Am I Too Old to Lead?

With the “graying” of many worship leaders, is there any such thing as retirement? The younger people seem to believe they have a corner on worship and they’d rather I wouldn’t be on the team. I believe I have a calling from God to raise up and train worshipers and worship leaders, but they don’t want to hear it. They see services more as a “gig” than a calling for which they need to be equipped.

Not long ago I heard about a couple of different churches where all members of the worship ministry who were over thirty were asked to step down. The pastors (who, by the way, were both well over thirty) wanted just younger faces up front to draw younger people into the church. Unfortunately, no one was left to mentor those younger folks. They were left on their own to lead worship as they saw fit. I wish I could tell you that I woke up and it was just a bad dream, but it wasn’t. This really happened.

Although our society seems to be obsessed with youth, God apparently has a different perspective. His Word talks much about elders and those with gray hair. The Bible has a great deal to say regarding the godly character traits the Lord desires to grow in us over time. Someone once defined wisdom as “knowledge tempered with age.” Though I would never downplay the energy and enthusiasm of youth, for ministry leadership positions I’ll take the older folks any day. No amount of energy or enthusiasm can replace experience and wisdom.

A missionary ministering among native Americans tells how an elder once observed that old people were more important in their culture than in “white” society. He explained, “If there were one last flight out of here, you would take the young and leave the old, but we would do the opposite.”

“Why would you do that?” asked his friend.

“Simply because,” the elder replied, “it only takes nine months to make a baby, but sixty years to make an elder. In our culture, we have elders; but you only have senior citizens.” [Gordon Keddie, “Children and the Future,” Tabletalk, January 2003, Ligonier Ministries, Lake Mary, FL]

Every history teacher will tell you that history is bound to repeat itself because we refuse to learn from the past. The church is no exception. Unless we recognize our need to learn from those who have walked before us, we will simply repeat their mistakes.

In Peter’s first letter in the New Testament, he is talking about younger people and he says, “be submissive to those who are older” (1 Peter 5:5). That seems pretty clear. Don’t just run out and do everything on your own. Submit to those who are older.

The younger generation needs mentors, those who can guide the way. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the music ministry. There are people with mega-talent in music who have no grounding in the Scripture. I’ve encountered young folks who, musically, can play circles around the older people in their church, but refuse to discipline their lives. Without the training of someone with more wisdom and experience, their energy and enthusiasm will be of little long-term value.

Please, take your role as leader seriously. Don’t be dissuaded by those who do not appreciate your attempts to train and to help. Keep going. They don’t realize how badly they need your help. The future of the Church is at stake. We must train the next generation.

(By the way, in case you’re wondering, I wrote most of this answer when I was in my thirties. A couple additions and edits came later.)