The Value of Senior Adults in Your Church

I’m one of those Baby Boomers who is kicking and screaming as the senior adult years loom in front of me. I’m too young to be this old! I still like hanging out with teenagers. I will probably die doing something stupid, and at my memorial service someone will ask, “Why did he think he could do that at his age?”

In spite of my feelings about being a senior adult, I’ve always liked hanging out with senior adults. During my student ministry days, I thought that if I ever graduated from student ministry (“When are you going to get a real job?”), I’d go into senior adult ministry. The two groups are a lot alike. You take both groups on trips. You plan a lot of meals and events for them. Both groups date!

Apparently, I’ve hung out so much with my senior adult friends that I’m starting to look like them. That’s what someone said, but I don’t believe them. The only grey I have is in my beard (which is why I no longer sport facial hair).

I’ve always been an advocate for seniors. I love their experience and the wisdom that comes from that experience. I love the stories they tell. And they still have much to give to the church.

Too many people hit their retirement years, and they also retire from serving in the church. “I’ve served my time; it’s time for the younger adults to step up.” If that sentiment describes you, let me offer an alternative:

Help the younger generation step up. Mentor them. Serve alongside them and let them learn from you. Teach a class together. Serve on a ministry project together. As we age, we need to realistically evaluate our capacity to do things, and maybe you can’t do everything you used to do. But service takes many forms. Partner with someone younger; they can do the heavy lifting, but your presence, encouragement, wisdom, and counsel are invaluable.

Just remember: Moses’s’ ministry started when he was 80. And during his years of leading the Israelites, he was mentoring Joshua, the younger generation, to take over.

One man in the Old Testament catches my attention every time I read through 2 Samuel. His name is Barzillai. We don’t meet Barzillai until he was 80 years old, but when David was fleeing the revolt instigated by his son, Absalom, Barzillai stepped up to help and support David. He likely served as David’s host while David was staying east of the Jordan River (2 Sam. 17:27-29).

When the revolt was over, David wanted Barzillai to come to Jerusalem with him. Barzillai knew his limits, and he said no—but not before recommending someone to go in his place (19:31-39). Barzillai served as he could, knew his limits, and was a champion for someone else to step up and serve.

That’s the kind of senior adult I want to be: serve where I can, know my limits, and be a champion for others to step up and serve. I’ll do that—if I ever admit to being a senior adult. Until then, I’m ready for a game of Capture the Flag and see how many marshmallows I can cram in my mouth.

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