Part of what makes the church so glorious is the fact that, at her best, she brings people together. Rich and poor. Haves and have-nots. Men and women. Black and white. And, young and old. The church suffers when it is homogeneous. She flourishes when she is diverse.
Each of the generations needs the other generations. And each generation has a vital role to play.
Today, we’ll talk about midlifers, men and women roughly between the ages of 30 and 50.
I’m a midlifer. What’s my role?
A lot happens between age 30 and 50. In that span, a majority find themselves consumed with the responsibilities of raising a family, building a career, and setting themselves up for a secure future.
So, when you’re in the midst of the meaningful middle of your life, what is your role in the church? Here’s what I’m experiencing and what I’d say to a peer who is asking this question.
Nurture your family
Your mission begins at home. Remember, you are the church; church isn’t just a place you go. So, in addition to the place where your family happens to worship on Sundays, your sanctuary is your house, the ball fields, and the minivan.
As a midlifer, your primary role is to build a faithful marriage that honors God and to shepherd the heart of your children. This is the most important ministry role you will ever be called to fill. During your 30s and 40s, this is your primary calling. Give it your best, relying on God for the strength and commitment it takes as well as for the results only he can produce.
Integrate faith and work
If you are just leaving the starting blocks in your career during your 20s, you accelerate and hit your stride during your 30s and 40s.
Sometimes, the word ambition gets a bad reputation among Christians. However, one of the primary ways you can glorify God—whether you’re a teacher, politician, stay-at-home mom, assembly line worker, designer, web developer, minister, or attorney—is to dedicate yourself to being the best worker you can be. Strive to master your craft and to accept opportunities to advance.
But, this is the qualifier: Integrate your faith into your work. It doesn’t matter if you climb to the top of the organizational chart if you had to discard your character to do so. Don’t succeed by stepping on others. Rather, honor God by treating people fairly, by being a light in your workplace, by acting in faith, and by cultivating a heart of gratitude.
Pinpoint your passion
By this phase of life, you should have a good idea of how God has gifted you to serve his church and you should have a feel for the identity of your passions. Leverage those gifts and passions for the good of your local congregation and community.
How do you choose the right roles, roles that won’t hamstring your ability to minister in your home and your workplace?
This is what I say to people who struggle with this balance. First, find one area where your church needs help, roll up your sleeves, and get involved. Greet guests, pass communion trays, rock babies in the nursery, or drive a van. Find a role and jump in. Second, find an area that corresponds to your gifts and passions, and commit to playing a key role. Can you design and code a website? Join the church communications team. Are you skilled at working with kids, become a Sunday school teacher. Are you hospitable? Host a small group in your home.
Find an area where there’s a need, and participate. Find an area where you can apply your gifts and passions, and lead.
Expand your influence
As a midlifer, you may still feel some residual frustration from when you were in your 20s and you wanted to lead so badly. In your 30s and 40s, you’re still a little too young for a prime leadership position. However, you are experienced enough for bigger and weightier challenges.
This can be an exciting period of growing responsibility. You’ll probably be asked to serve on a task force or to help create a ministry plan. You may find yourself leading a small group or mentoring a high school student. People who are younger in the faith may begin looking to you for answers to questions that are nagging them.
Don’t be afraid to step out. Determine to be a good steward of these opportunities knowing that those who are faithful with small things will be faithful with larger ones in the future.
Avoid common pitfalls
Determine now that you won’t allow yourself to fall into some of the traps in which many midlifers have found themselves.
Busyness and distractions will swallow you up if you’re not careful. Between work, family time, maintaining a house, the demands of extended family, the kids’ extracurricular activities, and fifteen hours of homework a night, this era of life can seem like a giant black hole into which you’re throwing all of your time, money, and attention. Become an expert at saying “no” to lesser things so can focus on the most important things.
Many of the struggles of this phase of life can be attributed to one thing: priority imbalance. If your priorities aren’t solid, you’re going to drift. “Just a few more hours at the office.” “We can afford the bigger house.” “Another Sunday at the lake is OK.” Before long, the priorities you should pursue are on the back burner and lesser things have taken their place. Keep first things first.
Life can be difficult. Don’t settle for self-reliance and miss out on the joy of participating in Christian community. You need others in your life who can share life’s ups and downs with you, help you parent your kids, challenge you to grow, point out blind spots, and celebrate great times. Don’t attempt to go it alone.
If you’ll focus upon nurturing your family, integrating your faith and work, pinpointing your passion, and expanding your influence as a midlifer, you’ll make an impact on the church and position yourself for greater influence in the future.