How to Lead People Older Than You

We’ve all heard it before, “wait until you’re grownup kid. “

For many people it is hard to separate age with ability.

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For a lot of people there is a sense that they have to either hurry up and wait to lead or they have to lead only people younger than them.

As a younger guy in ministry I have struggled with these dynamics.  Especially since I am 23 and leading in a senior ministry capacity I see this, because many times “young guy” in ministry means 35 and I have over 10 years until I am even that old. 

I love this challenge though, God does not discriminate when it comes to age and leading, someone who is capable to lead at 17 is great in God’s eyes as well as someone who is 87. 

The problem is our church culture does not always see it that way. Many times older people look down on younger people trying to lead and also on the flip side many times younger guys look down on older people in leadership roles.

With all this in mind, here are 3 things I think are important to keep in mind when leading people older than you.  

 

1. Don’t Always Look Down on Tradition.

In churches I have been in and observed I have seen a general distrust between young and old.  Young people think older people are stuck in their ways and will never change and older people think that younger people (especially in leadership) are only changing things to change them with no solid purpose.

This can be very aggravating tension.  

A good dynamic is for the younger leader to respect where tradition comes from and when at all possible during change maintain a sense of it. 

Tradition gets a bad rap in younger circles, and there are good reasons for this, but when progressing, many times tradition is not always the enemy-the attitudes behind some traditions are though.

2. Lead Through Your Actions.

This is important. A younger leader who comes in and talks a big game without proving they are a moral, Christ like person will not gain much respect. Without necessarily a ton of life experiences, young leaders need all the advantages they can get and leading through example is one way to gain that.

I have seen a lot of cocky young leaders who think just because of their education or position people should listen to them. 

Let’s instead work to gain influence. 

3. Don’t Let Anyone Look Down on You Because of Your Age.

This principle comes directly from Paul in his words to Timothy and is very important. A young leader must demand respect through their words and actions. See, “not letting people look down on you because of your age” does not mean screaming and crying and pounding the table demanding respect and instead means rolling up your sleeves and getting in among your people and proving you have earned the privilege to lead them. 

I also suggest surrounding yourself with Godly and experienced mentors to gain wisdom that way.

Leading in Jesus’ church and leading God’s people is a huge responsibility and young voices are needed I hope this can encourage younger leaders to work for their influence not feel entitled to it. 

Written by Joe Hoagland

Joe Hoagland

Joe is a pastor at Grape Grove Church of Christ in Jamestown, Ohio. He is newly married to his awesome wife Jenna and together they have 2 spoiled dogs and a cat.

He loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word.

You can often times find Joe hiking, camping, writing, reading, or enjoying technology.