How to Become an Older Church Leader That People Actually Like

Posted by Aaron Buer on December 19, 2019

I have the privilege of spending a lot of time with a few veteran ministry leaders who still love ministry, are still effective, and are actually fun to be around. 

In other words, people still like them.

Can I just say, I want to be like that when I grow up.

I’m deeply interested in veteran leaders who aren’t cynical, jaded or washed up. 

We all know that there are many ministry leaders out there who probably should have walked away a decade ago. 

I don’t want to be that kind of senior leader!  

How exactly do you avoid ending up like that? 

Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I can share a few observations I’ve made of veteran. 

Here are five characteristics to pursue if we want to be the kind of senior leader that people still like.  

1. They Are Still Connected

The other day I went out to lunch with a senior leader. 

After eating, I watched him walk around the restaurant, show pictures of his grandchildren to one server, encourage another, and inquire about an injury with another. 

He knew the people in this restaurant. 


He’s been in ministry for almost 40 years and he still cares about people—still loves people. 

Here’s the kicker: None of these people attend our church.

I know so many older people whose world begins to close in around them. 

They become more and more isolated and selfish.  

I guess what I’m learning is that if I want to be a healthy older leader, I need to stay connected with people and especially people that are different than me and don’t fit into my world.  

2. They Still Feel Challenged

Some leaders flip a switch to auto-pilot. 

They rely on old skills, old stories, and old strategies. 

The older leaders I want to be like are still pushing forward. 

They still have goals and objectives in their 50s and 60s.

They still feel challenged by their work.  

There is a tendency to wish for a future where everything is easy. 

I’m starting to think that easy is actually bad.

Challenge is important for staying vital.  

Let’s be the kind of leader that never stops looking for challenges and never stops pushing forward for the kingdom.  

3. They Empower The Next Generation

The American church is on the front edge of a crisis. 

So many effective senior leaders of influential churches are nearing retirement. 

Many are transitioning out of leadership.

Some of these churches are transitioning leadership in healthy ways...many are not.  

Here’s the challenge:  When you are a senior leader in your 50s, you are at the top of your game. 

For example, if you are a preacher, you likely have 30+ years of preaching experience.  You are good—probably very good at what you.

You’ve never been this good and honestly, you never will be again. 

This is the pinnacle of effectiveness. 

The tendency is to think you should be preaching as much as possible! 

But the counter-intuitive truth is that this is a season when you should be empowering others. 

Why? Because a time is coming when you will become less effective.

Who is going to step in when that happens? 

The challenge here is to choose to empower others even when you know you are the best at what you do. 

All I’m saying is that the older leaders that I want to be like do this.

They are empowering the next generation for the work of ministry. 

They listen to them, they train them and they give them opportunities.  

4. They Are Still Learning

Something else I’ve noticed about the kind of senior leaders that I’d like to become; they are still learning. 

They are still humble.

They still listen to and implement feedback.  


This is incredibly important for two reasons. 

First, senior leaders set the culture of the organization. 

If they are humble and teachable, the rest of the church staff will likely follow suit.  

Secondly, senior leaders become a bit like cross-cultural missionaries as they age. 

A baby boomer senior leader speaks naturally to other baby boomers.

This is why the average age of a congregation often mirrors the age of the senior leader. 

For a baby boomer senior leader, ministering to baby boomers is natural. 

However, ministering to millennials and Gen Z is like a different language. Unless a senior leader listens to feedback and remains teachable, he or she will really struggle to connect.  

5. They Are Still Investing In Themselves

Here’s the deal, you and I will never become healthy veteran ministry leaders if we don’t take care of ourselves—if we don’t invest in ourselves.

Ignoring self-care and investing in ourselves will likely lead to a shorter ministry career or, to us becoming that older ministry leader that we DO NOT want to be when we grow up—cynical, stuck, ineffective and no fun.  

So, perhaps the best way for us to grow into the type of leader we want to be when we grow up is to invest in ourselves now.  

Wrap Up

With that in mind, I have an opportunity for you. 

My church is putting on a 2-day conference called the ReCourage conference. 


It’s all about pursuing faithfulness, consistency and longevity in ministry.

If you can make it to West Michigan, we’d love to welcome you. 

I believe this will be a great opportunity to be invested in, encouraged and challenged toward longevity in ministry.

And, here’s how to register or get more info:

Topics: Advice

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