Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “contribution”

Aging and Retirement – 3

By 1935 the Depression was in full bloom and President Franklin D. Roosevelt had to address the issue of caring for older American workers who had lost their savings in the Depression and had little support to make it to old age.  The Social Security Act of 1935 established the age of 65 as the retirement age for American workers.[1]  It is also interesting to note that the life expectancy for American workers in 1935 was 58 for men and 62 for women.   And now, with the Amended Social Security Act of 1988, the retirement age is gradually being raised to 67 by the year 2025 with life expectancy for men being 76 and women being 81. [2]

The concept of retirement from work into a season of leisure, self-enjoyment and self-fulfillment took root in the 1950s in America.  Workers were encouraged to save for the future with those savings being used for self-indulgence and personal pleasure – a reward for the hard work one had to ‘endure’ during their working career.  Communities for ‘seniors’ emerged and the concept of a leisurely season of retirement after a work career ended became a destination. 

With increasing longevity and life-expectancy growing dramatically due to improvements in health care, workers can now expect that their retirement years may be longer than their working years.  Increasing cost of living, increasing medical costs, and poor financial planning lead to older American workers seeking to extend their working years so that they have income to live and possibly save for a longer than expected life.  Seniors working as big box store greeters and counter help at McDonald’s are now common. 

The fracturing of the American family and the geographical scattering of children from their parents compounds any possible means of caring for a rapidly aging population.  Few churches or ministries have adequate means or a vision for caring for the older members.  What commitments do we have to our aging staff? How do we honor them and honor God in our relationships? Remember the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31! What goes around comes around and we will all be the “old one” someday.


[1] N.Y. Times, The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P.  March 21, 1999

[2] Life Expectancy in USA in 2010; http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005148.html

Aging and Retirement – 2

The Lord said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.  They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.   Numbers 8:23-26 NIV (1984)

Retirement, that is, stopping work for a life of ease, is a relatively modern concept.  J.I. Packer in his book, “Finishing our Course with Joy” says, “The Biblical “ideal of ripeness and increased focus in life in our old age stands in direct contrast to the advice for old age that our secular Western world currently gives.  Retirees are admonished, both explicitly and implicitly, in terms that boil down to this:  Relax.  Slow Down.  Take it easy.  Amuse yourself.  Do only what you enjoy.”

Cotton Mather, the Puritan firebrand, in the early 1700s attempted to encourage older workers to consider being “…pleased with the Retirement you are dismissed into.” [2]  This concept did not mean the worker would receive a monthly pension; rather it was an encouragement for the older to step aside and let the younger have a place of contribution.  Until the Industrial Revolution, mankind simply worked until they could work no longer.  It was the move away from primarily an agrarian society and to a factory work environment that was less physically demanding that gave older workers an opportunity to continue to work to increasingly older age. 

Monthly pensions to older workers began to be addressed in the U.S. in the late 1800s.  “In 1875, the American Express railroad company set a precedent by establishing the first private pension plan in America.  Banks, utility companies and manufacturing companies quickly followed suit and established pension plans funded mostly by the employer.” [3]

In 1883, Chancellor van Bismarck of Germany had to face the growing attraction of the Marxists who were promising older German factory workers an old age pension.  To counter the Marxists, van Bismarck offered to pay the German factory workers to stop working and receive a monthly payment from the government.  He chose the age of 65 as the age to stop working.  It is interesting to note that the life expectancy in Germany at the time was 62 years of age! [4]

As we form our policies and personal convictions on aging and retirement, let’s be aware of the historical development of the concept of retiring to a life of ease in our old age. More importantly, let’s look to the Bible for direction and help in addressing our aging staff and surrounding demographics.


[2] N.Y. Times, The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P.  March 21, 1999

[3] http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2006/04/01/the-history-of-retirement#.VwGUm5ispiI.email

[4] N.Y. Times, The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P.  March 21, 1999

Age and Contribution

“Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers’ houses and by their clans. From thirty years old up to fifty years old, you shall list them, all who can come to do duty, to do service in the tent of meeting. …  All the service of the sons of the Gershonites shall be at the command of Aaron and his sons, in all that they are to carry and in all that they have to do. And you shall assign to their charge all that they are to carry.”   Numbers 4:23-24; 27  ESV

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”   Number 8:23-26  ESV

The Lord set age boundaries when serving.  During the forty years in the desert after the Exodus, those who carried the parts of the Tabernacle we to be from 30 to 50 years of age.  Physical strength was necessary and maturity to handle these pieces carefully were requirements and thus, thirty years old was the minimum age allowed.  The rest of the Levites who were to serve in the Tabernacle, could begin as early as 25 years of age.

Whether serving in the Tabernacle or carrying it through the desert, both tasks were age limited to 50 years old.  Upon reaching that age, Levites were to “withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more.”  The older Levites moved from direct ministry in the Tabernacle to an indirect role of serving others by ‘keeping guard.’

It would seem that a pattern of ministry is that direct ministry is primarily a young person’s responsibility.  But with increasing age and experience, older servants move into more indirect roles, thus making room for younger leaders to emerge.  Note that the older Levites did not ‘retire,’ they just assumed less intense ministry roles.

These guidelines for Levitical service in the Tabernacle should cause us to pause and think carefully about our own ministry contributions and those whom we lead.  Are you thinking about your succession plan?  Are you looking to transition into a more indirect role of service?

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.    Lamentations 3:27  ESV

Contribution and Old Age

The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.                               Numbers 8:23-26

The new U.S. President is 70 years old.  His election opponent was 69.  The average age for the new cabinet candidates is 64.  Why the large number of older leaders?  Is it because their generation, the Baby Boomers, tends to vote more frequently and out-number the Millennials?  Is it that those who are older are clinging to power and reluctant to give it over to the next generation?

From the passage above in Numbers we see that those who served in the Tabernacle, the Levites, were conscripted to serve from age 25 to 50.  At the age of 50 they were released from their regular duty, but were to still be available for helping those in active service.  Many believe that this restriction was due to the heavy physical demands of the role – setting up, tearing down, and transporting the Tabernacle and all its accompanying accessories across the desert.  Regardless, it is interesting to note that the Lord Himself set age limits for this service.

We can also observe that Moses was 80 when God appeared to him and called him into service.  He served as the leader of Israel for 40 more years until his death at 120.  Tradition tells us that the Apostle Paul served into his sixties and that the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation in his nineties.

Certainly these examples are descriptive rather than prescriptive for us.  But we must be cautious that as we focus on next generation leadership, we don’t automatically dismiss the contribution of those who are older.  While it is wise and strategic to intentionally focus on a transition to younger leaders, we must not develop a corresponding prejudice against those who are older.  Youth has its advantages, but so does age and experience.

Just because someone is younger does not mean that they are wise.  But neither does having gray hair (or no hair) mean that someone is better qualified to lead.  Discernment is needed to determine best fit and contribution, regardless of age.  Better health care and nutrition means that what is “old” is an escalating age range.

Wise leadership will not automatically default to the younger or those who are older by assuming one is better than another.  Good leaders are discerning on who is best qualified to lead and trust that the Lord will anoint them for their responsibility.

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