Every now and then a young person calls me aside and says something like this: “Thank you for being patient with me when I was a young preacher/ a student/ a teenager in your congregation. You inspired me to ministry.”

When they do this I think of the elderly apostle’s declaration: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

It seems I am now the older preacher in the transaction, more Paul than Timothy.

It makes me thing of two truths:

* First, let’s not view “older” preachers as irrelevant or redundant. You know that the Bible’s view is that God’s way is to utilize the wisdom of those who are older. Paul, the older and wiser preacher saw it as his task to mentor younger men, who would in turn mentor others (2 Timothy 2:2). Some seemingly think the church would be better served when run by a gaggle of William Golding-like kids (remember the tragedy of Lord of the Flies)? That’s not the biblical view. Elders (not “youngers”) shepherd the flock, older women teach younger women, Paul mentors Timothy, Titus, and so on.

* Second, those of us who are older need to be conscious of the need to develop the next generation of leaders. Just like school one does not advance from a student to a graduate merely by chronology; one studies for classes, completes assignments, prepares for the next stage of development.

Allow young men the opportunity to develop their abilities; be patient with their failures; give them both direction and support.

Make no mistake, the next generation’s arrival is as certain as a Trump tweet, but their readiness for actual leadership is uncertain.

Young people, watch, listen and learn; Older people, guide and encourage.