By Jason Soroski, Crosswalk.com
How does our ministry change as we get older, and what does that mean for the body of Christ? In many ways, our ministry is exactly the same; we just have to find where we fit and adapt to what God is doing in and through us. I joined my current church less than a year ago, and my family is actively involved. It is also the first church my family has been at in the last decade where I have not been a staff member in some capacity. Being on staff can wear you out and wear you thin, and this is truly a season of refreshing and redefinition of what ministry can look like.
No longer the young vibrant worship guy, I am now serving as a middle-aged volunteer in a young church filled with college-aged people. My little kids are now adults, and my perspective and place have changed. Far from feeling out-of-place, I feel I have a very important role to fill, a role that may have an even longer-reaching impact than any of my previous vocational positions. Some have expressed that it seems strange for a person called to ministry to ‘drop out’ and take a secular job. Isn’t that selling out and refusing to trust God? No. Not at all.
Whether we take up the role of a vocational minister, bi-vocational, or a volunteer in our local church, we all go through seasons and they all serve a purpose for the Kingdom. Scripture makes it clear that each of us has a responsibility to be active and growing in our faith, to serve, to preach, and to lead as we may have the opportunity. So, what does that look like? How does an ‘older’ person accustomed to being in charge learn to lead and serve in humility as the Church grows younger?
1. Understand What Has Changed
“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions”. - Ecclesiastes 7:10
In the mid-90's I graduated with a degree in Church Music. While I was still in school, I got my first job as a worship pastor. It was a part-time position that required me to rehearse a small choir on Wednesdays and lead a worship service with a pianist on Sundays. My degree trained me as a musician and as a theologian. I was also a decent guitarist, but because the ‘worship revolution’ of guitars and drums hadn’t really happened yet, on Sunday mornings I was wearing a suit and singing from the hymnal with a traditional choir in starched robes. A few years later I was in my element, wearing jeans and playing my guitar. I was more at home in this setting and that is the sweet spot where I continue to serve today.
Fast forward a quarter-century, and it was time to step back from ‘vocation’. I am in a new church that preaches the Bible and has a true impact on the community. Yet people don’t know me as a ’pastor’. I am now just another guy who loves Jesus and attends the church. Which is honestly refreshing. I have built a relationship with our worship director, who is significantly younger than me, and I have now become the oldest member of the worship team. Oldest as in ‘other musicians are young enough to be my children’ oldest. Literally. It is a new and strange situation for me to be in.
For years I was the ‘young guy’ who was the first to bring in the new song from Chris Tomlin or Sonicflood. I had overhead transparencies and everything. Yet those days are over for all of us, and now I find myself as the greybeard IT guy who happens to play guitar. It is important for an older believer to understand that the way church was once done is not necessarily the way it is still done and that this is okay. There is always something for us to learn as we get older, so don’t be opposed to learning and embracing new ways of doing things. Keep learning! Keep growing! Keep stretching yourself in the faith!
2. Understand What Will Never Change
What will never change is that the gospel message is eternal, revival and relationships are built through prayer and investment of time and treasure, and we will always need someone leading us and someone to lead. This is the heart of the gospel – living in community and realizing our place in it. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I used to cling to verses like ‘let no one look down on you because you are young’ (I Timothy 4:12), because I was young, and wanted to be respected in spite of my age. Now I relate to that verse differently - as one who needs to be humble and respect those who are younger.
As a middle-aged volunteer, my position is to follow while providing wisdom and guidance as needed. It also means I need to realize that being older doesn’t mean I know everything, and just as I wanted my generation to be understood, I must resist any temptation to judge or complain about how things were ‘back in my day’. This does not foster Kingdom growth or build up younger leaders into who Christ has for them to be.
3. Someone in Front and Someone Behind
“To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”. - I Timothy 1:2
Most Bible students are well acquainted with the relationship between Paul and Timothy. Paul had chosen Timothy as someone he could mentor, lead, disciple, and train up according to what he had learned in ministry. Timothy, in turn, was instructed to shepherd, lead, and train up other believers. Each of us should seek to find ourselves in a Paul-Timothy relationship. Yet in order for older believers to truly disciple a “Timothy”, we cannot rely on experience alone, but time spent in prayer and in God’s Word. For that to happen, it is a great idea even for us middle-aged folks to have a “Paul” discipling us. When we have someone in front and someone behind, it helps us to grow and to grow others.
4. Love Authentically
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” - Mark 12:30
The greatest thing a seasoned believer can do is to love authentically. Love the community, love your spouse, love your children, love your pastor, love the youngest in your church, and love the oldest. This is our opportunity to set an example of love, humility, and steadfastness in the gospel that does not fade after a few decades and after a few life changes. As we give of ourselves in the prime of our lives, we can make an impact that will reverberate through generations to come.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Monkey Business Images
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.