselves. Just like at the end of the video sometimes we need to ponder how other people see us - You're more beautiful than you think you are.