Young Boomer Pastors Offer Unique Leadership Perspective

 

young-boomer-pastorsThe unique leadership perspective of Young Boomer Pastors (ages 55 to 65) and why your church should not overlook this group.  In fact, Young Boomer Pastors and Older Buster Pastors are the transitional generation to lead the church out of a decade of decline.  Every liberal denomination in American and almost every evangelical denomination is America is experiencing decline.  My own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, a theologically conservative denomination with an unashamed evangelistic attitude has experienced 9 consecutive years of decline in attendance and membership and 9 out of 10 years of decline in baptisms.  This is in spite of its recent emphasis on church planting.  More churches have been planted but fewer people overall are attending.  However, religious affiliation is down considerably across the board in America, led by our younger unchurched generation.  Strong, smart, spiritual, experienced leaders are essential to turning this trend around or we will see a cemetery of churches arising across our land as monuments of failed leadership, not a failed gospel.

Leadership Needed for Churches Facing Serious Decline

I understand that what I am writing swims against the current of popular opinion concerning pastoral leadership today, and is also most definitely the minority report of what most pastor search committees are being told.   I also realize that the church in America is experiencing a historic decline in attendance, religious affiliation, giving, professions of faith, and other categories, as well.  Our country has experienced incredible changes that began after World War 2 and have not been limited merely to our country, but spread around the entire world.  After all, that war affected the entire world and the Baby Boom did not just happen in America, but around the world.

The church in America has experienced decline for a reason.  The reasons that have tended to be expressed by a previous generation were categorized as spiritual reasons.  That is true.  Spiritual reasons are always involved in decline.  However, the previous generation, for the most part, did not know how to process the huge paradigm shifts, world changes, and generational changes which they faced.  So, they lumped these paradigm changes together as “unspiritual.”  Not only was the immorality unspiritual, but the music style was unspiritual, the hair style was unspiritual, the technology was unspiritual, etc.

There are many reasons which have been expressed for our current decline.  Regardless of whether you believe this decline has to do with worship style, societal change, the lost art of evangelism, or theological shift, etc.;  lack of good leadership is what always keeps the church from responding appropriately in times of metamorphic cultural transition.

Heed the Minority Report

History tells us not to dismiss the Minority Report, just because there may be a few giants in the land and a few walls that need to come down.  Joshua and Caleb gave a minority report which was rejected.  The Israelites did eventually settle in the Promised Land, but it took them 40 years longer than necessary because they failed to pay attention to Caleb and Joshua.  So those two men, the last of their generation, led the charge into Canaan as the oldest guys around.

Young Boomer Pastors Offer a Unique Leadership Perspective

There is an important group of leaders which are being passed over today to the great disservice of the church.  They are a group of leaders which have lived through the great modern paradigm shift and are able to walk and talk comfortably in both worlds.  They have the life experience, knowledge, spiritual depth, church leadership experience, and devotion to lead churches through this great transitional age.  There may be only a small window of opportunity left to pass through it successfully before another generation of Americans completely leaves the church behind.  The group I am talking about is Young Boomer Pastors between ages 55-65.

Pastor Search Committees Tend to Dismiss Young Boomer Pastors

The average church profile today when seeking a new pastor is someone between the ages of 30 and 55. I guess the reason for 30 is because they feel like by that time a person should have his education behind him a good hold of his theology and enough experience to lead a church. I’m not sure why 55 is the top except that maybe churches feel like someone 55 maybe too old to relate to young adults, or perhaps they feel like a younger person will understand the issues young people face.  Or, perhaps committees feel that someone 55 or older is only thinking about retirement and they do not want to have someone of that age on their payroll who may be just coasting into retirement.

Young Boomers Have Greater Perspective

I want to challenge that thinking a little bit in this article and tell you why the person between 55 and 65 may be the very best candidate for your church.  First, consider some generational perspective.  At this current time people between the ages of 55 and 65 are Baby Boomers, but they are in the young half of the Baby Boomer group.  Because of this they are old enough to remember when the TV was still black-and-white and when a family had only one TV which only received three or four local channels.  They can remember also what it was like to have a party line telephone, and definitely a landline telephone with a cord.  They remember what it was like before there were mobile phones or even smart phones, computers, laptops, tablets, iPads or any other thing of that nature.  Let me also hasten to say that they do not despise this new technology.  They embrace it and use it productively.  They had to learn to use new technologies as they were introduced so as a group they tend to be technology savvy.

They can remember when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.  They can recall what it was like when the free world faced threats from communism, and how it felt when the wall came down.  They have been around the block enough times to have experienced the riots of the 60’s.  They vividly remember scenes from the Vietnam war, Desert Storm (1990) and Operation Iraqui Freedom (2003).  They are old enough to have perspective on current world events without freaking out over the results of an election, for instance.  On a personal note I am a Young Baby Boomer.  Since Boomers were born from about 46 to 64, then I just made the cut.  My wife is on the borderline and really functions at the top of the Baby Buster group.

