Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
it is attained in the way of righteousness.
Yesterday I read an article on CNN.com titled “Baby boomers flood seminaries” (read here). It was a short report based on the findings of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) that the fifty-and-older demographic has gone from 12% of seminarians in 1995 to 20% in 2009. At the end of the article John Blake asks,
But could old age equip people to be better ministers?
For example, how can a young minister who has never been married or had children or even lost many friends to death counsel grieving couples?
And might an older minister do better at dealing with the temptations of ego, sex, and money?
Is it better to be a rookie minister when you have gray hair?
I have come to a place in my life where the charismatic, young pastor with excellent homilies and creative thoughts about being the church does not attract me like an older, seasoned man who has been a husband and a father and a pastor for some time. At the age of twenty-eight I don’t feel the same respect for a thirty-three year old pastor as I do a forty-four year old or a fifty-one year old. This is not because I don’t think a thirty-something cannot make a good pastor. It is because I need someone who is further down the line at the stage in life to pastor me as I enter the next phase of my own.
So it is not surprising to me that older people are entering seminary. I think this is great. To answer John Blake: I don’t know if it matters if a “rookie” has gray hair, but gray hair does matter (like the Proverb above states).
In the early church there were offices that could not be held by someone under thirty. I tend to be sympathetic toward that idea to some extent. I know a lot of young pastors, and I know about a lot of young pastors, who lead hip and trendy churches, but I fear the day someone dies in one of the families in the church, when a child is diagnosed with a fatal disease, when a couple that was respected by all announces they are divorcing, when the economy collapses and people lose their jobs. A young, rookie brain surgeon is good and better than no surgeon, but if I could request the older, seasoned veteran with my life at stake I know I would do so!
I don’t say this to denounce young ministers. You are worthy of the respect you earn. I say this to encourage the older ones. We need you and your wisdom. No, you can’t reference as much pop-culture in your sermons. No, you don’t know all the latest worships songs. No, you do not have flashy videos and PPT to enhance your sermons. You have age. You have gray hair. You have wisdom and experience and life. We need you.