This article was featured on The Gospel Coalition.
In our world that so often prizes and idolizes youth, it can be hard to sense that “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (Prov. 16:31). As I’ve talked over the years with those who are retired and beyond, I’ve noticed that many think they’ve lost their place in society and the church.
But God places no expiration date on serving him. There is no moment until our last breath that we aren’t to live our lives for his glory. Your church body needs you. We need the gifts and unique life experience of all generations. And there is something particularly helpful to your church family that points to God’s faithfulness when you continue to serve—even if the ways you serve may change across the years.
As Psalm 92:14–15 expresses it, “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
Sometimes you may not feel that your church wants you to serve. I will tell you, as a pastor in his early 40s, that you are loved and needed. We may not always be good at expressing this, but most of us want to grow in communicating our love for you and in helping you find ways to serve in the church body. What a blessing it has been to me when a senior has taken the initiative to ask me how to serve. Maybe it is time for you to take that initiative, or maybe you need encouragement to continue what you’re already doing.
Six Ways to Serve
I want to cheer you on with six ways you can serve your church. There are more, but I hope this will give you several ways to pray and consider. I hope they give you the boldness you may need to continue to serve God all your days.
The ways you can serve God through serving your church will change as you change across the years. You may need to change from serving in the music ministry to serving on the greeting team. You may find you don’t have the energy to teach the children’s class anymore, but you can still serve in the nursery.
But one thing that will never change is the gift of serving your church through prayer. I have often seen the gospel advance and then heard from a senior that she was praying. It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of retirement or homebound. You can make an eternal difference through prayer. Sometimes, contrary to all appearances, it’s a bent-over little old lady who makes the gates of hell tremble as Jesus uses her prayers to build his church.
2. Encourage and Love
Recently I listened with a smile and praised God as a lady in her 80s told me she was bringing soup to a man in our church who’s in a wheelchair and has been sick. Could you thank young moms for bringing their babies to church, as you remember how hard it was to attend church with a baby? Ladies, is there a single lady or a recent empty-nester you could call, asking her how you could pray for her? Men, is there a young man in the church you could talk to this Sunday about his job and family, asking how you could pray for him? Could you send a note to someone in the church body this week or visit someone in the hospital or someone who is lonely?
3. Be Present
Once I invited an elderly member of our congregation to come over for our coffee after the worship service. She held onto her walker in the foyer with both hands and said she would love to, but she has to go home immediately after worship because of her strength and health. That conversation has stuck with me. She hardly misses a Sunday, but her presence during the worship service is her sacrificial way to serve God and love others. Each Sunday I see her hugging someone in the congregation and shaking her head in agreement as I preach God’s Word. We need her. The day will come when we will need to go to her rather than her coming to us, but until then her ministry is to be present for one service a week. God sees that effort and is pleased. And he is using it to bless me and others.
4. Talk About God’s Faithfulness
“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4). We need to hear your stories of God’s provision, of him helping you through the loss of your child, of him saving the hard relative that you prayed for across years. We need to hear of your marriage struggles and triumphs, and of what God is teaching you right now through your cancer fight.
This may happen through a phone call or a note, through a comment in Bible study, or through a conversation after church. There are things God has taught you that only come through marinating in his Word for decades, experiencing some of the disappointments of life, and realizing that he is your greatest treasure and joy. Don’t hesitate to share with us what God has taught you. We need to hear it.
5. Look for Ways to Help
My grandmother, who is turning 90 this summer, goes into her church office weekly and folds the bulletin. This not only saves the office manager time, but my grandmother blesses her each week. (The office manager went out of her way to tell me this.) Our church has recently been helped by church members in their 70s who have used their knowledge of home repair and construction to do things from installing new light fixtures to overseeing a remodel on our sanctuary.
They’ve saved us thousands of dollars that we can devote to ministry and missions because they were willing to use daytime hours to help with a project when others were at work. Would you serve your church body by praying about how you could help, and then ask your pastor or ministry leaders if you could serve in specific ways?
6. Ask Us For Help
One of the ways that you can best serve us is sometimes in not meeting a need, but in allowing us to meet your need. I have found the body of Christ is resilient and responsive when needs are known, whether it is helping with meals during a sickness or giving a ride to the doctor or a Bible study, or helping with a needed home repair. One of the ways that seniors have blessed me the most as a pastor is by being open with me about what their needs are, giving others an opportunity to serve them. We are at our best when we look like the family of God that we are, and you can help us by letting us know if there’s a specific way we can serve you.
The enemy wants you to believe that you’re rejected and useless. But God speaks a better word over your life: “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you” (Isa. 46:4). Let’s believe this together.