I recently turned 39. It’s a weird feeling to be almost 40. Don’t get me wrong—I’m looking forward to it. I don’t mind growing older. Sure beats the alternative!
It’s weird, because I so clearly remember being 18. Like it was yesterday, I recall graduating from high school, getting on my first airplane, going to Los Angeles and starting Bible college because of the call of God on my life to preach the gospel.
Shortly thereafter, I began to pastor my first youth group of middle school students. It wasn’t long until Denise and I were 19 and married. Our first baby came a year later. Talk about kids having kids!
Through the years, I was given more responsibility at a very young age—pastoring, speaking, leading and ministering way over my head. My first senior pastorate was at age 27. Then, at 37, I was entrusted with a much larger church.
I reminisce for a reason. As I was reading from 2 Chronicles in a recent devotional time, I was struck by the ages of some of the kings of Judah. Check out just how old these guys were: Manasseh was 12; Amon was 22; Josiah was 8; Jehoahaz was 23; Jehoiakim was 25; Jehoiachin was 18; Zedekiah was 21.
Pretty young, huh? Yes, I know this was a family thing; they were simply the next in line to the throne. And yes, some of them where really stupid and ungodly; they led pretty poorly, which partly may have been attributed to their youth. But what can we glean from this history?
- Give them a shot. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Are there young leaders around you who just need an opportunity to lead? We’ll never know what they can do unless we release them.
- Give them support. Josiah was 8 when he became king. The biblical text lists a large “supporting cast” that assisted Josiah in the wholesale reformation of Israel. My youngest son is roughly the age of Josiah, and we don’t leave him home by himself, let alone allow him to rule the kingdom. He needs our help, which is why he has parents and older siblings. Who are the younger leaders around you who need a supporting hand?
- Give them space. If there is anything I’m discovering to be true of teens and pre-teens (I have three right now) it’s that they want their space. I remember that feeling. It’s the adolescent drive for independence. It’s normal and it’s appropriate. Are there younger leaders around you who need some room to grow, explore, try and fail? If you love them, let them go.
- Give them spiritual leadership. There is a strong indictment repeated in the Chronicles of the Kings: “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father had done.” This is an all-too-common assessment, both then and now. Young leaders need (and want) solid spiritual leadership in their lives. Don’t let them “figure it all out” on their own. Speak into that area of their lives. Guide them to “walk in the ways of the Lord, not turning aside to the right or to the left.”
Now, allow me to reminisce a bit further … Currently our Foursquare movement is wrestling with the realities of an aging ministerial. The average age of our pastors is 56.
I was in a series of denominational meetings recently where someone remarked that my involvement on a particular denominational team was representative of the “youth of our movement.” I appreciated the sentiment, but I politely had to interject: “Folks, I’m moving quickly toward 40, and if I represent the ‘youth’ of our movement, then I think we just discovered a big part of our problem.”
Look around you. The young are all around you. Who needs a shot? Who needs support? Who needs some space? Who needs spiritual leadership?
By: John Fehlen, senior pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church in Salem, Ore.