Age is no barrier in Paul’s eyes. As I was SOAPing this morning, I reflected on how the Apostle Paul spoke words of life, to a much younger Timothy, encouraging and strengthening him.
When Paul wrote to Timothy he told him not to let his relatively young age be a barrier to his leadership. He wrote:
“Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.”1 Timothy 4:12
Timothy was young to be in the position of spiritual authority that he was. In fact Paul had instructed Timothy to command and teach certain things to the people, many of whom would have been older than him.
So instead of Timothy being crippled by a lack of confidence and permission, and potentially being intimidated by older people, Paul told Timothy to just get on with it and in doing so to be careful about his speech, his conduct, his purity, and the love and faithfulness he exhibited. In this way he would be an example for other believers to follow.
Authority has nothing to do with seniority, and spiritual maturity does not necessarily come with age.
As a leader of “more mature years”, I want to give young people a chance to lead. There are a few things that I can do to help this happen.
Here are 10 ways we can help younger leaders:
1. Spot the potential in them. And focus on this rather than on the lack; where they don’t measure up.
2. Encourage them. This means to give them the courage to step out and have a go and to take risks.
3. Show them what to do, and how to do it, not forgetting the “why”, so that they have something to imitate.
4. Trust them. They may get it wrong at times, but it’s important to trust them as people more than to just trust them if they get it right.
5. Test them with increasing responsibilities rather than just throw them off the deep end to see if they sink or swim.
6. Debrief them to talk about how they went, how they experienced things, what worked and what didn’t work.
7. Correct them in a way that builds them up rather than tears them down.
8. Mentor them so that we freely pass on what we have, to build them up. This includes speaking into the things Paul mentioned. i.e. to be an example in speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.
9. Love them, want the best for them and want them to succeed.
10. Pray for them, that the Holy Spirit will work in them and through them and be with them always.
By the way, being young is a relative thing. Timothy was most likely in his 30s when Paul wrote to him, but in that context anyone under 40 was regarded as young. So to Paul who was much older, Timothy would have been a young man.
My encouragement is twofold. First, to all the young people, you could be a Timothy who God wants to use mightily. Are you open to this, and if so are you taking steps to position yourselves to grow in this way. Are you seeking out and listening to the Paul’s in your life who will give encouragement and permission, and speak words of life and hope into you?
Secondly, to all the not so your people, are there young men and women who you can encourage and speak words of hope and life into as Paul did to Timothy? The greatest legacy that we can pass on will be in the lives of those who we lead to Christ and help grow in Him.