There is a modern trend to learn only from ones peers. It is not uncommon, for example, that ministry conferences are designed for younger ministers and taught by younger ministers. And I get that.
There is much to be learned from your peers. After all, they are often in the same sort of setting, have similar issues they deal with and understand your cultural challenges. They speak your language and understand your thinking. They have watched the same movies and listened to the same music.
But please don’t forget to learn from those who are older than you are. (Unless you are over 100, in which case, the options are limited!) Our culture has often devalued older people, but that is not a healthy trend for society or ministry.
Here are three reasons to learn from some people older than you.
1. They have learned some lessons you haven’t yet learned.
One of the reasons high schools are not taught by high schoolers is because of the need for the teacher to already have learned what needs to be taught. Geometry is best taught by someone who has learned geometry.
I love the help of peer review. Co-learners can help me in my life and ministry. But sometimes I can benefit from someone who has already learned the lessons that I still need to learn.
We are in danger of not knowing what we don’t know. But those who have learned lessons we need can be greatly beneficial to us. Listening to someone older than you allows you the opportunity to learn new lessons and fill in gaps in our own education. Those older than us often have something to say.
2. They have made mistakes that you can learn from.
Mistakes can be incredibly valuable teaching tools. I cannot tell you how many mistakes I have made in ministry. But some ministry mistakes can be missed by learning from the mistake someone else already made in ministry.
You don’t have to learn every lesson the hard way. You can learn the lesson from someone else who learned it the hard way. And that is a much easier way to learn!
Why not benefit from the mistakes of a proxy? Perhaps you can learn from their lessons and be more productive and effective yourself. Let their mistakes inform you.
3. They have, in many cases, lived the kind of life you need to live.
If you want to live a long and godly life, you can benefit from knowing someone who has lived a long and godly life. Older people who have followed the Lord a long time can be a model for you. Study their life patterns. Learn from their example.
Your peers know what it is like to live as long as you have. Older friends can prepare you for the future that your peers only know as theory. They can be an inspiration for you as you face your own future.
We benefit from models. We need examples. Perhaps some models and examples of the person you might become can help you become that person.
Okay, learn from those of your own age. Even learn from those who are younger. But don’t forget to find some folks who are older than you are and learn from them. Value their wisdom and insights and experiences despite the differences you may have in life or ministry. Seek them out and listen to their message.
Learn from those older than you and age better!