Youth is not always wasted on the young.
People pay for experience, as if to insure against the unforeseen. But we sometimes overlook the hunger of the young and the freshness they bring to their task.
A new-leather lawyer has something to prove and will work overtime to win a case that a well-weathered colleague might win with less exertion because she already knows the ropes. But the case can be won either way. A young money manager with a $4 million portfolio seems a tough sell up against one with half a billion under his arm. But who will give more personal attention to the client?
St. Paul said to his neophyte colleague, Timothy: Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12). Young leaders in church can do remarkable things they are sometimes not trusted to do because of tender age. More’s the loss for everyone!
I remember my first wedding to perform – a Vietnamese couple who spoke little English. Good thing, they would have less to forgive in the marble-mouthed minister. I had notes typed out, rehearsed them over and over, and prayed I wouldn’t forget to pronounce them husband and wife. The hitching all went off without a hitch. Their smiles said thank you.
Inexperienced ministers can draw on lack of practice to the benefit of all. A couple at an altar, a family at a graveside, a child in a hospital bed, a congregation in the pews: Each setting brings new energy from a minister who hasn’t been there before but wants to serve God and people well. The rich deposit of creativity and energy brought to each ministry moment can outweigh the few coins in the bank of experience.
Churches and synagogues face a clergy crisis. The average clergy age is rising; gray hair in the pulpit is growing. Only about 5 percent of all clergy are under 35. Young people are looking elsewhere to invest themselves.
Second-career ministers will help make up the deficit. Lay ministry is always welcome. Yet, can church or temple afford to lose a generation of its best and brightest?
Some say young people ought to do anything else if they can, as a test to whether they are really called. Loopy logic, that. Why should ministry be a last choice, instead of a first call?
Young ministers exude a contagious vitality; they remind us that God has not given up on the church. Let us nudge and nourish them all along their road of their calling.
After all, a young rabbi from Nazareth didn’t do badly for himself or the world, did he?