By Landry Holmes
Prior to the start time of the kids midweek experience at church, a couple of elementary boys were hanging out before the rest of the kids arrived. They were engaged in imaginative play based on vintage video games when the younger of the two asked, “Mr. Landry, were you around in the 80s?” There were so many responses I could’ve given, such as the fact that I graduated from college and graduate school, got married, and witnessed the birth of our first child in the 1980s. However, I simply answered, “Yes.” All W wanted to know was if I were familiar with the 1980s era video games and game consoles he and his buddy were pretending to be immersed in.
While W’s question made me feel younger than I am, it also prompted me to begin thinking of age gaps in kids ministry. Whether you are a Gen Zer, Millennial, Gen Xer, or Baby Boomer, you may have noticed that not only is there an age gap between you and the kids you minister to, but there may also be slight or wide age differences between you, kids ministry volunteers, parents, and other church leaders.
Age gaps actually can be a blessing. In fact, many societies celebrate generational distinctives, as did the New Testament church. One of the best examples of the value placed on people of all ages is the apostle Paul’s relationship to his protégé Timothy. Paul’s encouragement for Timothy to respect age differences can help us know how to leverage age gaps to maximize ministry.
1. Be confident in your calling, regardless of age. As he neared the end of his life, Paul exclaimed, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:6–7) In an earlier letter, Paul exhorted Timothy, “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Whether you’re an older adult like Paul, a young adult like Timothy, or somewhere in between, God can use you in kids ministry for his glory.Whether you’re an older adult like Paul, a young adult like Timothy, or somewhere in between, God can use you in kids ministry for his glory. Click To Tweet
2. Respect your elders. I know the temptation to think that people of older generations don’t understand kids ministry today. They may or may not, but many of them do understand the gospel and the importance of teaching children God’s word. Therefore, listen to those who have gone before you. Paul tells Timothy, “Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
3. Mentor younger leaders. Timothy appears to be only one of Paul’s mentees. Nonetheless, Paul writes specifically to Timothy when he says, “But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance.” (2 Timothy 3:10)
Recently, someone told me that I had a lot of knowledge. For some that is code for, “You’ve been around for a long time.” I think about examples in the Bible of how God used people who were of an advanced age as well as children, teenagers, and young adults. Yes, I was definitely around in the 80’s, and I have had a lot of kids ministry experiences. I’m also willing to learn from my elders as well as from young adults, teenagers, and children. And, that is the key to bridging the leadership age gap in kids ministry.
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Ongoing Bible Studies and Network Partnerships, Nashville, TN, and is a graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The author of It’s Worth It: Uncovering How One Week Can Transform Your Church, co-author of Every Age, Every Stage: Teaching God’s Truth at Home and Church, and a general editor of the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids, Landry is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. He teaches kids at his church in Middle Tennessee, where his wife Janetta is the Preschool Minister. They enjoy spending time with their two adult sons and their wives, and spoiling their five grandchildren.