Is There an Age Limit for Usefulness in a Church?


I ran across a church’s ad for leadership training with an interesting age limit.

According to the Bible, Abraham lived to be 175 years old.

A while back, I wrote about a friend of mine telling me that he had a hard time believing the story of Noah’s Ark because he couldn’t accept a flood big enough to cover the entire world.

I told him that has never been a problem for me: I pointed out that as late as the time of Christopher Columbus, people understood the world to be flat and limited, and people warned Columbus he’d sail right off the edge of the world.

To the mindset of people at the time the Bible was written, the notion of a flood that covered “the world” need not cover as much area because those people didn’t believe that greater area even existed. The flood Noah experienced was one that had water as far as the eye could see in every direction.

The age of Abraham, on the other hand, is one I have a problem with. We know that thanks to science, life expectancy is growing longer, not shorter, so I have a problem with the notion of someone that long ago somehow living 175 years — if those “years” happen to be the same periods of time we know today as “years.”

In any case, we can choose not to overthink the age detail in the story and focus more on the message of it: we can see that someone of any age can find their God-given purpose and make a difference in ministry, thereby touching the lives of others.

The story of Abraham came to mind when I encountered an email from a partner of a magazine I subscribe to. (I’ve yet to find a way to unsubscribe from these “partners” without unsubscribing from the magazine as well.)

The ad was for people looking for leadership training in ministry, worship or production at an out-of-state church.

I’m not looking for such an opportunity, but I couldn’t help notice the ad because of the line that came just above that: “Are you 25-35 years of age?”

Even in production, which I would gather would be behind the scenes tasks like running sound or lighting, they want people under 35 years old?

To be fair, I clicked through to visit the church’s website. There, it gives a bit wider explanation: yes, they do welcome applications from people of any age, however — yes, the site uses the word however almost as a warning to anyone older than that they’re wasting their time — the majority of the people they accept into the program just happen to be within that age window.

Maybe this church has somehow found that people 36 years old or older just aren’t interested in staying put. I would imagine, based on what I’ve seen in other industries, that it’s the younger people, not the older ones, who are always looking to move up and out.

Maybe this church doesn’t actually believe that there’s an age limit at which you’re no longer useful as a leader. (Though I happen to know that this particular church’s lead pastor is older than 35; just barely, mind you, but older than 35 nonetheless.)

If this is how a church advertises its opportunities, how are people “of a certain age” supposed to interpret that? How are people of that certain age supposed to feel welcome there?

One can hope that as the pastor ages, someone might realize that age is not the deciding factor of usefulness. If not, he might one day arrive for work only to find that the locks have been changed.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.