Generations: Senior Adults

generations

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 senior adults, men and women who are 65 and older.

I’m a senior adult. What’s my role?

In our culture, for a multitude of reasons, we don’t place a heavy emphasis on honoring the aged. Maybe we consider ourselves to be too busy doing things that are too important to allow us to slow down and hear older, wiser voices. The Bible never marginalizes the people that our culture tends to pass by. This is especially the case with senior adults. The Bible advises us to hear the wisdom of the aged, to learn from their experience, and to honor them in our attitudes and actions. If you’re a senior adult, you have blessings to share with the younger generations.

So, what type of role can you play in the church during this season of life? Here’s what I would say to a senior adult friend if she were to ask me this question.

Share your wisdom

Wisdom comes from the benefit of hindsight. As an elderly saint, you have more life behind you than younger generations of men and women. Lovingly, consistently, and gently share your wisdom. Tell stories. Talk about how and why you can relate to the situations your younger friends are experiencing. Be candid about what you did right as well as how you messed up without failing to demonstrate how God doesn’t waste any experience as he transforms hearts and minds. Sure, on occasion, people may be tempted to write off your words. But, as long as you’re sharing with the right spirit and intentions, you can trust God to tend to the seeds you’re planting.

You have learned too much to bottle it up. Share.

Pray continually

An elderly Christian woman owned our house before we bought it. And, according to our neighbors, in addition to regularly blessing them with homemade cinnamon rolls, she would sit in the living room and pray for all the kids (and their parents) as she watched them play in the cul de sac. When we moved into the house, although she had passed, we could sense her legacy in our house and in the lives of our new neighbors.

There is nothing more powerful you can do for the people in your life than to pray for them. And, your prayers—seasoned by the wisdom and faith accumulated from years of faithfulness—will be extremely powerful and effective at influencing their lives for Christ.

Encourage and bless liberally

Remember how stressful life was when you were cultivating your marriage, raising kids, and building a career? On a daily basis, you’re surrounded by people who are sprinting through life. They’re experiencing great victories and defeats regularly. And, since you’ve been there, you have the potential to be a huge blessing and encouragement to them.

Never underestimate the power of a encouraging greeting card, a plate of cookies, a hug, or a friendly comment. Watch people closely. And, when you see an opportunity to encourage or bless someone with a word or an act of kindness, be sure to follow through.

Avoid common pitfalls

Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of isolation, believing that you have nothing to offer or that your presence wouldn’t be welcomed. Carve out a community of peers with whom you can enjoy closeness and be sure to locate younger individuals to spend time with as well.

Sure, by the time you’re a senior adult, there will be a number of things that just didn’t work out the way you had planned. Granted, the world seems as if it’s more chaotic, violent, and ungodly than ever. But, refuse to let bitterness take root in your heart. Remain hopeful, trusting that God is still on his throne and that he is working all things out for the good of those who love him.

Finally, understand that the world is changing. And, because change is happening, young and godly men and women are doing the best they can to make necessary changes to help the church remain healthy, to continue growing, and to be full of love. Resist the urge to demonstrate inflexibility and rigidity. Rather, continue to provide your strength and wisdom while remaining open and affirming of change.

If you’ll focus, in your senior adult years, on lovingly sharing wisdom, praying continually, and blessing and encouraging liberally, you’ll find that God will continue to use you to make an impact upon the church, filling you with joy, hope, and peace in the process.


Other posts in this series: Series Intro, Young Adults, Midlifers, Empty Nesters

Generations: Empty Nesters

generations

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.

Keep learning

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.


Other posts in this series: Series Intro, Young Adults, MidlifersSenior Adults

Generations: Midlifers

generations

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.


Other posts in this series: Series Intro, Young AdultsEmpty Nesters, Senior Adults

Generations: Young Adults

generations

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. It flourishes when it is diverse.

Each of the generations needs the other generations. And each generation has a vital role to play.

Today, we’ll talk about young adults, men and women roughly between the ages of 18 and 30.

I’m a young adult. What’s my role?

Life changes happen in rapid-fire succession when you’re in the 18-30 age range. It can be an exhilarating—if not dizzying—season of life.

And, in the midst of all that change, young adults who want to play a role in the church may have difficulty figuring out exactly what they have to offer and what they can contribute.

Here’s what I’d say to my young adult friends who are searching for their place in the church.

Grow in faith and character

There are ample opportunities to form solid faith and to deepen your character during the transitional years of young adulthood. Paul’s advice to Timothy seems appropriate here: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity,” ([biblegateway passage=”1 Timothy 4:12″]).

