If the previous blog, “The Over 50 Worship Leader” showed me anything, it was that this is a subject that generates passion – lots of it.
In the comments, many of you offered great insight and further clarified the difficulties presented by the mind-set that after a certain age, worship leaders are too old to be relevant. I’ve been challenged and enlightened, as I’ve read each one.
Michael Cork pointed out that if 35 year olds are on the topside of the perfect age range, college graduates entering their first full-time church have a ministry life span of 13-14 years. Oh my.
Sounds like a professional football player – except we’re not making enough salary in that short career to live on for the rest of our lives.
Michael Adler added some wonderfully helpful comments about the other side of the coin. He helped us remember that the attitude of the person often has more to do with their usability than their age. I totally agree.
I was particularly interested in what younger readers added. We all should be. That’s where I want to pick up this conversation.
This is for all of you under 40 to help you develop a ministry that will last longer than a football player.
1. Never quit learning.
It’s hard for a younger leader to really understand how much things will change over the course of their ministry. I know I didn’t. It seems like the way it is now is the way it always will be.
For example, over the course of my time in ministry, the presence and role of choirs has changed drastically for many churches. I would have never guessed that 35 years ago. So, what would you do if that changed again? What would you do if choirs became something every church insisted upon, and yet, you don’t know how to lead one?
The only thing certain is this – it will not stay like it is now. Will you keep developing and learning or will you become obsolete by refusing to continue learning?
2. Build relationships with people from every generation.
I’m not talking about networking for your own personal gain. I’m talking about intentionally building relationships with people in your church across all ages. Seek out older and younger adults and get to know them by spending time together at the coffee shop or in for dinner in your home. Explore a wide range of topics together – parenting, finances, career choices, politics, and growing as a Christian. This will keep you from being solely focused on one way to think about life.
If all of your personal relationships are with people like you, then you can easily assume your way of looking at life is the only way – and that assumption can knock you out of the game prematurely.
3. Live an authentic life spiritually.
If you aren’t maintaining basic spiritual disciplines – Bible study, prayer, worship, giving, and all types of service, you will dry up in ministry over time. You will burn out of your energy quickly in the high-stress world of ministry responsibility. You won’t stay in the game because you are not growing as a disciple.
4. Expand your influence through service.
I can’t remember when this thought first crossed my mind, but I’ve attempted to live by an idea for the last 20 years or so and here it is – I have no right to influence anyone I am not first willing to serve.
If you want to stay relevant, do what Jesus did. Grab a towel and a basin and wash the feet of the people you serve with and lead. That means saying “No” to your preferences and personal desires and putting the needs of others first.
Memorize Philippians 2:5-8 and pray it every day.
5. Don’t get “stuck.”
The biggest criticism sometimes levied against more seasoned leaders is this – it’s their way or the highway. You may not believe this now, but if you don’t decide early not to be that way, you will succumb to that same attitude. And if you get stuck, you will be passed over by emerging generations.
If you practice the first 4 tips, it will help you avoid this pit-fall for so many leaders.
So, what do you think? I invite all of you to join in on this conversation – this critical subject – for the benefit of all. The Church needs leaders for worship ministries that are developed spiritually and musically from every generation.
Let’s all – every one of us – stay in the game for the glory of God.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.