If my mom were still alive today, she would be 74. My dad is 76 and a senior adult. I can remember when I was in college thinking that someone who was 40 was really old. Now, 40-something does not seem old at all. The closer I get to the 55+ season of life, the more I realize that an older body does not necessarily mean an old mind or heart. I will never forget hearing about how my wife’s grandmother, then in her mid-70s, told my wife that she felt like she was still 16 in her mind … until she looked at her face in the mirror.
When I began my first pastorate, I was 30, and the senior adults were like my grandparents. They treated me like their grandson and gave me so much grace in light of my inexperience and youthful zeal. Now, the senior adults are the age of my parents. Let’s just say that it felt a little better when the seniors thought of me as their grandson who didn’t know any better. Now that I am the age of many senior adults’ children, I should know better. Hopefully I have figured out a few things along the way.
When it comes to senior adults in the church, I am more convinced than ever that their segment of the church is absolutely vital to the mission of every local church. If the Great Commission is the primary mission of the church, and if making disciples is part of that mission, then we need wise, seasoned, experienced servants leading the way. The prayer of the psalmist reflects the passionate leadership that our senior adults uniquely can provide—“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18).
I am so grateful for the senior adults in the local church because they already have the right heart and perspective on helping younger generations to follow Christ. In fact, no other segment of the church cares more about the younger generations than the senior adults.
Consider that senior adults in the church today care deeply about their own children following Jesus Christ and even more about their own grandchildren. So much of their lives, energy, prayers, and efforts are spent toward being a blessing to their children and grandchildren.
For the last few years, I have been asking for prayer requests from individuals at the church I am now pastoring. Almost every single prayer request from a senior adult has included a request for their children and/or grandchildren related to their spiritual lives. No one cares any more for the next generations than senior adults.
In light of the passion of senior adults for the next generation, I hope this encouragement can be helpful to encourage senior adults to lead the way in making disciples:
- As a senior adult, if you receive a guarantee that someone would regularly encourage and invest in the spiritual wellbeing and growth of your children and your grandchildren, wouldn’t you want that guarantee? Where you go to church is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s grandkids. You can be that guarantee for someone else, the same guarantee that you would want for your own kids and grandkids.
- As a senior adult, walk with Christ and believe His promises more than ever. You have so much history of trusting the Lord and seeing His faithfulness. You have the wisdom that the rest of the church needs in order to more faithfully walk with and serve the Lord.
- Seek to reach as many of your generation as you can so more of your generation can be a part of reaching the next generation. Share the Gospel with those in your generation. Share the vision of reaching the next generation with other Christian senior adults.
- As challenging as this may be, strive to be more concerned with reaching the next generation than you are with preserving a semblance of your own generation in the church. Younger generations talk differently. Rather than expecting them to figure out how to talk your lingo, work on talking with them. Younger generations dress differently. Focus on the heart. The younger generations often like a different kind of music. Celebrate their music and participate with them in worship. Remember that you already are doing so much of this with your own grandkids. Just do the same for the younger generations in your church.
I don’t pretend that I am not already feeling the pains of change with age. I find myself relating more to the 55+ crowd than the 20-somethings. I am certain that there will come a day when I will weep like those in Ezra 3 who wept when they saw the new temple because they had seen the way things used to be done in the former temple. What I will need to remember is what matters most—reaching the next generation for Jesus Christ.
We must make sure than any of our weeping because things are not the same is drowned out by the shouts of joy of the next generation that is seeing the movement of the Lord. I know this will be a challenge, and I will need help. My hope is that this current generation of senior adults will lead the way so that all of us might see the strength and power of God, for His glory in the church and in Jesus Christ.