Since moving to Missouri in 2003, I have enjoyed the privilege of visiting over dozens of new churches. A surprising—and encouraging—observation has been the number of senior adults attending these church plants. I believe God is calling many believers 62 and over to be actively involved in church plants that often target younger “market segments.” In speaking to the pastors of these churches, I hear universal appreciation for the prayers, tithes and attendance of these mature believers. However, focusing only upon the contributions of senior believers may miss what God is truly seeking to accomplish.
The Bible has more to say about honoring the aged than what most pastors and academics teach and preach. For example, when Israel is preparing to enter the Promised Land, God gave the following exhortation through Moses, “You are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old. Fear your God; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32 CSB). Providentially, this command is sandwiched between a warning against consulting mediums (a bad source for information) and oppressing foreigners (a bad witness).
In Romans 12:18, Paul writes, “God has placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He wanted.” Although many churches have strategies to reach “young professionals” and “growing families,” I continue to observe the Lord places members as He wants, not as we want, as He proposes, not as we propose. In His wisdom, a resource of experience is placed into these church plants.
My challenge for every church—regardless of age—is to harness the Titus 2 principle:
Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children. (Titus 2:2-4)
To that end, let me share five ways your church can harness the support and wisdom of the senior adults:
1. Schedule a “wisdom moment” in the service where a mature believer speaks on a contemporary issue for three minutes. This might be especially beneficial before a special offering for The Baptist Home or a local senior adult ministry.
2. Develop an “ask a survivor” card for singles and young families that allows them to ask questions relating to relationships, family, finances and other contemporary issues. Enlist mature members (active and homebound) to answer the questions. Ask a senior class to review the responses and make them available to the members.
3. Have mature members take newcomers to dinner or lunch.
4. Thira Siengsukon, a retired missionary, familiarized me with the Asian “Ajarn Ministry.” Meaning “respected teacher,” his churches scheduled time for seniors to share with younger members the successes and failures learned along their pilgrimage. This provided a vital connection to younger generations, especially those from fragmented families.
5. Encourage staff and small group leaders to take a senior to lunch or dinner—then spend more time listening than speaking. Incorporate the insights from the visit into an upcoming message or lesson.
I hope this challenge has encouraged you to take one or more steps to connect to the untapped wisdom of the senior adults in your church.