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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  • After dealing as a Intentional Interim Or Transitional pastor for 16 years I would like to post an observation about the above blog. First it is a fine line between what people call criticism and hearing people as they share their concerns. These are attitudes of the spirit that can be a pervasive influence that destroys unity and hinders God’s work. yet for many it is also in their minds not being critical but sharing concerns. Be careful and listen closely to all people not just some. Second the person who says he has a different world view than Thom needs to realize that he often come across as ne harshly critical of every post. Not helpful. I t is okay to disagree but the language often used is condemning and unfounded. We all need to watch what we say and how we say it. Third those are statements and attitudes I have heard over and over as I worked in conflicted churches. People talking over each other and not listening to each other with grace and love. Trying to understand why and what there are feeling . Finally I read his posts and have never found a negative spirit in the tone and to be frank with all of you, we need to be very clear about the real problems the church is facing today. Every person is important in the church but not every person is always helpful or supportive in the church. After 37 years of doing ministry in churches large and small it is always the same. We deal with it and move on. By the way this if my first time on a blog.

  • Excellent. A delicate subject but you said it succinctly well. It’s something that needs to be addressed! Thank you.

  • Michael says on

    I know I am a day late to the party but wanted to share my experience as well. I am a “old” millennial (born in 1983). Growing up in small to mid sized SBC churches, I was just the right age to experience the “worship wars” of the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. Us young folk wanted new things, contemporary songs and words projected onto the wall of the church. Some church members liked the idea, some were ambivalent about it, and others were adamantly opposed to it.

    Our church had one particularly outspoken deacon who took every opportunity to knock down even the slightest changes that were proposed. Us younger people who were pushing for changes chalked it up to him being a hateful old man.

    One day the men from our church were putting a roof on an elderly woman’s house in our community. The younger guys like myself were on cleanup duty and carrying materials, in large part because we had no idea what we were doing. I decided that I wanted to know so I went to one of the leaders (the particularly curmudgeonly deacon mentioned above) and asked him to show me how. He spent hours that day with me explaining why this happened and how these pieces needed to be put together. In fact I’m not sure if he drove another nail himself.

    From that day on, he saw me as a co-laborer in the church. If I presented an idea he listened( i was only about 17-18 years old), he wasn’t dismissive of what I said. We became partners in the work of the Kingdom, and we became friends.

    As in most places the changes came eventually, and as they did he and most others embraced them.

    I apologize for the lengthy story, but my point is that those of us who are currently younger should not assume that the older generation is simply stuck in the past or grumpy. Many have labored faithfully for a lifetime and are hesitant to hand over control to what could potentially be the next snake oil salesman. They need to see that we are invested in the kingdom, and that we aren’t simply seeking change for the sake of change or to just fit our own preferences. We should serve along side them and get to know them.

    To the older folks, the responsibility for discipleship of younger generations falls on you. Build relationships with young people, encourage them, show them how to serve.

    As a side note I saw that deacon earlier this year, it had been at least a decade and he was showing the signs of his age. But when he saw me he came over and gave me a bear hug. We talked about what God is doing in our lives and churches and shed a few tears of joy. We both learned important truths through an unlikely friendship, and I am forever thankful to God for opening my eyes through it. Things aren’t always as simple as they seem to be.

    • Jeremy Pinson says on

      Great illustration of leadership! I am also an older millennial, I feel a majority of the time that I have complained about “elders” not wanting to change, I had never spent quality time with them trying to understand their side of the story, or even made them feel like I cared about them as well.

      I dream of the church I will soon take over, becoming a vibrant blended congregation. Thanks for you story.

  • All these issues can be easily avoided when seniors do three things–study scripture, pray, serve. If you are a retiree, you can discover a whole new world of ministry because now you have one great advantage over younger adults–time. My husband and I have learned the tremendous value of availability. I guarantee that praying, studying God’s Word, and being available to serve will grace you with a renewed love for the church.

