One of the greatest pleasures that I have as a pastor is leading our older saints in accomplishing the mission of the church. It is often assumed that older saints are past their prime and that they do not have much to offer. However, this is simply not true. There may be limits to what they can offer, but I have found three areas of mission engagement that simply get better over time, not worse.
Enlisting seasoned saints in praying for the important work of making disciples is a great use of their efforts. Charles Bridges wrote, “Prayer is one-half of our ministry, and it gives the other half all its power and success.” Every church benefits from the prayer of its people. What church doesn’t need stronger unity, more laborers for the harvest, empowerment from the Holy Spirit and the salvation of their neighbors? You will find that many of your seniors understand the discipline of prayer and simply need to be unleashed to pray.
I read somewhere recently that what many of us are experiencing due to the social distancing COVID-19 guidelines is what many of our older church members experience on a daily basis. Older church members are desperate for fellowship and social interaction. They still have something to share with us. I have seen firsthand the joy it brings to a group of older saints to have younger believers with families in their midst. I know many younger couples who want to share in something bigger than themselves.
Pray for your older saints by name and give them a call to see how they are doing. Get the younger people involved with the older people of your church and keep them together. Although many churches these days seem eager to break into age-specific ministry areas, giving up one’s interests for another’s is the stuff of Christ, not of this world. We need each other. When this ban on social interaction is lifted, I hope we will be more mindful to include our older saints in the rhythms of our lives.
Older saints have wisdom to give about many subjects that interest new disciples, such as: persevering, marriage, suffering, courage, work, rest and other priorities of a disciple. Find ways to include them in regular conversations and to tell their stories. Encourage cross-generational relationships in your church. Honor and learn from this valuable deposit in your congregation.
By engaging in these three areas, seasoned saints bring much to the table regarding the mission of God. As these spaces are leveraged in humility and grace, participating in the mission of God should always be facilitated by the church for every member. We are never spent until our last breath.