Creative Leadership

Why It’s Time for Christian Leaders to Stop Obsessing Over The Next Generation

Obviously we want to reach everybody with the gospel, but the truth is, a significant number of pastors and Christian leaders are overly obsessed with reaching young people – especially when it comes to hiring a team. I totally understand – after all, I was the Executive Producer of the Hillsong Movie – and I’ve done my share of consulting with major churches and ministry organizations helping rebrand them for a younger target audience. But in our relentless pursuit of younger people, I think we’re forgetting the audience that could make a remarkable difference right now.

Plus, if our major metric is focused on reaching young people, some churches like Hillsong, Life Church, or Elevation do it well, but I worry that other churches who are also doing great work consider themselves failures because they’re not reaching that narrow audience.

From that perspective, here’s why I think we need to dial down “ageism” in the church, and learn to welcome – even pursue – older people:

1. The older generation are still the kings when it comes to giving. A 2018 Federal Study found that millennials compared to previous generations have ‘”lower earnings, fewer assets and less wealth.” The older audience has plenty of disposable income and understand the principles of giving – so don’t be afraid to tap into that.

2. Understand they’re not just “older,” they’re experienced. They’ve been there and done that. Challenges that seem so large to younger people are often nothing to the older crowd. They’ve already been through it and know how to solve the problem – and if they don’t have the answer, the challenge doesn’t scare them.

3. Office politics and competition mean much less to older employees. People who have had long careers are generally more easy going and easy to get along with than younger people. They’ve seen it all so they’re not going to fight for the window office, or to be in charge of anything. Plus, their skills at managing positive relationships are much more advanced.

4. Older employees aren’t as expensive as you think. Older employees are often receiving multiple streams of income and don’t really need the big salaries they once commanded. In fact, many are more than willing to take a pay cut in order to find a great job where they can still contribute.

5. One thing worth mentioning is that the baby-boom generation actually knows more about changing the world than anyone on the planet. Remember that the world has bent to their will since they were born. Because of their size, they shifted the thinking on everything from lifestyles to entertainment, politics, religion, and more.

6. And don’t forget that older people today aren’t really old. Even people in their 70’s today were part of the rock and roll generation, which means they’re not as stuffy and closed minded as you may think. They grew up with The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Dylan. So trust me – nothing you’re doing will freak them out.

With that in mind, here’s what I’d recommend you start doing today:

1. Be intentional about including older candidates in your job searches. There’s an incredible amount of skill, talent, and experience out there, and by excluding that group, you’re only hurting yourself and your organization.

2. Think in terms of “teams” and encourage old and young to work together. You can still keep younger people in charge of teams or departments, but make sure there’s an older employee nearby to offer advice and counsel.

3. We’ve always been big on internships, but think more about using older employees to mentor a younger team member. I still remember things I learned from Matt Connolly, the first television director I ever worked for. He took me under his wing and had a indelible impact on my career.

4. We want to value the spark and original ideas younger people bring to the table, but don’t let that obscure the fact that more senior members of the team have a lifetime of experience and will help know which ideas might work and which might not.

5. And finally, take the time to learn who the “older” generation really is. Here’s an AARP demographic report that will give you more than enough information on the older generation.

I understand that there are plenty of older employees, volunteers, and church members who are stuck in their ways, grumpy, or just outright cranks. But I can also show you just as many younger people who are insecure, arrogant, and know-it-alls. Every age group has it’s strengths and weaknesses, so we need to look for the all-stars across the board.

When we do that, everyone will benefit, and we’ll make the biggest difference in the culture.

Related Articles


  1. This is a great article!:) I would suggest the article be just why the older generation still matters . I ‘m sharing this and will share it as that .Thank you

  2. This is great, Phil! Everyone talks about implementing diversity, but diversity regarding age seems to be often overlooked.

  3. What kills me is church leadership that completely (and I do mean COMPLETELY) ignores the demographic sitting in the pews or seats. I cannot tell you how many churches I have visited that have a very robust and dedicated membership of people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, who are there every single Sunday, who tithe, who volunteer, who are the life-blood of that church, yet the worship is led by mostly inexperienced people in their teens or 20s, with crazy-loud drums (“Because that’s how Simon Kobler and Brendon Tan do it…”) and not one single hymn (or if there is, it is a new arrangement on a classic hymn– that no one older that 30 can possibly follow.) They are trying to attract a younger crowd (I guess the classic, deep-theology hymns are useless to them) while completely ignoring the majority of their church who desperately want to worship God, but who are not being facilitated nor engaged whatsoever. It’s almost like the worship leaders are saying, “Deal with it.” I know that sounds harsh, and the reality is more likely that these young leaders have not themselves been properly led or trained (I know this to be fact), so they don’t know what they don’t know. And the church is greatly suffering because of it.

    As I shared with an internationally- respected worship leader trainer last night, “I don’t know anyone who left a church because the drums weren’t loud enough.”

    [Note: I am drummer myself.]

  4. Thank you for this post! I remember feeling conscious of breaking stereotypes while making efforts with those of different age groups including teens and children. I found the unconsciously ‘expected behavior’ of belong to my age-group to be so stifling!

    Yes indeed there are people of the older generation who are young at heart and even childlike. I have had the joy of meeting a few of them. They are so open-hearted and easy to get along with than youngsters!

    It would be great if pastors and leaders would pray and ask the Lord to show the right person for the job because some people are perfectly wired for the job – regardless of their age, they would be best for it. Age cannot be the criteria to decide who is best for any particular job.

Leave a Reply

Back to top button
IS IT TIME TO CHANGE YOUR MINISTRY OR NONPROFIT’S NAME? Enter your email and get the free download “7 Signs It May Be Time to Change Your Name” now!
Thanks for signing up. Please check your email for a download link.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker