I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago – a young pastor. He shared an honest concern I remember mulling over myself in the pastorate. As the church was beginning to reach young couples, students and children, the senior adults felt less and less valuable. They believed “their time” had passed them by in the life of the church and their ministry had now been relegated to nothing more than watching and waiting.
I shared with my pastor friend some memories from when I was a child. My Dad was a pastor. There were plenty of young adults and young marrieds in our church. But for some reason, the people I remember to this day – the ones who left a Jesus-shaped impression on me as a boy – they were all old. Every one of them. Even as I type this 30 years later, their faces flash across my mind. As a child and a youth, I did not despise senior adults. I valued them. They tended to love a little more deeply, to be present a little more frequently, and to listen and speak a little more empathetically. Mr. Rogers. Mr. Kendall. Mrs. Ada. Mr. Billy. Mr. Fred. Mrs. West. I remember wanting to be like them when I was a child. Thirty years later, I still do.
Senior adults are vital to the health and ministry of the church. A thriving senior adult ministry has very little to do with health fairs, trips to Branson, or forty-two and backgammon. Rather, a thriving senior adult ministry facilitates an atmosphere where older men and women can be intentional about reproducing themselves in the lives of younger church members.
The Bible is clear that senior adults are not just to be respected because they are “old.” Rather, they have an important place in the life of the local church. Here are 7 reasons your church needs senior adults.
- Wisdom gained through experience (Job 12:12, Proverbs 23:22-23). If younger men and women in the church would learn to capitalize on the wisdom of experience possessed by senior adults, they may be able to avoid many pitfalls of the faith and of the ministry.
- Involvement in ministry opportunities (Psalm 92:12-15). Honestly, there are some ministries of the church for which senior adults are better suited than younger men and women. They have more time. They have more life experience. They often have an extensive network of relationships within the community (family, friends, and business connections) that young people do not. Senior adults can and should still “bear fruit in old age, healthy and green.”
- Passing down a legacy of faith (Psalm 71:17-18). Many senior adults have stories of God’s faithfulness to them through the years that younger families desperately need to hear. If we do not provide avenues for senior adults to share their stories of God’s faithfulness to younger church members, we are robbing the next generation of the proof of God’s power and strength through all circumstances.
- Transmission of timeless truth (Titus 2:1-7). You know as well as I do that the longer you study God’s Word, the deeper and richer His eternal truth becomes to you. Similarly, the longer you apply God’s Word to your Christian walk, the more pervasive the truth of the gospel becomes in every area of your life. Many older men and older women, through decades of faithful study and application of God’s Word, have an intimacy with God to which younger men and women need to be exposed.
- Faith through trial (Psalm 37:25). When a young Christian is seriously struggling through circumstances that test faith, he or she needs an older Christian to walk with him through the fire. The senior adult psalmist writes, “I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” In moments that feel like forsakenness and depravation, senior adults can testify that time will prove God’s faithfulness.
- Lessons in respect and honor (Leviticus 19:32, Proverbs 16:31, 20:29, 1 Timothy 5:1-2). As God molds and shapes the Christian in the image of Christ, one thing we all need to learn is how to respect and honor our fathers. Scripture is clear that this is a timeless teaching, for all generations. How will your congregants learn to respect and honor senior adults if they are not an active part of the body-life of your church?
- Appeals from a genuine heart of love (Philemon 9-10). Things need to happen, and time is of the essence. I get that. Young men and women can have a tendency to be forceful in their appeals. But as Paul did in his old age, senior adults often have a gentleness about them that has been forged in the fires of hurt, sorrow, pain, and faithfulness over the period of decades. No one is better suited to appeal from a genuine heart of love than a gracious man or woman who has walked a thousand miles in a thousand pairs of shoes.
Senior adults are not the church of yesterday. Until the day God calls them home, they are the church of today. The truth is, as time progresses each generation will one day become the senior adults in the church. They are not a burden. They are a gift from God. You need them and they need you. Value them. Respect them. Love them. Lead them.
Grace and Peace,