Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in the Church

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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  • Great post Dr. Rainer. I feel many churches do a disservice to our senior saints by relegating them to someone we entertain and pacify rather than challenge and encourage to strive to leave the legacy the Kingdom deserves by making whatever sacrifices necessary to reach those who aren’t being reached, especially in the generations following them. The seniors have so much to offer by their experiences and examples of godly lives. Church members in general have been allowed to develop a sense of entitlement that stifles their mission. We need bold leadership that brings change for God’s glory and for the Kingdom’s sake. For the record I am 55 and proudly accept all offers of discount coffee!

  • Suzanne says on

    The concept of “retirement” (as promoted by the AARP) does not seem to be a Biblical one. While Scripture speaks about Sabbath rest, there’s nothing to suggest that ceasing work entirely at a certain age, to engage only in recreation, is what God wants for us.

    Indeed, the “ideal American retirement” (as romanticized by any erectile-dysfunction medication TV ad) is a relatively new thing in America. Only perhaps 40 years ago, did two things make it possible: medical care allowed people to live longer, particularly white-collar workers who had not broken their bodies from 40 years doing mining or farming; and workers enjoyed the benefit of well-funded corporate or public pensions. Since people continue to live longer but private and public pension funds are insolvent, it likely that Gen X and younger will need to work well into their 70s, health permitting.

    Although most Americans (not just seniors) are tempted with hoarding the material for comfort and entertainment, some of the attitudes Thom speaks to seem to reflect this unhealthy preoccupation with retirement, particularly #2 and #3. While it may be normative to “put the old guys out to pasture” beyond a certain age in the corporate world, we are not horses. We are humans made in God’s image to do His work.

  • 6) I pray that I aways find myself coming back to the foot of the cross (often) each day , thanking God for my salvation and blessings that only comes through his son Jesus.

  • Paula Smith says on

    First, let me say how much I enjoyed reading “Who Moved My Pulpit?” My husband and I have had great discussions about the content. We have decided we want to be part of the eager coalition. Statements #3, #4, and #5 are issues in our church. We do not choose to go on bus trips. We are not against them, just not interested. A few months ago I decided to do a little math. By multiplying the number of people traveling times the cost, the total amount was over $17,000 for 3 days and 2 nights. People have a right to spend their money as they see fit and it is none of my business but I still haven’t quite recovered from my findings.

  • Late to the party…I would add, “I will refuse to spend my conversational time complaining chiefly about my latest ailment or embarrassing procedure.” At age 58 I’m finding that to be the theme of my conversation fart too often even though I always said I’ll never do that! #aginggracefullyainteasy

  • A great article, but needs to be countered with its companion article titled “Five things I will NOT do as a young adult Christian in the church”.

    One that I can specifically think off hand is:
    I will not come to church and sit on my hands and do absolutely nothing forcing the seniors in the church to do all the work due to my lack of action.
    Some of the lamest excuses I have ever heard to not serve in the church comes from young adults these days that have kids. Such as, “We don’t want to serve in youth group programs or the nursery because our time at church is our only time away from our kids”. Or, “I don’t want to do that because it’s not my ministry”. Evidently for many that say the later, doing nothing in the church must be their ministry, because they do absolutely nothing.

  • I am not quite 60 but AARP targeted me a few years ago! I’m in a large city church with a well-known pastor and I love how my church staff handles #4. Instead of dropping the orchestra and choir in favor of contemporary praise and worship band only, our music staff leads us in a blended worship style. Our church is multi-ethnic and we enjoy a variety of music styles. We sing many choruses and songs currently heard on Christian radio, but also majestic hymns that inspired greater faith and devotion to Christ for generations. I’m glad that our younger people aren’t missing out on all those classic hymns and spirituals, and I am just as happy to sing and enjoy our (theologically-sound) contemporary praise songs. We get the best of both worlds, with no separation of worshipers by age. The older I get, the more I love my church.

    • That’s the kind of music worship I like…blended…something for everyone. Why do some people think it has to be all one way or the other, contemporary or traditional? How about having a balance of choruses and hymns, along with a variety of instruments. To me, the banishing of the organ in many churches, a lovely instrument, is a sad thing. Also, the elimination of choirs robs many singers of their opportunity to use their God-given talent to help lead in worship, a calling now often denied them. (Obviously, I’m not talking about smaller churches who don’t have enough singers to constitute a choir.) I’m of the opinion that the more people we have involved in leading worship as well as in the other functions of the church, the healthier the church will be. If we want more nursery workers, teachers, and other workers, why not expand the opportunities to serve through music? I see many churches tending toward cutting out participation in worship leadership and narrowing it down to a select few. That is a tremendous waste of talent and leadership. In my experience, some of the most faithful to serve in other capacities were often those who also sang in the choir…hence the phrase…”preaching to the choir”! Some of the younger, newer worship leaders don’t want the responsibility of working with a choir because it’s harder than working with a select small group who are perhaps more polished singers. I mean, what school teacher wouldn’t prefer working with a group of ten “gifted” students rather than a classroom of thirty kids with varying performance levels? But it should go beyond the leader’s preference or comfort zone. Congregations are expected to be flexible in their preferences. I think worship leaders would do well to be flexible, as well. And I know some great ones who are indeed “others” minded!