  • That last one really hit home! My church has nothing almost but older people and one in particular used to have an intolerance with one of my siblings even though he didn’t really do anything wrong. At least, nothing that deserved the tongue lashing that he got from her on a particular matter. My dad pastors the church and we were on vacation and he decided to go and visit with the members of our church before we left for the church we were visiting. He put his feet up on the chair and she got livid with him saying that he shouldn’t do that and that he was the reason no one ever came to our church. I think my dad corrected her in love and she didn’t do that again, but she gave him the evil eye for a while after that.

  • This is all so interesting! Thank you for sharing it and to everyone for the comments. It seems regardless of how we feel, we’re not alone in it.

  • Don Jones says on

    I read an interesting book recently entitled “Generational IQ” by Haydn Shaw and he states that our current generation is the first one to have 5 generations in the church (nursery to 90+). I’m not excited about “targeting” a certain age group. I think we can miss much from that. So, we need to learn how to serve one another in the church family. Hebrews 5 challenges that mature folks ought to be able to be “self-feeders” but are still in need of milk and someone to feed them. Hebrews 10:19-25 instructs us to 1) Draw Near, 2) Hold Fast, 3) “Encourage” one another to love and good deeds. I like the KJV translation better “Provoke” and the original word is even more graphic “irritate.” Too often we put the period after “provoke one another.” (smile). But we are to provoke one another to “love and good deeds” and this occurs within the body of believers by not forsaking meeting together (10:25). So that means that one of the main functions of meeting together (besides worship) is to focus on others and encouraging them in their Christian walk. Come early, stay a little later after the service or “assembly.” I read somewhere recently that there is “too much I in me” which is absolutely true. I’m working on it. Thanks Thom for challenging us.

  • Roger Hitchings says on

    Dear Thom
    Thank you for your post on Senior issues. It is refreshing to see someone addressing these important themes. However why did you make so little use of the vast amount of teaching in the Bible about our later years? There is so much more to say than you even hinted at. Think about Psalm 71:18, Psalm 92:14-15, Ecclesiastes 7:10 – in a recent series of talks I quoted over 50 passages. I estimate that the Bible has more to say about aging than it has to say about being young! But that suggestion does not suit the prevailing culture in society as well as in the church.

    Incidentally I am writing from England where failure to give credence to the wide teaching on age is a major weakness in the church.

    In Christ


  • As a former pastor’s wife, could I also ask that you refrain from saying anything critical about “young people”? Because I can tell you that hearing about how “young people can’t cook/sing/parent/read music/whatever” really turned me off from attending my husband’s parish when I was a “young person” doing all of things well.

  • Paul Hughey says on

    Awesome points, here’s my twist on something that in fact hit home with me in our new congregation.
    6. I pray that I will serve in humility. As part of the senior minority in our church one of the hardest adjustments is just fitting in. It can’t be about me, it’s all about helping these young generations come to Jesus. Just a glance around sees that happening. So I must pray diligently for the church and the lost and pray for opportunities to serve especially in ways that younger folks might not even consider. Everyone matters.

  • Heartspeak says on

    While I understand that some of these behaviours are exhibited by ‘older’ people. The issue for me is not one of age but of grasping what it is that we’re a part of–His Church.

    1) Misunderstanding the concept of stewardship is ageless. Anyone giving money to a local Body can be subject to this failing.

    2) Serving in the local church should be a matter of being able to answer.. “What has God gifted, equipped and called me to do. There is no ‘retirement’ in God’s economy. What we do and how often may change but we don’t get to opt out.

    3) This is the sign of pridefulness (i.e. “I” don’t play, “I” serve God!) or conversely, “If you’re having fun, you can’t be spiritual”. Totally distracting. (see the question in #2)

    4) We CAN and SHOULD have preferences, we were given a mind to think and the ability to make choices. But when we forget to ask the question in #2, well… it does kind of become ‘all about us’

    5) The whole ‘critical spirit’ argument/fear/accusation is another concept that is allowed far too much ‘air time’. For control freaks, it’s a convenient weapon to control others that is used far too often and to the detriment of the Kingdom. If you’re able to– wait for it, answer that question in #2, you won’t much worry about actually having a critical spirit.

    Again, these aren’t ‘age issues’, they are maturity issues and being old is not the same as being mature…. just sayin’

  • Rhoda Royce says on

    One question: Where is the list for what younger persons in the church should do and not do?

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