Like Brian McLaren, Bill Gates, and Whoopi Goldberg, 62 is my new age in 2018 and it feels amazing. I’ve outlived my parents by several years – as some of you know – which means that every birthday brings both joy and deep appreciation.
Being 62 means I can retire early if I wish – although I won’t be doing that. And yet a constant thought is that I – as a Boomer – need to step aside unless I indeed carry the energy, intelligence, imagination and love necessary to continue in some professional role. Actually I am beginning a new call this May. Am I being an intransigent hypocrite? I hope not.
I have written many times that once we clergy reach our 60s, we need to discern if it’s time to make way for younger leaders to step in and take our place. It’s not easy to seek and find a new call in my 60s when many church nominating committees are looking – longingly – for that stellar 30-something or 40-something or (maybe even) 50-something person who will bring a spark to their congregation/organization. Am I fooling myself by thinking I can still offer a spark too? I don’t think so and that thought has been affirmed by some faithful people in North Carolina.
I love that three-legged stool metaphor we Presbyterians tout. I can’t wake up one fine morning and decide unilaternally that I am called to a particular ministry.
One of the advantages of being among the oldest and most seasoned on a team is that we have the power to do more for younger colleagues in our 60s than we did when we ourselves were younger. This is the most important reason to keep our hand in professional ministry in our 60s. It’s not about us.
Here’s what someone with my age might be able to do in the church we love:
- Ensure that younger leaders are considered for service. I am often asked for suggestions regarding people for positions on important committees and commissions. Pastor Nominating Committees sometimes ask me to recommend candidates to be their next Head of Staff. This is a privilege and opportunity to suggest people they might not ordinarily consider: younger, browner, queer-er individuals whom I know to be rock stars although they might not be on that PNC’s radar. I have the power to put excellent candidates on their radar.
- Step aside as often as possible. When I’m asked to serve on a committee or commission myself, I have the privilege and opportunity to say something like, “Thank you. I’ve actually served on this board before, but why don’t you contact (insert younger pastor’s name here)?
- Connect younger leaders to resources. When letters from foundations and denominational programs come across my desk offering everything from money to educational opportunities, it’s not only my privilege and opportunity to pass that information along to younger leaders, but it’s my responsibity to do it. And it’s fun.
Being a 60-something leader with privileges and opportunities is extremely fun but only if I use that power for good to expand the reign of God Ephesians 4:11-12-style. It’s essential to have the kind of honest, trusting relationships with colleagues – of every age – that let me know when it’s indeed time to move on. Ministry continues for the whole of our lives – even if we are bedridden and weary. But ministry shifts and flows until we die. It never stays stagnant. It always makes way for new leaders to come in and shine to the glory of God.
So far, the sixties are pretty great.
Image of 62 candles – enough to set a room on fire.