Young Boomer Pastors Understand Senior Adults

So younger Baby Boomers not only understand the Baby Boomer generation they grew up in, but they also understand the older generation of senior adults which are their parents.   One of the primary reasons so many churches have experienced decline is due to the inability of the senior adults to relate to and appreciate the younger adults and youth, and vice versa.  That is why it is essential for churches to have leaders who can appreciate both groups.  In the remarkable age in which we live Young Boomers relate very well to Baby Busters, who are their cousins and nephews.   They are similar in many categories.  They just tend to think a little bit differently due to the technology they grew up with and perhaps a slightly different historical perspective and family structure.

Young Boomers Understand Millennials

Young Boomers also understand and relate well to Gen X’rs and Millennials and they understand the situation of Millennials better than most people realize since the Millennials are their children.  No one wants to see Millennials succeed and thrive in the world and the church more than the Young Boomers!   I have three children who all fall into the Millennial category and they do not relate to the world without a mobile phone and wifi.  They cannot imagine a world without social media.  They get their news on social media unprocessed by almost any type of traditional filter.  The initial filters of social media are predominantly the liberal slant of worldly thinking, so they tend to march together and are often being influenced and even manipulated by the secular left.  They expect everything to be instant whether it is information or telephones or Snapchat or Instagram.  They expect spirituality to be instant and changes within the church to be instant.  And they tend to be very frustrated by their own lack of ability to change things instantly.

This younger generation thinks visually.  They also process preaching differently for that reason.  In fact, the Bible they carry to church is often on their smart phone or tablet.  They can text their friends during a message.  They can check into your church on Facebook and witness to their social community that they are worshipping Jesus Christ.  They will Google your illustrations while you preach to make sure you are telling them the truth.  This younger generation of Millennials can serve in the church and they want to.  However, they want to make sure that their service really makes a difference.  They continually hear about people and agencies and ministries where people are making a difference every day all around the world.

Today’s Gen Xers and Millennials want to be part of something significant and great and world changing.  We need to help them understand that Jesus created the church to be the most revolutionary life changing, world changing organization, or rather, organism ever in history.  They need to understand how the church has changed the world throughout history so they will not fall for the cultural lie which paints the church as impotent and inept.  They also need to hear the stories of churches and church leaders who are still changing the world in the present day.  They need to grasp the truth that the Spirit empowered church is the only hope of the world for the future.  They need to see the strategic place which God has for them in their church and in their world both today and tomorrow.  They need leaders they can trust who will also trust them with real and important responsibilities.

Young Boomer Pastors can help them understand this because they have experienced it themselves.  Young Boomers are already familiar with the many ministries the church has and can have because of their own unique perspective.  When you stop and think about it, many of the innovative ministries in the American church today are being led by Young Boomers.

Young Boomer Pastors Understand Church Leadership

Another reason not to overlook the strategic importance of Young Boomer Pastors today is their perspective on church leadership.  Because they had seen the church go through many changes they are in a place to understand how to lead the church through types of change.  For instance, I have been a part of both traditional churches and contemporary churches.  I have pastored churches with just one worship service and churches with multiple worship services.  I have been a part of churches with multiple services on multiple days and even multiple campuses.  I also know what it is like to worship in rented facilities where everything has to be set up and taken down every week.  I have helped to lead churches through several different building campaigns and so know how to raise money.  Do not kid yourself.  Raising funds is an important skill which the church desperately needs today and tomorrow.   Read the Book of Acts and you will discover that fund raising was also crucial to the church in the first century.  By the way, this is an art that is lost on many young leaders who are worried about being accused of talking too much about money and may even think it is unspiritual to discuss money.

Young boomers know how the church functions and so they know how best to lead a church.  A church is not the military and withers under military style of leadership.  The Pastor cannot throw deacons in the brig or make Sunday School teachers drop down and give them 50 if they do not study their lesson or fail to make a follow up call.  A church is not a business even though it uses business practices and it can become carnal and competitive under a business style of leadership.  So you cannot motivate people by simply giving raises, making profits, or threatening to fire them.  The church is not a government which can impose taxes or laws and arrest the lawbreakers.

The Church requires a different style of leadership that inspires and motivates and nurtures God’s people.   Yes, there are times when someone has to be disciplined, but even that must be done in a loving way because the church is a family and the church is a flock and the church is the body and all those things require different styles of leadership than is found in the world.  Unfortunately, many leadership books on the market today which address church leadership tend to import business leadership practices from corporate America as their model.  This may be one reason why so many churches have experienced fracture, disharmony, staff turnover, forced terminations, and ineffective leadership.  Instead of discussing who is on the bus and who needs to be on the bus, as one often quoted leadership book details, we need to get as many people as possible on the bus.  We can find a place for all of them.  Lack of effective spiritual leadership is definitely the primary reason why the church in America is experiencing significant decline.

