This summer, the one church is repeating something they started last year where some of the (mostly) younger people in the church are being given a chance to step up and preach the Sunday morning sermon. It’s a great opportunity for these guys (and one woman) to hone their Bible study and leadership skills. As a group, they’ve studied sermon development and have done some practice teaching for each other. The results are usually spectacular: Great messages with both background and application.
The other church is entering into a couple of weeks with the pastor away. They have a list of usual suspects who do pulpit supply, but it seems like both ordination and ministry credentials are required. The pastor prizes education of all kinds; and you are much more greatly esteemed simply by taking a course. As someone committed to lifelong learning, I think courses are most helpful, but unfortunately what I do here online is informal and carries no similar recognition. In this church there is also a smaller pool of potential candidates, but certainly several who are capable.
Meanwhile, back at the first church, they are about half-way through the summer schedule, and while I celebrate what they’re doing, the execution of the plan there is — with a couple of exceptions — somewhat guilty of ageism. Most of the participants are under 35, if not 30. That’s the target. This church is fairly large, and growing, and the list is significant not only for who it includes but who it leaves out.
At North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Andy Stanley is constantly developing a roster of younger leaders. But when he is away — as he has been this summer — the sense you get is that despite the modern mega-church’s penchant for marginalizing older people, his pulpit supply list reflects a mix of ages, and doesn’t skew as young as the one in our town does.
In some ways I can’t complain. I have actually spoken at that church on Sunday morning over a dozen times when I was on staff there, and have spoken twice at the second church. But it frustrates me beyond belief to think that perhaps those opportunities from a previous decade may never return.
Mid-life crisis defined, perhaps?
I was torn with what to do tomorrow, but decided to help out my wife’s worship team at the second church; even though I’d really like to hear what the young man does at the first church. I’ve seen him in a couple of ministry situations, and I know it will be excellent.
It’s just hard to be sidelined, and realize that a generation of newcomers doesn’t really know who I am and what I am capable of. I guess I simply recognize my gift of teaching, and as time slips away, hate to see it under-utilized. But really, it’s more than a desire to be “the guy at the front of the room,” what I call a “gift of teaching” is more a “passion for sharing.” I wrote here about how I like to introduce people to ideas and resources they might never have considered, and with each passing day, I feel I’m better equipped to do this than I was the day before.
But while I want to celebrate what a particular doing is to foster the next generation of leadership, this is also a lament that more churches aren’t doing the same. Many people are greatly strengthened through sermon preparation. They need to be doing such things, or similar things, and your church needs to hear them share their gifts and ministry.
So what about your church? Especially those of you in small(er) church settings: Who fills in when the pastor is on vacation? What is being done to help lay-people mobilize their spiritual gifts?
Image: Cake or Death (click to link)