I received my first AARP material in the mail six years ago.
I turned 61 years old two days ago. One of my sons says I am fossilized.
I am a senior adult.
Have I noticed any differences in my life at this age? Certainly. I move more slowly. My idea of a mini-marathon is running to the kitchen from the family room. I see things differently. I don’t know if I am wiser, but I certainly have different perspectives.
And I have to admit I view church life differently. In fact, I sometimes scare myself with my rigid attitude. I need to write these words quickly lest I become too comfortable or too complacent.
I have five specific prayers. They are for me. They are for my attitude about my church. They are reminders I will need to review constantly.
- I pray I will not feel entitled because I am a key financial supporter in the church. This attitude means I consider the money my money rather than God’s money. That means I am giving with a begrudging heart.
- I pray I will not say “I’ve done my time” in the church. Ministry through the local church is not doing your time, like serving a prison sentence. It is an outpouring of joy and thanksgiving to God. I love those churches where senior adults are the most represented among the nursery workers. I need to be among them.
- I pray I will not be more enthused about recreational trips than ministry and service. There is nothing wrong about me getting on a bus and going to Branson, Missouri, or Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But there is something wrong when that is my dominant involvement in ministry in the church.
- I pray I will not be more concerned about my preferences than serving others. I’ve already blown it on this one. I did not like the volume of the music in the service at my church a few weeks ago. I complained about it to my wife. And then I was reminded of all the young people in the church that Sunday worshipping and praising God during the music. I was more concerned about my preference than seeing others worship God.
- I pray I will not have a critical spirit. I attended a business meeting of a large church some time ago. The total attendance at the meeting represented fewer than five percent of the worship attendance. One of the men who recognized me approached me before the meeting, “We come together at these business meetings to keep the pastor straight,” he told me. In reality, they came together to criticize the pastor and staff. I pray I will not become a perpetual critic. I don’t want to grow old and cranky; I want to grow old and more sanctified.
Now that I am a senior adult in my own right, I need to make certain I am not a stumbling block or a hindrance to health and growth in my church. I pray my attitude will be like that of Caleb:
“Here I am today, 85 years old . . . Now give me the hill country the Lord promised me on that day . . . Perhaps the Lord will be with me and I will drive them out as the Lord promised” (Joshua14:10-12, HCSB).
May the Lord grant me wisdom and service all the days of my life, including my senior years.
Let me hear from you. I bet I will.
Posted on July 18, 2016
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I see such a paradox in #4. Instead of the older saints being “critical”–from what I’ve seen, they are being ignored altogether. It’s almost seems as if there is no “history” in the church anymore–the latest, newest, and loudest is the only thing that matters.
I long for an intergenerational church again.
I’d love to know more about this! What do you think an inter-generational church looks like?
I agree, Phil. Are the senior adults really being unreasonable when they ask the church to sing a few songs they like? Would it really be so terrible to turn down the volume just a bit? Proponents of contemporary worship keep telling us that “style doesn’t matter” and that “God can be worshiped in more ways than one”. If that’s true, then why so many of them insist on nothing but contemporary music?
The “cheerleaders” for screaming guitars, the “American idol set” and repetition ad naseum only want it “their way.” I remember a “music leader” telling me (more than 20 years ago)…” your generation never knew how to worship.” I had to remind him that “my generation” worshipped long before this fad came on the scene, and that we would worship long AFTER this fad left the scene.
What does “intergenerational worship look like?
I think The Moody Church in Chicago has one of the best models I’ve ever seen. The great hymns of the Church are sung along with some of the newer music–and none of it is ear-splitting, headache-inducing. It is all very majestic, theologically sound, and not embarrassing. It looks and sounds like a church–not a nightclub, bar or theatre.
