Keeping an Edge

Dirt Road with Maple Trees in Winter Sunrise

By Timothy Swanson

“I have been doing this longer than you have been alive” one of my singers told me as we chatted in my office. A good point to be sure. As a young leader its good for me to pay attention when a voice of wisdom is near me. Most of the people on my team are older than me, which is good because I’ve got a lot to learn. Paul writes on this very topic, ” Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). Paul’s command (coincidentally to a young church leader named Tim) can be a pretty tall order for today’s young church leader. It’s not easy for me to honor my more experienced volunteers when I have to turn down a piece of advice that I know i shouldn’t follow. And what’s harder still is finding the humility to take a piece of advice that I know I should.

A few weeks ago, I was excited to tell the congregation at Moon Valley Bible about a new rendition of ‘Be Thou My Vision’ that I arranged. As I rehearsed the song with my team I practiced what I wanted to say, “This next song was first written in the 8th century about St. Patrick. He was one dude who really believed in church…” When we were through I asked my team how they felt about the song. One of my singers looked at me and said, “Please don’t call St. Patrick a ‘dude’”. I was caught off guard a little bit. “Don’t call St. Patrick a dude? Who cares what I call him?” I thought and did not say out loud. I stood there with a puzzled look on my face for a moment before I realized the answer to my questions. The fact is she cared, and what’s more is she represented a whole generation that cares about that sort of thing. It was a matter of respect to her. I grew up in the post respect generation where I called many of my teachers by their first names. My singer was giving me some much needed perspective. That Sunday when we presented the new song I was able to pay homage to St. Patrick as I described him as, “a godly man who believed in church”. By listening to my volunteers, though it can be uncomfortable, I have been given access to wisdom beyond my years. There’s power in that. Furthermore I’ve been able to validate the people who have been “doing this longer than I’ve been alive”. A lot of good comes out of obeying Scripture. For me, learning to listen to the wise has given me a whole new outlook on leadership. A new outlook that honors God more, and that’s a good thing.


Tim Swanson is the Music Director at Moon Valley Bible Church in Phoenix, Az. His great satisfaction is working with his team to write music that glorifies God. While he is not working, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids.

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    6 comments on “Keeping an Edge

    1. It’s also important for the volunteers to respect the authority of the leader’s position. We had a major issue with older team volunteers completely disrespecting the leader and it has caused years of problems. Yes, we should honor our elders but just because someone is old does not make them right or appropriate. I would hope that the volunteer discussed above took the leader aside with such a comment instead of disrespecting him in front of the group he’s paid to lead.

      • ‘Mel’s’ reply seems to automatically assume that the team member in question made her request in a disrespectful fashion, when there was no indication this was the case. In fact, she began her question by saying, “please”. (I could even hear it being done in a humorous way!) Conversely, the tone of Mel’s comment seems to reveal an underlying animosity toward an older generation. Of course, “being old does not make them right or appropriate”, but even polite society asks that we respect our elders, aside from any biblical admonition. And yes, Mel, I have been on the other side of the story enough to know that, more often than not, it is the younger generation who don’t even know what it is they do not know! So they would do well to honor and respect an older generation, defer to wisdom and experience, and graciously excuse that which is not applicable or relevant to reaching a more diverse and younger demographic. Being humble and thinking of others as better than oneself is the overarching principle, and indeed, the example of Jesus himself.

    2. Pingback: Keeping an Edge | Worship Leaders

    3. God calls us into obedience to our called leaders (including our pastors) even when we don’t agree with them. We would all do well to pray daily for our church leaders and for our own ability to support, encourage and obey them even when we don’t agree.

    4. Pingback: Leadership Roundup | Worship Links

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