I now want to speak to church leaders. One of your primary responsibilities is to present every one of your members ‘mature in Christ’ (Col 1:28) – a life-long process that does not end at ‘retirement’! It includes helping them to reach their full potential and bring their gifting to the benefit of the community. When we were chosen from before the foundation of the world it was to walk in the good works God has prepared for us to walk in (Eph 2:10) and that never stops this side of the grave.
This series has particularly addressed those who are typically retired – I feel I am qualified to do so! But in using the expression ‘mobilising older people’ I am not speaking of walking frames. What I am talking about is how to provide a framework in which older people can contribute to the health and life of others within the context of the church. Each member, regardless of age, needs to be fully integrated and fulfilled in the community of the church. How can you achieve this?
Not just the retired people
By ‘older’ I think you should probably think of anyone above 50 yrs old. Many churches focus on the younger members, reflecting the fact that many leadership teams are now ‘younger’, having taken over from the pioneers and original church planters. But you probably have men and women in your church communities who have contributed much to the church over the last 10-30 years but now feel they are being by-passed in favour of younger people. I know this is true – I have observed and spoken to some in this category. However, I suspect you are at a loss to know how to mobilise them.
Are they a pain?
Older people do have the potential to be a pain! Sometimes they are judgmental or complaining – ‘we didn’t do it like that in our day’. It is not easy to handle such negativity. Yet I urge you to look beyond that attitude (maybe you should address it – they are still part of your pastoral responsibility) and see that the older generation represents a rich seam of wisdom and experience that may well be worth mining. Some have a lot of time available and any negative reaction may simple be out of frustration or a sense of rejection that what they have to offer is not being recognised.
Probably the most difficult people to handle are those who have been in church leadership. They have ‘been there, done that and got the T-shirt’! But if you can see life through their eyes they have indeed ‘been there’. Try to understand that to have little purpose or responsibility now is not easy to handle.
I urge you to sit down with them and discuss how they would like to be involved and included. You have an opportunity to release mature energy into your church – maybe some who could even relieve you of some of your diary-clogging activities.
Next time I will give you some specific ideas of how to achieve this.