When Jesus and his disciples sang in the upper room, did the people next door confuse what they heard as a Roman soldiers drinking party? I think not! Styles sell records (downloads), sheet music, and concert tickets. Don’t confuse the music entertainment business with worship. Steve
It seems to me that you have hit upon a very important note here (no pun intended :-): the church must never chose its worship styles based solely on what the people like or are accustomed to. This only breeds conflict when preferences are violated. Rather, there is a sound that is majestic and in keeping with the majestic character of God. Let God chose the worship style and the complaints will disappear. What worship style is “god-chosen?” Contemporary or traditional? Those are the wrong questions to ask; they both focus on what man wants in his worship. But, worship is not about what man wants. Whatever happened to the term “sacred music?” “Sacred” links to the OT concept of holiness. Holiness does not refer primarily to sinlessness (for how could the tabernacle be called sinless; did the Holy Place have any possibility of committing moral transgression and achieving a status of unholiness?) Holiness is uniqueness. If our music is to be sacred, it must be unique. That Holy Place was reserved for the worship of God alone. No one went to that structure to celebrate his kid’s birthday party, and it wasn’t used for family reunions. It was set apart and consecrated for God’s usage alone. Is our holy God worthy of anything less? Why do we insist that our worship must be relevant and contemporary? Does that not reflect the fact that we inherently are disposed to craft our worship around what man desires? If we can get past the idea that worship must fit the needs of a particular age group or culture or must be relevant to attract people and instead determine that our worship will be what God desires (unattached to any of the elements of the music used in secular [not sinful, but secular] environments), worship wars will be over, and the church can worship in unity, 60 and 16 year old’s standing shoulder to shoulder. The problem is too much of what I want. Thus, the question becomes what music is “sacred?” I would suggest that any secular music is out the door because it cannot be labeled “sacred.” If its used at the nightclubs and bars, it is certainly not sacred. And, why do the bars and nightclubs use that music? Do they energize and excite spiritual or immoral passions? What would be the effect on the atmosphere of a bar if all the music were suddenly cut off? The atmosphere would go flat. Does that not make the point that the music used in those venues is designed to excite the passions and lusts associated with those location? So, why use it in the church? My point is certain kinds of music does carry something of the character of the world and its values and desires, and therefore, lyrics alone do not make a song “holy.” When we determine our worship will be holy for our holy God, then a unique sound is called for. That unique sound will not attract those who are consumed with the passions and desires of the world. That’s okay! Because now even the music used in a church requires of people that they turn away from themselves and their own desires and focus their attention upon a holy God and His call to them to be holy themselves. Call me old fashioned and outdated, but I am less than 30 years old.
I am 60 and for 22 years have attempted to have a multi-generational church but in the last 2 years concluded it may be impossible. Through the years we have made changes in music, etc. to keep reaching young couples and most of our senior adults have held in although not always with a sweet attitude. I literally lay awake nights seeking the Lord in what to do because I love our seniors and sympathize with how rapidly the changing church affects them. Still our focus has to be in reaching people and so we continue to preach grace, love people, and hopefully, teach mature saints to sacrifice to reach the next generation. I do have a question. Are we stuck between two styles of worship services in one church or simply writing off a whole generation of young or old by holding to one style of worship?
My preference vs His Presence! Is your church growing? Are people joining the church and being baptized and assimilated into the body life of the church? If so, PTL and be glad that you are a part of an alive congregation. If not, pray for understanding and patience and meet with your leaders.
I still have to ask this: if the younger members insist on nothing but contemporary music, how are they any better than the senior adults that want nothing but hymns?
We are in our 3rd church, and without fail it has been the senior adults who have given us the most trouble in each one: Constant complaints. Gossip. Donating things to the church and then demanding it back if they get mad about something. Holding on to a culture of the past and dragging the church to the grave with them. Openly defending friends and family in their sin. Calling people to attend business meetings to make sure the vote goes “their way”. They want the church “revitalized” back to the 1940’s.
I always thought they were old enough to know better, and should be leading the way as examples of Christian living since they have been Christians for so long. We have seen very few people “finish well”.
Sore spot? You bet.
I am so sorry that you have had such bad experiences in searching for a fellowship that would fill your spiritual needs. At 60 years of age, I identify with the “old folks” but I still think a lot like the younger ones. I see both sides of the issue you talk about. May I suggest a strategy, please?
The problems you are seeing in these older people are all related to the weaknesses we all have in the flesh, and how much we are willing to let go of our flesh and ask God to anoint us with His Spirit, and change our hearts and lives. I find that many times when we see situations like this in a fellowship, it may be based on a variety of reasons, but the foremost reason for all of it, is when people are trying to live their lives to please themselves, rather than sacrificial living for the advancement of the Kingdom. We are all imperfect. We are all weak. We all have our bad days, and unfortunately, many of us older ones have our bad weeks and bad months and bad years, as we suffer through the frustrations of getting older, weaker, and feeling out of touch with those around us. Our frustrations can come out in very negative ways, and it hurts everyone.
I will ask you to do one very important thing, sister. Pray. Pray a lot. Pray for them, and pray for God to instill in you a loving heart that will reach out to them in love and show them true Christlike love and attention. Be the change you are looking for in the fellowship. Lead by example. Smother them with love and see if you can choke out the sin of selfishness in them, and be an inspiration to follow your lead as you show them unqualified love and respect. You can’t change all people with your example, but you might be amazed and blessed to see the good that you can do, and the change that will happen as your heartfelt prayers move mountains in the fellowship. Only God can change hearts. You can plant, someone else can water, but it is God who will make it grow… and I pray that as you get older and start feeling more and more out of touch with the people around you, there will be those who will come alongside you and pray for you, and with you, and show you that you do matter, and you are loved, by God and by them personally… be the change, sister. God will bless your efforts if your heart is pure and your motives are right…
God bless you and your entire fellowship,
In Christlike love,
Thank you! I try hard to be the change and at 63 it’s getting harder. I once asked why no one in the church ever complains to me (I’m the organist and secretary) and I was told that people know I would just tell them to pray about it and get on church council so they could have a say. But no one wants that responsibility, they just want to complain!
