When I resigned my last church I gave the church board some advice which I’ve come to rethink. Here’s what I told them: “Hire someone young.” They did, and he is doing a great job. But my advice reflects an interesting mindset in today’s culture when it comes to finding a new pastor. The mantra is younger is far better.
In an ironic twist, I spoke as a guest at a church a few months later. They invited me back to speak again. They were without a pastor and they asked me to interview. During the interview there were a few young people on the church board who asked questions like, “You are my dad’s age. He’s thinking about retirement. How long will you stay?” The advice I gave my former board came back to bite hard. They hired someone younger than me.
In the last week I’ve been approached by three different people asking me for advice on how an over 50 minister could find a job. It seems, no congregation wants to hire a minister over 50 years of age. In giving this some deep thought I realize this is a big mistake.
Here’s 4 compelling reasons why a church ought to hire a minister over the age of 50.
First, the over 50 minister has a wealth of experience the younger does not yet possess.
If experience is the best teacher then the older minister has a PhD in ministry. I know by the time I pushed past the 50 mark I had seen about everything you could imagine in terms of ministry challenges. I knew the ropes. Many lessons had been learned the hard way.
Why would a church want to take a chance in hiring a young guy who is just learning the ropes? He hasn’t been through the school of hard knocks. For example he might change the Sunday morning music assuming everyone will rejoice at his progressive leadership!
Most churches are failing to consider a minister over 50 as a strong candidate. Big mistake. He or she is at the age where they have a wealth of experience to share with a congregation.
Second, at the age of 50 a minister is not looking to use the next church as a stepping stone to next bigger church.
And if you think many pastors aren’t thinking in those terms you haven’t been around too many pastors.
In the interview I just mentioned, my reply to the question of how long I would stay I said, “Until God tells me to leave.” Now, let’s be bold and honest, for some younger ministers the answer is “until I get offered a bigger church.” Younger pastors are naturally concerned about the career side of ministry. But an over 50 minister has learned bigger is far from always being better. And as a result might stay long term instead of using the church as a stepping stone.
Third, by the time a minister reaches 50 the skills of ministry have been honed.
Early on it became evident which skills needed to improve. A smart minister has worked to improve in the discovered areas of deficiency. Books have been read, classes taken, and advice form congregants heeded.
Take preaching for example. Nothing improves a speaker like getting up in front of a crowd twice a week for 20 years! By the tine a minister reaches 50 the skills have ministry have gone through the refining process. And if the minister is weak in certain areas he or she has learned to hire staff to complement the areas of weakness.
Four, and this might be the most significant reason, most ministers over 50 have been broken.
Nothing humbles a minister like ministry! If arrogance exists a congregation will humble you.
I heard a speaker tell a group of ministerial students what to do as they headed into the town of their first pastorate. He told them to stop at the edge of town and out of the U-Haul. They were to write on a little slip of paper these words: “My Pride.” Then the paper needed to be placed inside of an empty match box and buried alongside the road. Pride does not belong in ministry.
A minister over 50 has learned this reason. And a ministry who has become broken came be used more powerfully than none who is not.
There are many factors to be considered in hiring a new minister. All of them need to be weighed with care. But please do not automatically throw the name of a candidate on the discard pile because of age. It just might be the biggest mistake a church could make.
All of that is spot on! The school of hard knocks will be the best experience one will ever learn. I was hired at my current assignment at 59. I applied thinking; “I don’t have a chance at this, but I need a ministry.” I was hired which in itself was a real God thing. Still active in my assignment over 3 years later. Yeah, I get the age thing and sometimes the younger generation question whether they would be better off with a college student, but they see what I do for their kids and their families and they are content in knowing that I give them what they desire as a pastor. I shepherd and these families are thriving. I had recently gone through a trial and had considered hanging up my shingle. The Lord impressed on me 3 times that He himself had called me to this church and He would sustain me. I still questioned. A godly old gentleman came into my office and stood by my desk and said; “The Lord asked me to come and talk to you.” I was kind of taken back since this man just usually speaks in passing. He continued to say; “I want to know that you are very valued here and I support what you do in ministry and I pray for success for you for a long time.” Of course I teared up and told him I needed to hear that today. He said; “I know you did…the Lord told me to come and tell you TODAY.” Confirmation that I am where the Lord would have me today…I don’t know about the future, but I am where I need to be right now.
Thanks for your comments. You are doing a great job! BTW, I’m all for younger people in ministry. I just think we shouldn’t throw older ministers in the trash heap!
…..and we are living proof that God puts the RIGHT people at the RIGHT place precisely at the RIGHT time. And sometimes they are even over fifty! ;)
Thanks Claudia. You made me smile!
Excellent! This should be submitted to Nazarene publications. Btw, anyone hiring a 64 year old youth pastor latley?! probably not!
Hey Raymon! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I’ll keep my ear to the ground and if I hear of anyone looking for a 64 year old YP I’ll let you know!