  • Comment sections are so…so…. Painful.

  • Robert Buchanan says on

    Great article — great prayer direction. I pray that I won’t ever say, “What’s wrong with this generation?” I pray that I will trust God for the next generation and the one following!

  • Gail Phillips says on

    Oh, my toes. I would just like to add- Listen. At 69 I still have so much growing to do.

  • Barbara Mr. Nutt says on

    I also regret hearing the phrase “I’ve done my time”. It sounds so uncaring. I also think it is often misunderstood. Rather than say, “my knees won’t allow me to get up out of those little chairs in the preschool room” and “my lung capacity doesn’t allow me to sing those little teaching songs much less parade around for fun teaching tools”, and/or “my patience seem to have disappeared when dealing with inappropriate behavior”, that over used phrase pops out of our mouth. The list of reasons is much longer ( I got that precious little baby half in the new swing and couldn’t get him out or in—so glad I wasn’t alone that morning. 😉 Those gadgets don’t work like they used to.) but the point is, even after seeking in our heart to see if God is asking us to volunteer, a feeling of being judged creeps in or is given to us in the way of announcements saying we need you to be a teacher or preached as a sin, and builds a wedge in between the generations. You likely cannot see the issue that keeps me/us out of a classroom but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. The phrase indicates we want you to know we did serve while we were able and called. Are there some refusing to serve based on selfish reasons? Oh yes there are, but not everyone who uses that phrase is missing God’s best plan of using their abilities.

    May I say too that we also have dealt with the music issues between the generations. Knowing my younger families and friends would much more likely be reached with the “new” music, I tried to be very quiet about how much I missed our hymns. However, now that we have a traditional service I find my heart singing along in a worshipful way with those old hymns. I was so surprised how I remember God’s faithfulness in a beautiful way as hymns are played and sung. I’m so glad that in this season we offer both.

    Another observation as I sit with some of these aged Christians is learning of the service they offer at their current age. None involve an elected position in the church, neither do they advertise their service but humbly provide meals, accompany to doctors, provide transportation to appointments and church services, giving an old car to someone in need, walk with a dear sister all the way to death’s door and minister to the out of state children when they come, call regularly to encourage, and pray with fervor. I’ve been awed and convicted of a judgmental attitude after learning of some sacrifices made by these dear saints.

    I wouldn’t try to deny the reality of all five items on your senior prayer list and that they are rampant in churches, but as I progress in the generation addressed, I see the another side more and more clearly.

    • WarmSocks says on

      I agree. I started teaching Sunday school when I was 16. Everywhere I’ve moved, I’ve taught — children, teens, adults. I love teaching.

      However, in my 40’s received a medical diagnosis that requires me to take immunosuppressant drugs. We moved, and I was asked to work in the church nursery. I agreed as long as sick babies were not allowed into the nursery, and they said that of course people would keep their sick babies at home. Not true, and the very first day I worked, the pastor’s daughter came and brought her sick baby, and I was the bad guy for insisting that children who are sick could not be in there (and shortly after that, the pastor’s wife came and told us that the baby wasn’t that sick and must be kept in the nursery). The baby might have recovered in a few days, but it took me much longer with my compromised immune system. I would be there one week, then sick for two, back for a week or two, and then sick again. The pastors decided that it would be okay to have sick babies in the nursery after all, and they’d rather have me teach 5-6th graders. It was only a couple months before a nurse brought her sick 6th grader to church, and that child sneezed in my face (complete with wet droplets). I had to quit teaching completely. I look healthy, and don’t believe I should have to give my medical history to anyone/everyone to justify why I’m no longer teaching. I’m not (just) old and grumpy. There are all sorts of physical reason that people might stop teaching.

    • Phil Hoover says on

      The most faithful people I know are the “seniors” in the congregation…And these people MUST not–to our peril, if it happens–ever be ignored, marginalized, or sidelined.

      What we have failed to communicate to the “younger generations” is the fact they have HUGE, STRONG, ENDURING shoulders to stand upon. The “saints” ahead of them have paved the way–selling chicken dinners to meet mortgage payments, cleaning the church (before we could hire maintenance staff), visiting the sick and other people–so the pastor wouldn’t have to do it all, and many of them took second mortgages on their own homes so the local congregation would have a sanctuary, gymnasium, and other facilities. These things did not, repeat, did not happen by themselves.

      Does this “entitle” the older saints to be “church bosses”? No, and it never should.
      But the only thing worse than the “older saints” being the “church boss” is for the “younger saints” to assume that devious role.

  • jackie kay says on

    I am a 64 year old woman – my church is small – we only have about six women who come to our SS class on a regular basis – I guess the one thing I can say about all of us – we are very complacent where we are; not wanting to move on – i.e. – don’t want to be promoted to that last ladies SS class (that is the one just before the graveyard)! I think that is a common feeling in all churches! I guess our attitude should really be “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. I really like your points and agree with them all.

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