To senior adults, I’m a young pastor—but I used to be much younger! I’m 44 years old, having been in ministry since I was 20 as a music and youth pastor; and I’ve served as a senior/lead pastor since I was 31. I’ve shared this before, but I’ve actually had people when I first started in senior pastoral ministry tell me they had a hard time staying at church because they felt a child was preaching to them. Now that I’m in my 40s, I don’t get that I’m the age of my members’ grandchildren anymore, but their children? Sure! I wonder when the tipping point will come? Probably when I start getting my AARP mail in a little over a decade (yikes!).
How does a young pastor minister adequately to those who are the age of parents and grandparents?
Acknowledge and embrace your age. Some will look down on you because of your youth—something that Timothy experienced (1 Timothy 4:12). Like anything, you can allow your age to hold you hostage, thinking you have nothing to contribute.
Age does not equal maturity. John Piper once said that you can be spiritually pimply-face at 80 years of age. Just because you are a young pastor does not mean you’re immature. Just because you are older does not mean your maturity is a given. Paul mentored Timothy and the church ordained him at a young age due to his maturity in the faith. But he lacked years, which caused him to operate in fear.
Relish ministering to and with those older than you. For the first few years of ministry for me, the only ones younger than I were in youth ministry. I didn’t know anything about, well, anything. While some let me know that I didn’t know much, others took me under their wing and show me the ropes (and how those ropes got under those wings, I’ll never know!).
Treat those older than you with respect, like fathers and mothers—especially when it comes to change. Interestingly, Paul tells Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). Just because we are in the position of pastoral authority, does not give us the leverage to treat others with contempt, especially those who are older than us. Condescension is unbecoming a young pastor. Respect! Encourage him as you would your dad. Now there’s some perspective!
God is ‘older’ that all of us put together—so preach, speak, think, and live His Word. Pastors are to set an example in life, love, faith, speech, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). No matter your age, experiences, or the context in which God places you—preach His Word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). All Christians of all ages, whether they realize it or not, yearn for the Word. All people need to hear the Word. So preach the Word, love your people, respectfully lead in areas that need change, carefully and prayerfully lead them to remove those obstacles—but only as the Word makes clear. And go at the speed of God (thanks for that, Dave Howeth).
Matt Perry serves as the Lead Pastor of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, Colorado. He earned his M.Div and D.Min from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Check out his blog at http://www.leadwithjoy.net and follow him on twitter: @drmattperry.