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Musings: Service at any age

I recently read an obituary that contained an interesting tidbit. It talked about how this woman was called to serve as a young women’s president at the age of 75 and how this service blessed her life and those youth in her ward. It caused me to think back to another older sister who served as a YW president in a ward we were in, and how fabulous she was, and I wondered to myself – why aren’t older people called to serve in leadership callings more often?

Sometimes I feel like we neglect the gifts that older people can bring to callings – the wisdom, the rising above the pettiness of things, the seeing things in a perspective different than perhaps the typical church leader does.

On the other hand, I have also had the privilege of working with some leaders who were very young, and I appreciated their vitality, hard work, and true commitment to giving their very best as they serve.

It seems to me that all have something to give, and hopefully as callings are inspired the right person is in there at the right time. I thought it might be fun for us to share thoughts and experiences regarding age of service.

Do you think we overlook people sometimes because they are too old? How about if they are too young? Have you ever served on either end of the spectrum and if so did you feel adequate? What do you think of your YW daughter being led by a 75-year-old? How about a 22-year-old? What challenges might each group face?

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • jennycherie April 1, 2013, 8:34 am

    I don’t think I would have any problem with a leader who didn’t fit a particular stereotype. I find myself, sometimes, tempted to consider things like age/family situation when organizing visiting teaching routes. It is sometimes great to have people together who are in similar life stages, but it can be a real blessing to pair up people who are outside the norm. For sisters who have frail health, we often try to assign a visiting teacher who is young enough to offer physical assistance (cleaning, heavy lifting) when it is needed. This has lead to some delightful friendships between women in totally different stages of life.

    When I think of the 75 year old YW president, what I think is, I want to be fit enough and active enough to be that woman when I am 75!
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  • Amy Lockhart April 1, 2013, 8:46 am

    Bravo and Amen Angie!

    I don’t have anything riveting or intelligent to add but think it is a worthy topic and I hope we get some great discussion.

    My experience has been that the older generation has a great deal to offer our young people. I often see them overlooked with the main reason being they are not “current” enough or up on the media, technology and entertainment of the day. I say who cares. That’s not what I am looking for in a program designed to build strength of character, testimonies, and relationships with the Savior to withstand a lifetime of trial and tribulation. I think it can be done entirely without media and current entertainment.

    That being said, I am very impressed with the depth and maturity of a certain younger person in our Branch that is involved in the YM program right now. She seems to have escaped the encompassing nature of media and understands how to use it for good and then shelve it in place of interaction, learning, and service. She is poised, intelligent, kind, and brings a strength that is reminiscent of a wise old sole.

    I am not sure age matters, but certainly the older people we are blessed to have around us can offer more than we may realize these days.
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  • Angie Gardner April 1, 2013, 11:39 am

    Jennycherie, I hadn’t thought about visiting teaching, but I think you are so right. It’s truly a matter of prayer to match these sisters up in a way that blesses both of them.

    Amy said, “…I am very impressed with the depth and maturity of a certain younger person in our Branch”

    I have seen this too. I remember a certain bishop we have in common and how he was so young and had so many things going on in his life at the time (a very young family, a demanding career, etc.) and yet he truly was the right one for that calling at the time. He was wise beyond his years, and that happens sometimes and it’s wonderful.

    Young leadership like that is often hard on the spouse, but in most cases I’ve seen it work out okay if the couple is working together and their ward is helping too.

    My husband was recently called as bishop just shy of his 40th birthday. I think it’s the perfect time for him, actually. Not too young, not too old. But like I say, I’ve seen younger bishops who have been wonderful, and older bishops as well. Same with RS presidents and other callings.

