Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Someone better start thinking!

It will happen sooner or later!

I see it often! Some church looking for a preacher puts a notice in the Christian Standard or on stating the qualifications for their position. These qualifications include the ability to preach, teach, lead, evangelize, and in some instances work well with a multiple staff. Then the notice says the candidate will be between the ages of 35-50 with at least "x" years of experience.

It is amazing that no one has, to this point, challenged such blatant age discrimination. Churches continue to demonstrate such discrimination when the business world abandoned it long ago. The business world abandoned it because it is against the law to discriminate in hiring practices based on age, gender, or race. Numerous lawsuits settled that issue and guilty business paid the price for their discrimination.

I am not so naive to believe that those in the business world still avoid hiring some individuals based on prejudice. At the same time, however, they cannot blantantly ask the age of an individual. Birth dates no longer appear on application forms or resumes. Businesses have become far more discreet in their practices whether it be for hiring or "retiring" individuals in their firm.

Churches have a right to hire and fire whom they will, but the laws of the land apply to them as well unless there are biblical or spiritual principles involved. I can understand why church leaders choose not to hire women for pulpit ministries since Scripture, at least in many minds, does not permit a woman to teach (publicaly, as in sermonizing). A church is on shaky legal ground, in my view, if race or age are stated factors in hiring and firing.

Age may play a factor in effectiveness in ministry. Such effectiveness may be legitimate, but a church that assumes someone is ineffective because of age is being unfair to themselves and to the individual. Older and experienced ministers have much to offer growing congregations. Their wisdom may save a church from expensive mistakes leading to financial hardships and internal strife. Many older ministers know and understand church growth principles far better than their younger counterparts and could be highly effective in an environment of support and respect.

The tendency to avoid calling older, more experienced, ministers to pulpit ministries grows more out of chronological snobbery than reality. It is assumed that they cannot communicate with the younger generations. The fact is, the prejudice arises from younger generations who believe those who are older have nothing to offer. A growing lack of respect for parents and for authority in general is demonstrated in the church toward their more mature counterparts.

Sooner or later some well-qualified preacher is going to weary of blatant age discrimination and a church or churches will find themselves before the bar defending their hiring practices in a lawsuit. When that happens, I hope the contemporary church's chronological snobbery will be revealed for what it is and result in its demise. Where are those in today's church who understand the biblical instruction to "respect those who are older"? Just asking!