Old Enough To Know Better

Without hesitation or prelude the unexpected pronouncement was declared, and that moment is still etched in my memory.

“It’s time for you to take over Vacation Bible School!" she declared. "I’ve done it long enough. It’s time for the younger generation to help out.”

That was over 25 years ago, and I can still feel the attack and panic I felt rushing up my spine. There were so many problems with that quick deluge of information that I stood dumbfounded.

The problem was, the only qualification that I had for this position – at least the qualification listed by the retreating VBS coordinator – was that I was young. Probably about 26 years old at the time with three girls under 5 years old. While I had attended many Vacation Bible Schools during my childhood, I had never coordinated any event, and I had absolutely no clue where to start.

Why did she choose me? I’m assuming I was deemed the best candidate for the position because I was the pastor’s wife. As I look back on the situation, I genuinely cannot remember if the next summer was the first year I did agree to be the VBS Coordinator or if that happened in the years to follow. (Sometimes it is nice when life is a bit of a blur.)

Recently, this memory came flooding back to my mind as I pondered a new dilemma. This time it came from the opposite end of the age spectrum. Still ministry oriented, but now framed in a package of “We need to step down and let the younger generation take over. They have new ideas.” What? I’m all for the younger generation taking on leadership positions and being involved in ministry, and I have seen many capable 20-somethings, and younger individuals, be very effective in ministry. But, why are we allowing the world’s influence to creep into the church when it comes to aging and ministry value or ability.

Does the Bible really say we need to let go of ministry when we get older? Does aging mean that we become less effective? Or, is every incoming member of the ‘older generation’ tempted to wave the white flag and surrender? Are we blindly giving in without a fight (and without prayer)? Are the faithful simply stepping aside - but for all the wrong reasons? They’re tired. They’re overwhelmed with commitments. They’re burned out and empty. I'm afraid many Godly men and women are being tempted by the whisper of the enemy to just ‘sit this one out.’ 

Now, don’t get me wrong. We all need breaks. We all need to reflect and reconsider where and how God is using us in ministry. We all need to consider our giftedness, but balanced with a heart of servanthood. It might be fun to "retire from ministry" (handing it over to the next generation) or to only serve in our sweet spot, but we shouldn’t be surprised when God asks us to stretch beyond our comfort zone in talent, ability, time and energy. Age, young or old, shouldn’t have anything to do with it. The question is - Where is God calling you and I to serve right now?

Regarding the young, the Bible encourages -

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

“But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:7-9

In regard to our later years, the Bible encourages -

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” John 12:12

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” Titus 2:3

As the years pass by, my gray hairs are increasing, but so is my desire to faithfully serve my Heavenly Father. I can definitely embrace the prayer in Psalm 71:18 which shines a bright light on both the youthful and aging seasons of life. “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” 

In my heart of hearts, I really don’t want to sit this one out. As long as God gives me health and life, I want to serve Him. There’s too much work to do. My prayer is that both the young and old can work side by side in this day and in this generation - for His glory. May we all, young and old, be faithful to His calling on our lives.


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