Saturday, July 16th, the day before my 81st birthday and during my daily readings, being somewhat concerned about a particular teaching, I made a commitment to the Lord. Maybe this would be an addition to number 5: Proverbs 6:19 – I will not be “…. one who sows discord among the brothers.”
May you be a Caleb among us, Cecil!
#9 – Don’t stake territorial claims in the sanctuary.
“Young man, you’re sitting in MY pew. My husband, who died 15 years ago, and I, were key donators to the sanctuary redecorating committee in 1975, and I’ve sat here ever since.”. (nor had the sanctuary been updated since 1975, mind you, when I was told this about ten years ago)
#6 – Stop asking young people if they are dating someone.
#7 – Stop asking young couples when they are going to have a baby.
My kids hate these questions. They all are off on their own, and when they come home for holidays or to visit, so many seniors in our church ask these questions. It drives them nuts! My oldest daughter will be 32 soon and she is not married or dating anyone. She really hates it when she visits and people ask her if she’s seeing anyone. It’s none of their business and it’s rude to ask!
KathMac, Thank you! I remember when I was told “Don’t worry honey, your prince will come!”, after one of my best friends married. Still to this day, 40+ years, my hackles (sp?) still stand up! I promised myself I will not say that to any young lady, or ask any young man if he has found his princess! The young people then and now have a love of God and we (as Seniors) need to encourage their walk and mission they choose to serve Him.
Thank you KathMac for reminding us God is love and good manners.
I just turned 50. Two years ago I noticed so many young children in our small church and began thinking These kids think I am one of the oldsters of the church (only 3 others were older than I, and I am completely grey!) I realized that for many of them I would be their perspective on old people, and at that time I made a decision. I would think long term, for their sake – so I began praying differently and writing differently. I want to have a ministry to them for many years – and if they know I love them, they will hear me. May the Lord grant me wisdom to match their expectations of a wiser than Solomon!
You are already wise, Dave.
Thank you for your thoughts. I would like to hear your thoughts on 5 things that the church will not do to senior adults.
Yes, I’m most interested in this as well. The “youth of today” are not the “church of tomorrow”…they are the “church of today.” The seniors are not the “church of yesterday”–they are still the “church of today.”
I’d love to see the 5 things the local church will not do to senior adults.
I love the way you put that! Both are the church of today! Yes!
“I’d love to see the 5 things the local church will not do to senior adults.”
So would I. First on my list is, I will not make senior adults feel like they are in the way or unimportant. Frankly, much of contemporary church growth strategy does exactly that.
I am on both sides of this conversation. I am 59 and a pastor. These hit home on both sides. Too bad the emphasis couldn’t be just on seeing people find Christ. Sad that we can’t just come together for that no matter what the age.
Thanks, Dale. I am with you, my friend.
Having been in the ministry since 1977, 16 years as a minister of music and the rest as a pastor to Adults 55+. I have seen it all and been in the midst of it all. I have watched as people have left a church because they could not have their way, could not retain their power, only to go down the street to start another church where the membership is 90% 65+. I have seen some of the best examples of a follower of Christ in this age group as many serve the Lord in delivering meals in our meal delivery ministry, the many who go on our hands on Ministry Opportunities each month, those going on mission trips to Cuba, Japan, local and U.S. and the thousands of dollars the men and women of our church have saved us on labor cost on renovations to our church . Those of whom I had the chance to serve with when we had Senior Adult World Changers, were some of the finest! The list is too long to list all of the ways these seniors have made an impression on my life and the kingdom of God. They are finishing well!!
It really boils down to this and I have been wanting to write a book about it, “My Preference vs His Presence”. I have visited too many churches where peoples preferences have pushed out His presence. It’s just a matter of time before the church closes it’s doors. When we keep our eyes on the Great Commission and giving ourselves away for the cause of Christ; we our preference will be His presence. Thanks so much for your article. Blessings!
Love it! Thanks, Ronnie.
I am 85 years old. I have served both as a pastor and as an Associational Missionary or Director of Missions. I just want to add that not all “old things” are bad and not all “new things” are good. We need to find and hold on to the best in both the old and the new. I don’t recall who said it but I like it: “Be not the first the new to try nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”
“I have watched as people have left a church because they could not have their way”
But when younger members do the same thing, the older members get blamed.
