More and more we’re seeing conversations around age and worship leaders. We have come through the worship wars, most churches have picked their camp, and now the young punks who were pushing their way forward are in their 30s and 40s. Contemporary worship leaders are the new song leaders and have become… traditional.
As the skill, resources, and volume of Sunday morning worship grows, we are left with a generation of worship leaders facing a mid-life crisis. We’re not the young punks anymore and more than a few of us need to admit that skinny jeans just aren’t working. At the same time, we’re not ready to ride off into the sunset and we may just be coming into our prime in terms of musical ability and theological influence.
Worship leaders must think pastorally and this must include people of all ages: those who are younger as well as those who are older. We have to consider the generation coming behind us but we must also consider the generation that has gone ahead, the ones who have survived or maybe even thrived in the midst of a wholesale change in terms of what they are experiencing on Sunday morning.
Before writing off those who are older than you as “just not getting it”, before thinking they are the ones who are holding you back, before labeling anyone from an older generation as out to get you, there are some important things we must remember.
Age is a gift from God.
“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31
Getting old is a privilege we won’t all experience. Of course, we hope God would give us all long, healthy, fruitful lives; but the truth is that some are in the final countdown even right now without even knowing it. Seeing eight, nine, or ten decades is an incredible privilege and we need to recognize that God gives this “crown of glory” to some, but not all.
While this doesn’t make anyone from an older generation more correct or more authoritative, we would be foolish to disregard and dishonor the ones whom God has chosen to give long life.
Endurance is to be admired.
“The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” Proverbs 20:29
As a generation of young worship leaders grows and matures now to middle aged worship leaders, we need to remember that we live and serve in community with those both older and younger than us. Gray hair is glory and splendor, and it reminds us that God has allowed some in our congregations to live long lives. Not only this, but also that they’re still around, which means they’ve put up with more than you’ll ever know.
Dismissing an older generation is done at your own peril, really. You are losing the most significant perspective in your congregation.
Wisdom grows with years.
“Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” Job 12:12
We’ve all had our years where we knew better than our parents, better than our detractors, better than the ones who are doing it now. With great pride and ego, many of us have forced our way into any opportunity we could get our hands on; we played off the fears and desires of pastors to create hip, loud, seeker-friendly worship. In doing so, we’ve completely disregarded the obvious fact that those who have gone before us tend to (not always, but usually) know better than us and might actually have some insight into what we are trying to accomplish.
Again, does this mean older people always know what’s right? Of course not. But wisdom is one thing that only comes from making mistakes. Wisdom can’t be bought, bargained, or bribed. Wisdom only grows in the crucible of leadership where our judgment is tested and our humility is exercised.
Drink from the fountain of wisdom that’s present in the lives of older people in your congregation.
God expects older generations to teach younger.
“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Psalm 71:18
Worship leaders, are you willing to sit under the encouragement, challenge, rebuke, and sharpening of those older than you? Are you willing yet to admit that maybe you don’t have all the answers? Are you okay with the realization that perhaps all of your solutions to make church better or cooler or more accessible are really not new ideas at all?
Move beyond your certainty and find opportunity to learn, serve, and love those older than you. I promise, if you are able to do this with a heart that wants to serve and love Jesus, you will be amazed at the outcome.