50+ and Still Growing4 min read

A Life Adventure

I graduated from the seminary when I was 28 years old. I was called to a wonderful congregation in a small town. My wife and our three children loaded up the vehicle shortly after the Call service and set out on the beginning of what was to become a life adventure!

I can remember attending circuit meetings and District events, meeting many brother pastors much older than myself. And admittedly I thought they were, well, old. I wondered if congregations would be interested in calling older pastors. After all, their children were grown and married with families of their own. How long before some of them retire? I was under no delusion that I knew it all, being a recent seminary grad, but I did think at the time that I perhaps was a bit more up-to-date with things than some of these older men I met, a bit more savvy!

And now, almost 30 years later, I am one of those older pastors! Interestingly, in the September 2012 issue of The Lutheran Witness, it was noted that over 50 percent of our active pastors are over age 50.

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What I’ve Learned

As one of these “older pastors,” who, Lord willing, hopes to have many, many exciting and productive years ahead of me serving as an active pastor, I’ve learned a few things over the years along with my brothers in the ministry.

  • I’ve learned humility and dependence. I am weak, He is strong. My strength comes from the Lord.
  • I’ve learned the vital importance of having my daily devotions of Scripture reading and prayer. I needthis private and personal time with the Lord every day.
  • I’ve learned to be a more effective self-starter each and every day. Because I do not punch a time clock and do not have someone hovering over my shoulder every day, I strived to use my time wisely and efficiently and be faithful to the Lord and the people He has placed in my care. Sure I take a day off during the week and use vacation time every year so I can keep refreshed and recharged, but I also realize I am on call 24/7. My family has understood that sometimes that means interrupting family events for an emergency.
  • I’ve learned compassion. Over my many years in ministry I’ve come to know people in many difficult and heart-wrenching situations. It has been a privilege for me to be able to minister to them and be there with them and for them.
  • I’ve learned to have fun and get along with people of all ages … from the children, youth, college students, and adults in all stages of this thing we call life to my oldest members who are in their sunset years.
  • I’ve learned to have a sense of humor about myself, about life, and about being a pastor! Life is way too short!
  • I’ve learned how technology can be used to enhance the spoken Word, the liturgy, and music in a worship service … even using multi-media and PowerPoint for sermons.
  • I’ve learned about empowering laypeople to serve, to use their God-given gifts and talents, and not thinking I have to do it all.
  • I’ve learned about how to be faithful to God’s unchanging Word in a rapidly changing society, and the importance of meeting people wherever they are at in their faith walk.
  • I’ve learned how to develop and deliver a sermon that holds attention and relates to what my people are experiencing in life.
  • I’ve learned a few people skills over the years, some, at times, admittedly by mistake. I am by no means perfect. But, I pray I’ve learned from my mistakes, that people will forgive me for my mistakes, and that I will keep on learning from my mistakes!
  • I’ve learned about how to work with multiple staff in a congregation. We are a team. We are serving the Lord together, but as the pastor I am the one who is to be an encourager to them, to be their friend, to respect them, and to love them.
  • I’ve learned over the years that we are living in an increasingly godless and immoral society and world. I am called to be God’s spokesman to my people, to remind them of what God’s Word says over what the world says, and to encourage them to walk closely with the Lord and raise their children with a strong faith foundation.
  • I understand the value of continuing education and make an effort to either read interesting resources that relate to ministry or attend events that help me continue to learn.

I’m Still Learning

As an older pastor, I still have something to share with God’s people. I’ve learned a few things over the years.And I’m still learning! I’m still growing in my faith walk and in the skills the Lord is giving and empowering me!

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About the Author

Rev. John W. Brooks serves the members of St. James Lutheran Church in Montague, Mich. He is an avid wilderness canoeist and will be taking two groups of eight guys, ages 13-56, on an annual Men's Generational Canoe Trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota again this summer! Brooks is also working toward his second degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo which he will earn by the end of the year. Older doesn't mean inactive or rusting!

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