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 she 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 empty nesters, men and women roughly between the ages of 50 and 65.
I’m a empty nester. What’s my role?
The years after raising your family, but before retirement and senior adulthood, can be an extremely fruitful period of life. If you’re building in your young adulthood, and growing during the middle of your life, the empty nester phase ought to be a period of profound influence, depth of character, and great productivity in all areas of life.
So, what type of role can you play in the church during this sweet season of life? Here’s what I would say to an empty nester friend if he were to ask me this question.
Maintain your moral authority
If you’ve followed Christ faithfully throughout the tumultuous years of young adulthood and midlife, you have established a strong moral foundation upon which to lead in a much more powerful way than would have been possible earlier in your life. Be sure to continue deepening your walk with Christ. Continue to obey him and run from temptation that would lead to sin.
It has taken a lifetime of wise, God-honoring choices to get to this point; it only takes one sinful or selfish choice to compromise your moral authority and to derail much of what God might do through you in this phase of life. Maintain your moral authority for God’s sake, for your soul’s health, and for the good of all of the people who are looking to you to remain faithful.
Leverage your influence
You’ve built a career. You’ve raised a family. You’ve had time to experience a variety of life’s highest highs and lowest lows. You’ve remained faithful to Christ. And, because of all you’ve experienced, you’ve amassed a huge amount of wisdom, patience, discernment, knowledge, skill, and influence.
Use all of this experience—and the credibility that you have earned—to influence those around you for Christ. Get involved in peoples’ lives. Step out in faith and take on roles of greater responsibility and accountability like leading a ministry team, teaching a class, or serving as an elder. The church needs what you have to offer if it is going to impact the world around it. Be a part of helping it thrive.
The leaders who are most effective are the men and women who have made a conscious choice to continue expanding their horizons even during their empty-nest years.
There’s never a point in life where it’s appropriate to close up shop in this area. Sure, you’ve learned a lot throughout your life, but there’s still more to learn. And, as you fulfill your hunger for knowledge and insight by continuing to seek out and consume more great information, you’ll find that you remain sharp, fresh, and relevant, primed for any new opportunity that comes your way, and able to instill a passion for learning in others.
Find someone to mentor
It’s your responsibility to pass on what you’ve learned to younger people who can learn to do what you do.
Know this: there are young men and women all around you who are chomping at the bit to do something great for the church. They have all the passion you had when you were young but they lack the experience you’ve amassed. If a young adult or midlifer approaches you, be willing to share what you have by establishing a mentoring relationship. If you’re not being approached, that doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Pray about it. Watch for a young person with potential to come into your life. Then, be bold enough to approach him, tell him you see potential, and offer to do what you can to invest in him in a short-term or long-term mentoring relationship.
Avoid common pitfalls
Whatever you do, don’t use this season of your life as an excuse to take a back-row seat in the church. Too often, I’ve heard empty nesters say (or insinuate) that now that the kids are out of the house their job is done. Don’t tap out. You’ll miss out on your opportunity to influence the church profoundly.
If you’ve chosen to fully embrace this productive season of leadership and moral authority in the church, don’t fail to plan for transition. Too many leaders get so wrapped up in the activity that accompanies their position or influence that they neglect to equip and train younger people to do what they do. Don’t permit a gap in the leadership continuum in the church. While you’re working in the ministry of the church, commit to working on the ministry of the church by preparing the next generation to take your place.
If you’ll focus on maintaining your moral authority, leveraging your influence, continuing to learn, and mentoring younger leaders, your empty-nest years will be among the most significant of your life. You’ll honor God by continuing to make his church stronger, deeper, and better. And, you’ll profoundly influence the people around you for the good of God’s Kingdom.