I must say I was shocked last week at the amount of hits, conversations, and sharing part one of this post caused. I’m a minor-league blogger at best, but when anything goes “20x normal,” that’s a lot. While I don’t mean to stir up a circular conversation about worship style, age, and whom Sunday morning is really for, I do want to follow up with another observation because it just drives me even more to stay after a passion point for me.
I began ministry in ’92 and was fortunate to be around some great guys in ministry whom I have written about before. Even though I didn’t know it, and we didn’t use the terminology, I spent my first few years in what I’d call “Church Leadership Residency.” I had a ton of feedback, a safe place to fail, and strong people around me that allowed pain in my life but wouldn’t let me quit.
I think about all of innovating that I was a part of in those days. There was a plethora of quantum leaping, in terms of ministry style, vision, and values that I was sitting at the table helping to shape. I was too young to be there…but I was. The people I was working for and being mentored by were anciently old. Most were 35 to 45. Ha! Many remain friends today.
The angst around "age" in the church is still real, and we must keep talking about it. I get it, clichés like “age is an attitude,” have some truth. There are plenty of influencers who are my age and much older and always will be. I mean, I guess I would hire Bono to be a worship leader.
But, it’s amazing when I think back to the types of decisions I was leading out on at a volatile church of 600, and then subsequently, at a church of 2,000. People a decade ahead of me surely were wincing, but then again, when I look back, they weren’t that old either.
It’s as if today we are so afraid that a twenty-something is going to do exactly what we did in the 90s!
Today, those of us who have opportunity to wield influence to help churches get younger at the leadership table must continue stepping up on this issue. This is another reason why I’m so passionate about leadershipPathway.org and helping churches begin residency. I repeatedly meet students who spend a couple of years in residency and then wind up being hired at those churches. I see this at some of the largest churches in America and some advancing smaller ones, as well.
Many students haven’t finished their undergraduate degrees yet are sitting at leadership tables because the 35-year-olds have been working a developmental path with them, and finally after two years, they trust them enough to have them lean in and lead out, much like I did!
Last week I was flying out of Denver and had some time to kill. The shoeshine stand had no line and my shoes were in desperate need, so I hopped up on the seat. Darwin, a fun, older gentleman began his leather polishing artistry and then asked the showstopper question, “So, what is taking you to Pittsburgh?” And I had to explain that I was flying across the country to help a church find a worship leader because they’d been looking for a long time and couldn’t find the next staff member.
Like most, he was shocked. “I’m a Baptist from Oklahoma City,” said Darwin. “You know, if you’re born in OK, your card is punched Baptist or Pentecostal, and I know I ain’t that, but I had no idea it was hard to find a pastor these days.” He went on and on asking all the questions about Slingshot and what we do to serve churches.
“Seems to me we’ve gotta get more people going in to ministry. That’s a shame,” he said.
I told him I couldn’t agree more, but we will have to invite the 8th grader like I was invited. We are going to have to intentionally coach the twenty-somethings like never before. We are going to have to allow them to influence it, just like someone allowed me to do the same.
I may not like where they take it, and I may not like the music. That’s ok, too.