The visionary minds among us often contemplate the best way to reach the next generation. This is certainly a valid concern and a worthy goal. As a matter of fact, here at AssemblyHUB we’ve written on this specific topic numerous times and have every intention to continue to write about and for the youth.
But, the longer I live, and the more grey hairs I accrue, the more I’ve come to realize that we need to reach far more than just one age demographic in our churches.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.1 Corinthians 12:12 (ESV)
Every age bracket: young people, newly married, families, middle-aged, and (maybe as…) old as the hills, has it’s own challenges. Some challenges transcend all generations. Some are specific to a particular life season.
As we’ve already spent some ink on the youth, I’d like to take an article or two and focus on some ways that we can minister to the young families and older saints in our local churches. Middle-agers…you may be on your own.
You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of the old man, and you shall fear your God. I am the LORD.Leviticus 19:32 (ESV)
I feel unqualified to speak to this subject. After all, I’m not old. I’m technically not yet even middle-aged. I’ve not been in this life stage. Is whatever I have to say on this subject simply conjecture?
But, I have been blessed to live near and visit Rest Haven Homes almost my entire life. And I have had the privilege to interact with many older saints. Maybe I could have something pertinent to impart.
My cheeky 8 year old occasionally asks me if they had phones and cars when I was a girl. But, in all seriousness, as I ponder the changes of the 20th and 21st century, our world certainly looks vastly different than the world those currently in their 80s or 90s would have been born into.
From the early 1930s on:
- We’ve progressed from cars to airplanes to space travel and exploration.
- We’ve advanced from radios to televisions to room-sized computers to handheld personal devices.
- Party-lines to not party-lines to cellular phones.
- Music has run the gauntlet from jazz to motown to rock and roll, to rap, to heavy metal to disco. (and that list goes on)
- Endless wars have been fought…WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Bosnian War, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Skirts have shortened, then lengthened, then shortened again; jeans have gotten belled then skinnied, hitting every width in-between.
- Political, religious, and cultural icons and trends have come and gone.
Transient would be a good word to describe the last century. Older saints have lived through, survived, and even thrived through this transient upheaval. Yet they themselves are far less transient.
And we must keep that in mind as we interact with them. They’ve seen and experienced so many changes, yet their God is still the same. His Word is still the same. And invariably, people are still the same. Human nature is still the same.
Though many things have been forgotten in the intervening years, God has not forgotten or forsaken them. They are still so very relevant to the body of Christ! How could they not be? And shame on us if we’ve ever intimated the irrelevance of the older set!
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.1 Corinthians 12:21-25 (ESV)
Gratitude. Interest. Engagement. Respect. That’s what older generations deserve from those of us who are younger. No if’s, and’s or but’s.
3 needs, 1 answer
As a person ages, their body breaks down. The eyes, ears, knees, heart, memory and everything else, doesn’t work the way it used to. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)
The older you get, the more people you have in your great cloud of witnesses than you have hanging around with you on earth. Friends, spouses, siblings, and even children, have all proceeded you in death.
Loneliness. Irrelevance. Incapacity.
Three major needs that can be addressed with one effective practice…
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.James 1:27 (ESV)
- Time visit for when is most convenient for them, not you.
- Focus on the inner man, not physical appearance.
- Set tone of visit with a warm greeting.
- Speak more slowly and louder than you’d usually speak.
- Use springboard phrases: What did you do when you were young? Listen to their stories. (marriage, kids, salvation story)
- Generally, brief is better. Don’t settle in for hours and hours.
- Sing hymns and read scripture with/to them.
- Remember: it’s not about you. This is an act of kindness that can’t be repaid
Bonus idea: one of my favorite things to do for independently living older singles and couples is to make a little more of whatever I’m cooking for dinner, and bring it to them. It’s no skin off my back, and they are delighted. #MeatloafForTheMasses
The older generation’s concerns, life’s work and wisdom is consequential! It is a treasure trove that we should be loathe to overlook. We disregard them to our detriment.
This is not an exhaustive list of ideas. Not by any means. I focused on visitation. But, hospitality is also crucial. Invite those who still get out and about into your home for every day and for holidays. Driving to appointments is another necessary ministry.
How do you minister to the older people in your local church?
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.