The steps you take to grow, the latitude you give the Spirit to work, and the habits that you instill during this period of life will lead to a harvest of righteousness down the road. And, in your pursuit of Christ’s heart, you’ll set an example for all of the believers around you, no matter what generation they belong to.

Discover and refine your gifts and skills

God gives all of his followers great gifts, talents, skills, and abilities that can be used to benefit the church.

Determine, throughout your 20s, to be a collector of experiences. If there’s an opportunity to do something new, go for it! Participate in a mission trip. Lead a small group. Serve as a youth sponsor. Start a Bible study at your office. Volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity project. Collect as many experiences as you can. And, take great notes. Think about what you truly enjoy and figure out why. Find common themes. Look for fruit. And, keep careful track of what God is saying to you during each experience.

As you get a clear picture of your gifts, pick a couple and begin refining them. Study. Talk to other believers. And, put your gifts into practice. As you do, you’ll find out how God will likely use you in the decades to come.

Find a mentor

Most of the older people who have much to give aren’t necessarily looking for someone with whom to share their accumulated wisdom. It may be because they’re humble. Maybe they’ve never mentored anyone before. Maybe they just need to be asked.

Find an older man or woman with the qualities that you’d like to emulate and ask if they’d be willing to meet with you a couple of times to let you ask questions. It might be awkward at first. But, if you establish trust, demonstrate your openness and sincerity, and be persistent, you’re likely to find a treasure trove of wisdom. And, don’t limit your mentoring relationship to just one person. Find a married couple with a strong bond. Find a person in your profession. Sit and talk to an elderly saint after church.

You might be surprised what you learn and you’ll benefit from each encounter.

Be patient

You want to charge the gates of hell with a squirt bottle. You have ambitions for the church. You see opportunities for the gospel. And you wonder why it takes so long to get anything done and why everyone doesn’t see what you see.

This is difficult to realize when you’re in your 20s and you are chomping at the bit to make a real and lasting impression in your local congregation: you’re just getting started. If you’re willing to patiently prepare for the long term while you’re in your 20s, young adulthood can be a fantastic launchpad for the rest of your life.

You won’t have the amount of influence at 25 that you will when you’re 50, even 35. Be willing to accept less significant opportunities to serve and do them well. Demonstrate your willingness to contribute and your eagerness to learn. And, learn to steward small responsibilities with great diligence and care, knowing that those who can be entrusted with little will be given more. Your time for bigger things will come.

Avoid common pitfalls

Finally, don’t allow yourself to fall into some of the most common pitfalls for young adults.

Cynicism is such an unattractive and counterproductive trait. It does no good for anyone. And, if it’s cultivated for long enough, it can affect your character throughout your life.

Don’t be prideful. Nobody has all the answers. No matter how bright or sincere you are, no matter how much you’ve read or studied, you simply haven’t circled the sun enough times to know it all. Remain teachable, open, humble, and honest.

Whatever you do, don’t give into the lie that you have to be older to make a difference. If you’ll invest in your character, discover how God has gifted you, learn from wise men and women, and be patient, you will make a difference. You’ll impact the church both now, in your twenties, as well as through the remainder of your life.


Other posts in this series: Series IntroMidlifers, Empty Nesters, Senior Adults

Generations

generations

A twentysomething friend of mine posted a question on Facebook the other day:

“What is the role of young people (age 21-29) in the church today?”

Good question. It got me thinking. At first, I wrestled with his question strictly in terms of how I could help him get involved. I’m a fixer. Then, I thought that maybe he wasn’t the only person wondering the same thing. As I thought some more, I began to recognize that this question isn’t limited to young adults.

What’s my role in the church if I’m an 85-year-old, widowed great-grandmother? If I’m a 38-year-old husband and father? A 65-year-old, newly retired couple? A 45-year-old, executive at the top of my game? A 31-year-old stay-at-home mom?

What is my role, at my age and stage, in the church?

Over the course of the next several posts, I’ll address this important question. I know I don’t have all of the answers and that this will force me to paint with broad strokes. However, I think it’s going to be worth the effort. Prayerfully, it’ll encourage someone to a greater appreciation for the church and deeper personal involvement.

No matter how we end up answering this question, there’s one thing I know for sure:

We need one another

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.

About this series

Over the course of a number of posts, we’ll explore the unique needs—and contributions—of each of the generations in the church today: young adults (18-30), mid-lifers (30-50), empty-nesters (50-65), and senior adults (65 and beyond).

I know those breakdowns are somewhat artificial. However, it’s my hope that you’ll identify with one or two of these groups, that you’ll have a new perspective on your role, and that your relationship with the church—and her Savior—will grow as a result.

Stay tuned.


Other posts in this series: Young Adults, Midlifers, Empty Nesters, Senior Adults