The average pastor in America is 54, which is ten years older than what it was just 25 years ago. Yet, someone once told me that the phone of renowned Baptist statesman, author, and preacher Hershel Hobbs quit ringing once he turned 50.
So, the average-aged preacher is sitting around his silent phone while search committees scramble to fill pulpits with guys in their 30s and 40s. This has created a situation that needs to change. With that in mind, peruse and ponder these four reasons churches should start calling men in their 50s.
We’re more mature
Certainly after 27 years as a senior pastor, I still have a lot to learn. But thank God I’m not what I used to be. My heart has softened and my skin thickened over the past three decades. I’m now more sensitive to the things that should bother me and get less frustrated concerning the things that shouldn’t.
As a young pastor, I recall getting all wound up about the conservative vs. moderate battle. Currently, I could get bogged down in the Calvinism debate, but would rather keep Jesus as the focal point of discussion.
In my early years I’d attend a seminar or conference and then run back itching to implement what worked for the speakers. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard about a young preacher going to an established/traditional church and eliminating the choir, changing the leadership structure, and alienating the people.
Change is great; most churches need it. But it should only take place once a minister has built confidence and gained trust. As pastors, we won’t succeed without being “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Age and experience help tremendously when it comes to these matters.
We’ve banked more life experiences
This is similar but not the same as #1. Some lessons are learned and logged only through longevity.
I dare not question the sovereignty of God and certainly don’t want to sound envious. Yet, I don’t see how so many young pastors are able to head huge congregations. Many, with middle-aged parents and toddlers at home, stand before a congregation full of people grappling with rebellious teenagers and aging parents (not to mention grandparents helping to raise grandchildren).
It’s taken me a lot of years to experience the funerals of a baby, teenagers, and young dad murdered by his brother-in-law. Add to that a few explosive business meetings, community disasters, and betrayals by friends. I didn’t enjoy these experiences but wouldn’t trade the lessons learned for anything.
To us, technology is a means to an end but not an end in itself
I heard a seasoned preacher once say, “These young guys need to break away from their computers and get out into the field.” While that may sound a little cantankerous, it brings to mind an important point.
A lot of churches still contain large contingencies of older congregants. And I’ve got news for you, their tribe is increasing. Today 1 in 7 Americans is 65 or older. In 15 years, it will be 1 in 5. While those in this group will become increasingly tech savvy, they’ll always appreciate pastors who drop a handwritten note in the mail now and then – or better yet, drop by for a personal visit.
We’ve established a library of messages
My sermon cupboard was bare when I started preaching full time in 1990. The majority of my days were consumed with preparation for Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights.
Today, thankfully, the barrel is full. But rather than this creating license for laziness, it allows for invaluable margin in my schedule. I use the “extra time” for fresh study, book/blog writing, personal visits, community involvement, and prayer.
Many of you who have read to this point may still insist on following the cultural trend and “calling a younger man who can relate to these young people and get them back in church.” In reality, many of these younger people are seeking a father figure who can help them practically and spiritually navigate through pitfalls and pot holes in life.
I’m thrilled about the young pastors God is calling and using in churches. I just hope the phones start ringing for the thousands of Baby Boomer preachers out there who still have so much left in the tank.