One of my all-time favorite movies is Tombstone. The movie has an all-star cast with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday. Doc Holiday started out as a dentist in Atlanta, but gets tuberculosis. That diagnosis led him out west to better weather for his worsening condition. He takes up gambling which was an actual profession back in those days. He became one of the fastest gunfighters in the West. He died when he was only 36 years old in Colorado.
There is a lot of great illustrations from the movie and real lives of Earp and Holiday. One from the movie is when a young gun man wants to challenge Doc. He asked if Doc was retired like Wyatt Earp. Doc smiles, and says, “not me. I’m in my prime”. Ringo smirks and says ‘your prime? yeah you look like your in your prime?’ With his condition and lifestyle Doc didn’t seem like much, but would prove over the next several years of his life that he had much left to give.
When we look at ministry positions, we tend to look for a stereotype, certain age, and condition. Most people want young, cool, skinny, extroverted, etc. We look for 23-29 year old student pastor who is married with no kids. We look for the 42 year old pastor with perfect hair and a family of four.
The problem with this type of thinking in ministry is its from the corporate world and not from God. Consider who God uses in the Bible:
Past their prime – Abraham was just getting started when he was really old.
Not enough skills and experience – Look at all of Jesus’ disciples! Almost all were very young, inexperienced, and uneducated.
Too old to transition – Paul wasn’t exactly a youngster when he went from working against God’s people to being the key leader for much of the New Testament.
Age discrimination, racial discrimination, fulfilling stereotypes – none of this should be part of the church looking for staff or volunteers. One of my favorite leaders of all time was working with students as a volunteer at age 73!
What if the man who is 46 years old, has adult kids, and isn’t cool is in his prime to lead your student ministry? He can pass on tips to parents the 23 year old cannot. He has survived the battle. What if the 63 year old pastor is the man for the job? He has skills and abilities someone younger might not have.
God uses unqualified people who may be long past their ‘prime’.