Senior Adult, You Are Loved and Needed

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.

1. Pray

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.

We Are All Shut-Ins Now: 3 Lessons I Don’t Want to Forget About Ministry to Shut-Ins

We are all shut-ins now. We are home but we have found just how exhausting it can be to be home all of the time. The daily grind begins to get at us mentally and socially in a way we never expected. We are restricted, but hopefully we have learned some empathy in our restrictions.

As I ask God what he wants me to learn during the crisis of COVID-19, there are multiple lessons. I’m learning to pray more, I’m being reminded of the preciousness of being with God’s people, and I’m freshly aware of “if the Lord wills, we will do this or that.” But one theme that keeps coming back to my mind is that I don’t want to forget to have more empathy with those who can’t go out when we are all out again. Here are three lessons from quarantine about ministry to shut-ins.

A Call Means a Lot
I remember the first time our small group met on Zoom about one week after stay-at-home orders. We were overjoyed to hear each other’s voices after just days into isolation. During this quarantine, when I pick up the phone and call someone, there is a connection through hearing each other’s voices again that uniquely says, “I haven’t forgotten about you.” When quarantine is over, I want to remember how much it means to hear the voice of someone I haven’t seen in weeks or months. I want to remember that for a shut-in, a call means a lot.

A Handwritten Note Means a Lot
My kids are more excited than ever to check the mail nowadays. And secretly, I am too. When we can’t gather as a church body, there is power in receiving a handwritten note from a friend. During quarantine, I can send out multiple church updates and prayer requests through e-mail. But holding a handwritten note and seeing somebody’s handwriting, knowing they took the time to mail that note of encouragement and prayer to you, means something different. The ironic thing is, seniors are primarily the ones I have received handwritten notes from during this crisis. So a handwritten note may be a key to their love language, reminding them of the church body’s love and God’s love for them.

A Visit Means a Lot
Stay-at-home orders came from our governor not long after I had major leg surgery. So quarantine for me has basically made me a shut-in with health problems who can hardly leave the house. When it has been a beautiful Spring day and my family has gone for a walk or hike, I have been on the couch icing and elevating my leg. This has made the couple of socially-distanced driveway visits we have had from church members incredibly encouraging. I have learned that when you can’t go anywhere, but people go to the trouble to come to you, it points to the love and kindness of God. I hope I never forget that.

Those who can no longer come to church need the church to go to them. Sometimes that may look like a call, sometimes a note, and other times a visit. And in God’s economy, both the “giver” and the “recipient” are blessed. Some of the most encouraging times of ministry have been reading Scripture with a blind shut-in or hearing that they are praying for my family and the church. I am sure that I have often been more encouraged in Christ than them after a visit.

I have not always done well with this ministry although I do try my best to practice it. By God’s grace, I want to not forget these three simple lessons that God has taught me about being a shut-in during this crisis.

Shut-ins commonly feel forgotten as they go through long days with all of their health struggles and isolation. Let’s remind them that they are not forgotten by us–or by God. The God who told us to rise in the presence of the aged (Leviticus 19:32) still tells us today to honor their presence when they are at home.

We are all shut-ins now. Let’s not forget what it’s like to be encouraged by someone who expresses the love of Christ and points you to the Lord.

Prayer & Encouragement

Note from Tim: Over the next four days I will be publishing a short devotional each morning (I began HERE). I originally wrote these devotions for the Winter 2018-2019 issue of Open Windows and I have permission to republish them. I pray they are an encouragement to you in your walk with Christ!

Devotional Passage: Philemon 1-6

“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers…” – Philemon 4

I only knew Karen in person for three years while I was an associate pastor at her church. Yet through serving in an after-school Bible club together, Karen became a prayer warrior and cheerleader for my wife and me. When the Lord called us more than 3,000 miles away to a hard ministry, little did we know that Karen would continue to minister to us. There is perhaps nothing that can bring greater encouragement than praying and letting that person know that you are doing so.

The apostle Paul knew this. Paul had a special request for Philemon, so he wrote him a letter. And at the beginning of that letter he let Philemon know that he faithfully prayed for him, and often thanked God for him.

Who has God placed in your life that you can be a “Karen” for? Maybe it’s your pastor’s family, a missionary, or someone you know who is fighting cancer. Pray for them often, and then let them know. Prayer is powerful. Encouragement is powerful. When the two are combined, watch out! You will see God at work.

Father, show me who I need to faithfully pray for and encourage.
Help me to do both.