Young Boomer Pastors Have Lived Through the Worship Wars

Another reason Young Boomer Pastors are in a strategic position to lead the church today is because they have already experienced the Worship Wars.  They know what it is like to go through those wars because they have lived in it their entire lives and most of their church life.  Many churches have already made their way through the quagmire of worship wars, but many more have not.   As a Young Boomer I grew up in a small church with traditional worship featuring a piano and an organ and a hymnbook.   I was saved at a young age and grew up with the love and appreciation for that style of music and worship.  I grew up during a time when most young people were expected to take piano lessons and to sing in the choir.  So I understand where people are coming from who love traditional worship.  However as a Young Boomer in touch with my culture, I also grew up with Rock ‘n’ Roll.  I heard the Beatles and Elvis and Johnny Cash and old country western, and then young country and pop and the beat goes on.  We remember when MTV was born.  We saw how Christian Rock rocked the church, and then rocked the world.  As a Youth Pastor and then as a young Pastor, I sadly observed when we took our young people to camp where they heard contemporary Christian music and then brought them back to church where all they could sing were hymns and maybe an occasional chorus.  They could not understand why their church experience could not be more like their camp worship experience.  We were so thankful for the one contemporary Christian radio station in the area.

Young Boomer Pastors Embrace Modern Technology

Young Boomer Pastors grew up in an age when technology did not allow for visual aspects of the sermon, such as, PowerPoint slides or videos in the worship service which are now simply taken for granted.  It has become an amazing communication vehicle.  I recently served in a church where the Interim Pastor came from an older generation very unfamiliar with technology and failed to see the value of it or even use it.  Our worship services felt like we were being dragged by the hair back into the 70’s or 80’s.  (Which, of course, to him was a much more “spiritual” time.)  On the other hand, I have seen young pastors without an appreciation for the generation that built the church, dismantle churches by changing worship styles in unwise ways.  So Young Boomers know how to relate well and moved in and out among those who love traditional worship and those who love contemporary worship.  They tend to be comfortable with both styles.  You might even say they are bilingual in their worship experience.  What may be even more important is that they realize that one worship style is not more spiritual than the other; rather, it is simply the expression of a different heart language of a particular generation.  They have often served in churches with multiple services which featured multiple worship styles.

Young Boomer Pastors Are Passionate About Reaching Out to Young People

Young Boomer Pastors are able to relate to both older folks and younger folks.  They also realize, as leaders, that if they want to reach younger adults and young families they must bring younger people onto the church staff and always be mentoring young leaders.  They know the importance of having young adults on the platform leading in ministry because they want to reach young adults.  One reason they know this is because they were once the ministers in that position.

The number one reason that the church is declining in America today has very little to do with our theology and it has very little to do with the left-wing culture.  It has everything to do with poor quality of leadership in the church by people who have not been able to process the metamorphic changes of our culture.  This article is not about criticizing any group or any age, young or old, however, because the church has been slow to adapt to change in our rapidly changing culture.  We have been a landline church in a satellite culture, and resisted necessary changes rather than embracing reality. We have feared that making essential changes might somehow compromise our convictions.  And we have been systematically turning away a generation or two.

Young Boomer Pastors Are Unique Transitional Leaders for the Church

Young Boomer Pastors understand the changes in society because we lived through them and we firmly understand and embrace our theology.  Young Boomer Pastors understand how to lead churches using spiritual and biblical principles without tearing those churches apart.  So while there is a huge and important emphasis on finding young qualified pastors today, churches and search committees should not make the unwise mistake of underestimating the strategic importance which Young Boomer Pastors bring to the table.  In fact, they are the transitional leaders the church needs at this linchpin moment in history.

The next 10 years in church history could make all the difference for the next century.  We can only imagine how Israel might have fared in attempting to enter the Promised Land without the seasoned leadership of Joshua and Caleb.  Sometimes the Minority Report is the Priority Report.

Kelly

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About the author

Pastor, Church Planter, Evangelist and Consultant in Chandler, Arizona. Licensed by Second Baptist Church in Lamesa, Texas. Ordained by Trinity Baptist Church in Irving, Texas. Youth Pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Irving, Texas 1985-1987. Pastor at Dixon Baptist Church in Greenville, Texas 1987-1999. Pastor at Wellspring Church in Chandler, Arizona July 1999 - July 2009. Currently serving as Executive Pastor at Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville, Texas. Available for Pulpit Supply, Interims, Evangelistic Crusades, Revivals, Bible Conferences, Seminars, Pastoral Consulting, Church Consulting, Capital Campaign Consulting, and Conversation over a Coke Zero.