My wife Faith teaches a college class at Faith Baptist Bible College called Ministering to the Aging. She invited me to speak in her class. It was the first time I wrote down my thoughts on senior adult ministries in the church. Below are my notes. I added some ideas as I spoke that are not included here. I hope this perspective may be helpful.
I had the opportunity to pastor two churches that had specialized ministries to senior adults. One was developing and the other well-established with a full-time pastor overseeing it. As the lead pastor I did not directly oversee this ministry, but definitely had a heart for these people’s spiritual growth. As I look back over the years of ministering to these dear people, I am grateful for their vital role in the church and their personal impact on me. They are some of the most faithful, prayerful, generous, and supportive people I have known.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says that pastors equip the saints for the work of the ministry unto the edifying of the body of Christ. Senior adults are included in the saints that pastors equip, and they are capable of effectively doing work that builds up the body of Christ. These objectives provide guidance for thinking about effective senior adult ministries in the local church.
A.W. Tozer wrote,
O God, let me die rather than to go on day by day living wrong. I do not want to become a careless, fleshly old man. I want to be right so that I can die right! Lord, I do not want my life to be extended if it would mean that I should cease to live right and fail in my mission to glorify you all of my days!4
I find this would be the desire of most of the senior saints in our churches, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. As they often say, “growing old isn’t for sissies.”
First of all, don’t give up! The apostle Paul told us to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Our senior years are that last quarter of the race where the finish line is in sight, and though the strength is waning fast, we must keep looking unto Jesus Who is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). Scripture exalts the worthiness of the senior years, and our generation needs us even if they don’t realize it.
From Faith Pulpit, used with permission.
If you have ever heard someone say, “You just had to have been there,” or, “Hindsight is so much better than foresight,” then you are also hearing what senior saints often think in the church. No one knows how seniors think or feel until they’ve become one, and no one sees from their perspective until they’ve been a senior themselves. I turned 67 this year and only feel that I’m beginning to understand what many of these great saints are saying.
The seniors in our churches were the baby boomers of the post-war years. The Pew Research group says that they are now 28% of evangelical church attendance and make up about one-third of the total population. They also find that boomers don’t consider themselves “old” until at least age 72. On June 1, 2011, it is estimated that 10,000 boomers turned 65, and the trends show they are returning to church faster than other demographic groups. I would say that the percentage of seniors in our fundamental Baptist churches is higher than the national average.