Ageless Ministry

Call to ministry

I experienced God’s call to the ministry in my early teens. Although I flirted with other vocational ambitions during adolescence, I never drifted too far off the course. After high school, I double-majored in religion and history at Berry College—both highly marketable and profitable degrees!

The United Methodist Church certified me as a candidate for ministry during college. Then I attended “License to Preach School.” I graduated from Candler School of Theology with a lofty-sounding Master of Divinity degree. The North Georgia Conference ordained me as a deacon and two years later as an elder.

After seminary, Bishop McDavid appointed me as pastor-in-charge of a two point circuit outside Newnan, Georgia. I entered the full-time ministry with all the cockiness of a 24 year old who knew it all. Looking back, I knew just enough to be dangerous.

People encountering me for the first time often said, “You look too young to be a minister!” Back in the day, the comment sounded like a veiled insult. Three decades later, I feel otherwise! Next June I will mark 34 years in the ministry. Don’t bother with the math—I’m 57 currently.

Today I serve a county seat church with a wonderful staff family. However, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon: the ministers around me are growing increasingly YOUNGER. Some associate pastors on staff are young enough to be my children. The church recently hired a student minister who is my daughter’s age.

I’m serving with staff members who don’t recognize Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio. They studied the space race and the Vietnam War in history class. They’ve never used a rotary phone. They’ve always filled up with unleaded gas. They never watched M*A*S*H on primetime TV—and some of them have never seen an episode at all.

During seminary, I worked as the assistant pastor at Kennesaw United Methodist Church. Bill Edwards served as the senior pastor, and he has been one of my mentors over the years. However, I considered him OLD even back then. I just looked it up, and Bill was in his mid-forties at the time—TEN YEARS YOUNGER THAN I AM NOW!

So I don’t know how the younger staff members see the SENIOR pastor; and believe me, I have no plans to ask. I recall a song by Garth Brooks (for our younger readers, he was a country-western star in the old days) entitled: I’m Much Too Young to Feel this D*mn Old (See what I did there? I put the * in place of the “a” to disguise the scatological language.) Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.

However, I love serving with young(er) staff members. They bring an excitement and enthusiasm about ministry that reminds me of my youth. In the face of society that grows increasingly secular, they dare to boldly proclaim the living Word of God. They experience the ministry as a fresh calling rather than a timeworn vocation.

On my best days, I hope to impart to them some hard-won wisdom about serving in a local church. On my worst days, they remind me what ministry is all about. Ministers may grow older, but the call never grows old.

Turns out you’re never too young—and never too old—to look like a minister.

9 thoughts on “Ageless Ministry

  1. Nice thoughts! As someone who is only a few years behind you chronologically and who is surrounded by recent college grads near my children’s ages, I can definitely relate with both the ups and downs of the age discrepancy. Also, thanks for imparting some new knowledge to me…scatological…I’ll have to find a good occasion to work that word into a conversation soon (at least the literary definition of it)!

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  2. Bill, you’re right – you’re only as old as you feel! I’ve also noticed a trend – first Davis, and now you are senior pastors that are younger than me. Am I getting old, or are pastors getting younger? I hope it’s the latter! LOL! Enjoyed your article!

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    • I think it’s a rite of passage in life when your doctor, supervisor, pastor, etc. are suddenly younger than you are. I would prefer to believe they are getting younger. To quote a line from Joe Walsh: “Everybody’s so different, and I haven’t changed!” Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.

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