    Young Women seems to be a place where it is more the norm for young moms to serve. I am not sure why this is the case (your point about being tech savvy is a consideration…I think there is also a “cool” factor sometimes in YW, which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine but I can see why they want someone in there who can relate to the girls). Having served several years in YW, though, I think it’s a really hard place for a young mom to be. Besides just the sheer time demands of YW (at least several hours a week just between mutual and Sunday responsibilities), but I think it also requires a depth of maturity that is not always there in the younger crowd (not saying never…as I have seen some fantastic YW presidents in their early 20s). I just think we sometimes overlook the older women and it’s sad to me. They often have much to offer.

    My oldest daughter turned 14 last Sunday. Her former AD leader (from almost 4 years ago) who is in her 60s literally ran out of the chapel chasing my daughter down to give her a hug and a “happy birthday”. A small thing, but it was the first thing my daughter mentioned when she came home. This is a woman who I have often though would be wonderful in YW because she takes such an interest in the girls, and she has the time to do it well at this stage in her life as well. I love to see that combination of wisdom, maturity, exuberance, testimony, love, and fun that this particular sister brings.

  • cambendy April 1, 2013, 3:38 pm

    This is such a good post. I know I have felt like an outcast for a long time even though I really try to do my best at all my callings. :(

  • jennycherie April 1, 2013, 4:47 pm

    I should add – I don’t know how old our YW president is, but her children are raised and married and having kids. She called a secretary and an advisor who are close in age, and they are doing a fabulous job. We also have a darling sister who is above 70 who was the Primary president for years and is still in the primary presidency – she loves the children and they love her SO much. The more I think of it, it is the loving relationships that break through the differences whether they are due to age, income, lifestyle, or whatever.
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  • Angie Gardner April 1, 2013, 6:08 pm

    cambendy, sorry you feel like an outcast. :( Care to share why? I don’t know your age, but is that the reason you feel different?

    Jennycherie, thanks for sharing that. I completely agree that it is the loving relationship that matters, and not the age. Unfortunately, I think sometimes we discount people on either extreme unfairly.

    This doesn’t really have a lot to do with age, but it’s kind of a similar experience. Several years ago there was a young women president called who most of us literally dropped our jaws at when we heard it. Seriously – I saw eyes darting around and surprised expressions (I was paying particular attention because I had been called as one of her counselors). She just wasn’t one most of us would have thought of, perhaps seen as a bit on the wild side and maybe not a good example to the girls (I am ashamed to say that now but it was the sentiment). BUT, she ended up being SO wonderful. She was instrumental in reactivating several girls and even introducing 2 new girls to the church who ended up getting baptized. She was just great, and when she moved many tears were shed from girls and parents. In fact, tears are still shed. She just loved everyone, and it was awesome to watch.

    When I heard she was moving, I pulled the bishop aside and thanked him for being open to the inspiration he surely felt when he called her. She would not have been the logical choice, but she was the right choice, and I’m so glad he listened.

    I hope our leaders are doing that with those on the age extremities as well, particularly those older sisters who have so much to give and who perhaps are at a time in life where they are more able to serve than ever.

  • Amy Lockhart April 2, 2013, 7:39 am

    Angie: “I hope our leaders are doing that with those on the age extremities as well, particularly those older sisters who have so much to give and who perhaps are at a time in life where they are more able to serve than ever.”

    I whole heartedly agree!

    I see and hear that much more logic than inspiration goes into callings. You need both, but it is truly something to behold when inspiration is the driving force. It often makes no sense but works out better than logic could have ever said it would. THanks for adding that to the discussion :)

    cambendy: I too am interested to hear more of your story.
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 3, 2013, 5:49 pm

    Angie, I love these thoughts. We do have a tendency in the church to pigeonhole people.

    Within two weeks of moving to Boca, I was called into the YW presidency. A couple of weeks later I met a women just a few years older who said, “Oh, I’ll never have a calling like that.”

    “What do you mean? Why not?”

    “Well, I’m just not the type.”

    Now, I’m not really sure what “the type” was, but I’ve kind of come to understand what she meant. With few exceptions older women get kind of moved aside. And that’s pretty weird in a church that is run by octogenarians!
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