Young isn’t what you think it is

Reaching the next generation of leaders in the church — Part III in a series

By Rev. Rick King

I watched in awe on Tuesday as former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, 25, testified courageously before the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. My wife and I quickly did the math and figured out how much younger she was when she started as an intern.

And then we marveled at how someone so young could exhibit such maturity and bravery in that setting.

Now that I’m 60 years old, someone in their 20s seems so young, and I sometimes catch myself underestimating what they know and what they can do.

Age is relative. When I was in elementary school, I thought middle-schoolers were SO much older, when in fact the few years that separated us seem inconsequential now.

Carey Nieuwhof, a Canadian pastor and trainer, tells of talking to a 26-year-old comedian who was just starting out in stand-up comedy.

“As he told me his story, he said, ‘There’s almost no one my age doing stand up.’”
To which Nieuwhof replied, “Well, what about comedian X?”, naming someone else they both knew.

“Oh,” his friend replied, “he’s not young, he’s 35.”

And Nieuwhof thought to himself, “Well, that’s young.” And he admits that he’s glad didn’t say it out loud, because it suddenly dawned on him that when you’re 26, 35 seems ancient. A whole nine years!

The problem for those of us who are Baby Boomers, or even Gen Xers, is that we can make the mistake of thinking of everyone younger than us as too young, to such an extent that we reject the character and skills present in someone Cassidy Hutchinson’s age.

I was 27 when I started out in parish ministry, and as an associate pastor, I was entrusted with a great deal of responsibility and agency all of a sudden. Was I ready for that? Heck, no! But that’s how one learns and grows.

Church used to be one of the foremost organizations for developing leaders. And it still can be. There are positions younger leaders can step into and apply their skills, intelligence, and judgment. There are older mentors galore who can share their wisdom and affirm the gifts younger leaders bring to the table. Plus, there’s the impact younger leaders can have on shaping a vision of this church in the future.

Too often, older leaders like me fall into the trap of thinking there are too few young leader prospects out there for all the positions to fill in the church. We focus on the need, and not on the opportunity.

Let’s decide now to focus on the opportunity to raise up younger and even some of the youngest leaders, trusting God to work through them the way God does through all of us.