Can a Young Church Call an Older Pastor?

I have served as an interim pastor in 2 relatively young churches.  Both have an attendance of nearly 1000 each weekend.  One church was 6 years old when I came; the other church is 14 years old.

In both cases, the church chose to call a younger pastor to lead them into the future.  Both of the called pastors were in their 30’s with young families.  Both had significant ministry experience but neither had held long-term pastorates.

Which leads me to the question: Could a young church call an older man to be their senior pastor? Does a young church require a younger lead pastor?

If a church was 10 years old, would they need a pastor in the early years of their ministry to complete the vision and direction of the congregation?  Or could you imagine a 10 year old church calling a pastor in his 60’s to lead them?  Would that seem odd to you?  It would seem odd to me.

But I think the converse is also true as well.  A 200 year old church rarely calls a 30-something to be their senior pastor unless there is some extraordinary situation that requires them to do so. I contend that a historic church wants to match the historical image of their congregation with the leadership in the pulpit.

A younger congregation does the same thing.  They want to communicate to their community newness and freshness which means they need a leader who portrays the same characteristics.  It all seems so market-driven, but I think there is some reality to this.

3 thoughts on “Can a Young Church Call an Older Pastor?

  1. If a church is looking outside of itself for a pastor, it is already not healthy. Either the outgoing pastor failed to properly train up and prepare someone to take his place, or there was no one qualified to assume that role. (Which leads to the obvious question, why? Why is there not someone who meets the qualifications (per Paul’s teaching in the pastoral epistles) qualified to serve as the pastor? Unless you add the the Biblical qualifications for Pastor/Elder with such qualifications as “Must be entertaining” etc..

    A church of over 1000 calling a pastor in his 30’s? Where does this man in his 30’s acquire the experience of supervising others in their ministry? Has he proven his ability to develop others in their ministry? Can he supervise supervisors? Or are all of the staff members going to report directly to him?

    What experience does he have in resolving very deep conflict within an organization? If none, how has he demonstrated the maturity to do so without experience?

    How does he leverage and utilize and encourage the gifts present in others that he lacks?

    How does a young man demonstrate the ability to lead his family well if his children are not yet old enought to demonstrate that they are disciplined and growing in their own sanctification? How shall a young man demonstrate the ability to provide counsel and teaching on marriage and family discipleship if he has not yet traveled that road?

    Young churches and old churches can be sick. But it would be a very rare thing for a relatively younger pastor to have the leadership, maturity, and skill sets necessary to make such a sick church well. Further complicating things is the very likely scenario where the church doesn’t even know its sick. Calling a young man who doesn’t have the maturity or experience to recognize their ills would just make it work.

    No. in both cases, young or old, if you are looking to call a pastor from without, start by confessing your failure to develop a qualified leader, ask the Lord to send a man who can right the ship…. and then go with maturity and demonstrated life experience.

    Pastor Ed

  2. Pastor Ed,
    As much as I celebrate healthy churches and leaders who raise up future pastors from within to fulfill the pastoral vacancy, I think this is a minority in American Evangelical churches.

    Autonomous churches (those who call their leadership without denominational influence) utilize models that encourage outsiders to be the only potential choice. They might have leaders ready and able on the inside, but the leadership situation demands someone from the outside to move the church forward.

    Thanks for your comment and thanks for ready the blog post. I hope it creates some discussion.

    Shane Garrison

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