WHERE ARE THE 29 YEAR OLDS? (IN ONE OF 3 PLACES)

Over the last eleven years I’ve been in a church leadership conversation that sounds something like, “We’re looking for someone who is probably 29 – 32 years of age, and has built a ministry and ready to take their next step. Know anyone like that?”

No matter the role in a church, this seems to be the center of the target when it comes to looking outside for the next team member. When churches have depleted their internal pipelines, and connections, it’s time to go out and hunt.

I was asked just this week: Where are the 29 year olds who could join our church staff?

From my first-hand accounts, they are in one of three places:

1. Locked Down. They are doing great in their ministry role. They are challenged, they are moving “up” organizationally, and have a clear path ahead of them for the next several years. They’re the Worship Pastor who might be an executive pastor someday.  They were the  middle school, and now high school, pastor who desires to be a teaching pastor someday.  They were the 4th/5th grade director, now they’re over all elementary and they can see the day when they could become a Family Ministry Pastor.

You get the idea.

2. They quit 6 years ago.  Unfortunately, this 29 year old took the wrong path at age 23. I’ve written before here on four dangerous paths to begin. Early in ministry they had limited exposure, and therefore, limited understanding, of what the future could be. I’m not talking about size of church, or pay scale. I’m talking about ministry effectiveness. They took the role they could find. They listened to a voice they shouldn’t have. They wake up a year in and they began to thnk if this is ministry I’m not doing it…

I pitch vision every day for those beginning in ministry to start in a place that is obsessed with advancing the Kingdom. These are the types of places that shape a future vision.

We expect young leaders to have a vision for their ministry. How about those of us who are older start having vision for what the young leader could be someday, too?

I’m convinced those that get through the first three years of ministry have the emotional intelligence, and pain tolerance, to do this the next fifteen or twenty years. Some will do this for a lifetime. This is what the Kingdom is crying out for…a leader with just a little experience, to go to the next level.

A friend recently said, “The wrong time for a new mom to evaluate her parenting skills is in the first weeks after delivering her first child.”The same is true in ministry. We must coach young leaders through these early years. 

We are losing too many this way, and this is on those of us who are twenty years ahead of them.

3. They were never there in the first place.  The local church needs leaders who could have done anything with their one and only life. The college Junior & Senior awakening to a call of ministry has a couple of options before them:  1.) Seminary or 2.) Para-church.

Number one leaves them deeper in debt than they already are, and some may argue too much of this too early will only make them that much more irrelevant to their peers. Option number two puts them on a path that will take them someplace other than your church staff.

We need another path for them.  This path can be you and your church.

I would challenge that we must create option #1 above on your team. We have to find those with the most potential, and begin them early on your team in residency. Lay out a developmental path that will help fill in their gaps so they can continue to grow and raise their lid of knowledge, heart, and skill.

Someone on your team must champion this. They have to take on the role of coach, and not just supervisor. Young leaders need both. Having a vision for the youngest on the team, with the most potential, will help answer your question in a few years: where are the 29 year olds? They will be right there with you.

Dave Miller