I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I do want to offer another perspective. I feel that #2 and #4 are working against each other in many churches today. Many churches today are doing nothing but contemporary music, and the older people are basically told to suck it up. If they’re being treated like that, why shouldn’t they feel they’ve “done their time”? That’s essentially what they’re being told.
Since I’m too young to be a Baby Boomer and too old to be a millennial, I feel somewhat caught in the middle in this debate.
Are people being saved at your church? Is your church baptizing people on a regular basis? If so, then suck it up for the cause of Christ! Praise God you are a part of an alive church where people are coming to know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This should thrill your 55+ members! There are too many churches where people would love to see God’s presence in their church.
we 50-somethings should never be told that we are irrelevant, and that we aren’t important, and that we “don’t matter.”
And no 50-something should ever tell anyone else that either.
Unfortunately, Ronnie, your reply is pretty much what I expected. Older people are told to “suck it up”, but if younger people are told the same, they get mad and leave. Is that really your idea of Christian love?
All members of the church need to realize that the church is made up of many age groups, personalities and personal preferences. Therefore, no one age group, personality or personal preference should take precedence over another. The church should make every effort to to teach it’s congregation that church life is more than being about me and my needs, but about being about US and OUR needs. One of the first things we are taught as children is the need to learn to share and respect the differences of others.
If leadership is worried that young people will leave the church if we crack a hymnal once in a while; or visa versa with the elderly, then there is not enough teaching taking place on the basics of getting along with other people.
@Hal: Precisely! Thanks for stating it so well!
I’m sorry. I don’t understand. Do you mean to say that when a person does not have their preference served in a particular area that they are then allowed to assume that it means they are no longer being treated as a part of the body at all and thus may give such as their reason/excuse for ceasing to be active in serving?
If you take someone for granted for long enough, or dismiss the needs of someone for long enough they will get the message that they are not important, not wanted, useless.
My wife has worked with the elderly population in nursing homes and hospice for most of the time I have known her. She will confirm all day that it is a basic human need to feel useful and like you matter.
As you age it is natural to feel like the world has passed you by. The body of Christ should actively working to affirm the value of our older brothers and sisters.
Agreed. But, we should take care to not equate our value to a person or group solely with how often or not we get our way.
I would assume that all the discussion about preferences applies to those under age 40, too, yes? If the music does not appeal to the preferences of 20- or 30-somethings, or other aspects of a local church doesn’t appeal to a younger crowd, what comments are directed towards them? Wanting specific styles and/ or preferences are not the sole domain of old people. People of all ages need salvation, but often the assumption is that the YOUTH needs to be targeted by various and sundry means. Are people of ALL ages being saved and baptized and learning to grow in spiritual maturity in a local church? If so, I would say the church is healthy no matter what music or media or methods are employed … or not employed.
It is nice to know you in the bullitin prayer list. But is is much easier to pray than to pick up the phone or visit!
Thus says a grouchy old shutin.
“Do you mean to say that when a person does not have their preference served in a particular area that they are then allowed to assume that it means they are no longer being treated as a part of the body at all and thus may give such as their reason/excuse for ceasing to be active in serving?”
That’s pretty much what I hear from proponents of contemporary worship.
Actually, I serve as pianist in a piano/organ/”song leader” church. The most contemporary song we sing is “In Christ Alone” and it has taken the past three years to incorporate it.
Let me clarify my point. Proponents of contemporary worship often say that worship is not about us, and that we should put aside our worship preferences for the common good. I agree, but if that’s the case, why do so many of them want to do nothing but contemporary worship? The church I serve has a blended style, but that’s still not good enough for some people. How are they any better than the ones who only want to sing hymns?
P.S. to Stephanie: All I’m saying is when you treat people like chopped liver, don’t complain when they act like it.
Thom, I wish that this would be preached from every pulpit, and taught in every Sunday School/Bible Study class with attendees over the age of 40. These are things that I have thought for many years (yes, I have my AARP card, too!), and you did a beautiful job of articulating them for us. May this post bear much sweet fruit.
Thank you for your kind words, Joel.
Guess what Thom, you are an accomplished perpetual critic. I guess if we had churches designated for the young, and another for seniors, your dilemma would be negated. However, you sure would not like it in the senior group, you are far too progressive thinking to be among the lame brain complainers.
I think the pot just attempted to call the kettle black. I was waiting for the first senior to be hyper critical of this article. You win! At least I can read the great attitudes of other seniors in the comments and realize you have a unique place among the cranky and miserable. If you ever consider attending my church, please give me fair warning so I can avoid you at all costs.