Everyone in the congregation was waiting with great expectation. Sabbath School was over, and before the divine worship service began, the church was going to find out who would lead the leadership responsabilities during the upcoming year. As the nominating committee clerk stood facing the congregation, she began reading the list of proposed new officers, which started with the names of the elders. As the first five elders’ names were read, the clerk surprised the entire church by reading the last nominated elder’s name. A young adult had been selected to be part of the elders’ circle.
Just as man stepping on the moon was a major event in history,
having a young-adult elder was a huge accomplishment.
After serving the church for many years as a youth leader and
with the congregation asking for a generational relay in its senior
leadership, I had been elected to serve as an elder despite
my young age in comparison to the other five persons.
Nevertheless, as my first year of duty came to an end, I felt
frustrated and disappointed. I had so many plans and innovative
ideas to enhance our worship service, to improve our congregation’s
unity, and to carry the gospel. After my designation,
I prayed and looked forward to inspiring my church as I had
done with over 50 young people in past years. Instead, I felt
awkward, as if I didn’t fit in the elders’ group. They were not
just elders; they were older. They each had over 40 years of
church service. When they spoke, they always referred to me
as “the young elder,” as if they were juniors in college and I was
The main reason why so many churches today struggle
and fail at establishing a generational relay in their leadership is
because senior elders are unconsciously closed to the idea of
letting go. Our church has created a group of so-called young
adults who already study the adults’ lesson; most are married,
own a house, and have kids. They own successful businesses
or have prominent professional careers in which they are encouraged
to take risks, innovate, and make decisions that will
positively impact the business. Despite being young in age, they
still manage to have deep relationships with God through constant
study and prayer.
But in spite of their grown-up characteristics, despite being
accomplished adults, many are still viewed as young, which,
in most cases, seems to come with an attached and incorrect notion of being immature, inexperienced, and even spiritually
lukewarm. Older elders will not stop looking at young adults as
such until they do the following:
1. Recognize that God chooses young people to lead. He did it with Joshua. He did it with Joseph, Solomon, and Daniel. And He did it with Jesus, who, by our definition of young adult—ages 19-35—fits perfectly well. While we tend to limit our judgment to external appearance, qualities, and traits, Christ looks at the bigger picture. When He sees the capacity and potential in a young person to lead, elders need to embrace the opportunity, too.
2. Leverage the new resource. When Josiah inherited the kingdom of Judah, he was only eight years old. Through strict faithfulness and obedience to God’s Word, he led—at age 16!—the nation into an amazing period of reformation (2 Chron. 34:3-7). Younger people bring new ideas that can always benefit the church growth and its purpose while staying connected to God, the main source of wisdom.
3. The more young people you have in your congregation,
the more a younger elder can contribute. No matter how great
the older elders are, the younger generation and millennial group
of your church will better identify themselves with someone
who is closer to their reality and speaks their language. They
need someone who understands their way of thinking and can
inspire them to service and daily surrender.
More than a hindrance, a young adult on your team of elders
can be a great strategy as you make proper use of their energy
and desire to serve God. Choose someone who can be a mentor
for younger leaders, who can give them constant feedback
and empower them to serve the church with the same love and
humbleness as Jesus did.
Having senior and younger elders on the same team is the
perfect combination of experience and innovation that, through
the Holy Spirit, will lead your congregation into the heavenly
Johann Dedier is an elder in the country of Panama. He is the
author of the book Fuerte y Valiente and is a writer and editor for
the CQ Lesson Study.