Contemporary culture values youth and vitality almost to the point of idolatry. As a result of this, senior adults are often viewed negatively and as less valuable. If we are not careful the same attitude can take over in churches as well. Rather than growing and celebrating multi-generational ministry, the young, hip, and flashy are promoted as the ideal to the exclusion of others.
Senior adults are a treasure, they are not trouble. Sure, some older adults can become set in their ways, and promote their own preferences in churches that are sometimes more bound in tradition than Scripture. Do not be fooled however, because younger people can be guilty of valuing their preferences in the same way. Rather than viewing one another with suspicion in the church, the young and the old alike should see one another as family, because they are.
The population in the United States is aging rapidly. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent.
I served in my first vocational ministry role at the age of 25. I arrived at my current place of service in the church nearly 15 years ago when I was 31 years old. I knew it all in those days, or so I thought. I am deeply grateful for older adults along the way who have loved me in the church, and at times I am certain tolerated things they did not agree with or appreciate. Their faithfulness, encouragement, and steadfastness has meant the world to me. Wisdom of the aged can provide a great deal of stability and credibility to the work of the church. Proverbs 16:31 “Gray hair is a glorious crown; it is found in the ways of the righteous.”
We also must not overlook the fact that more and more people are reaching senior adulthood who do not know Jesus. A recent article in Baptist Press, Senior adult conversions on the rise? addressed this issue. A brother in our church lost his father recently at an advanced age. His father had rejected the Gospel throughout his life but came to faith in Jesus before he died. Praise God there were family members who faithfully shared with him, and a caregiver who shared with him very near to the end. We must not assume people are okay spiritually because they are older. We must also not assume they will not be interested in the Gospel because they are older. Fewer people come to know Jesus as senior adults statistically, but this should not dampen our evangelistic zeal at all. People of all ages need to know Jesus.
In the church, let’s appreciate and encourage those who are further along in life. Remember, if Jesus tarries his coming and we make it far enough, we will someday be the older members of the church. For those who are already in the senior adult category, don’t forget you were once young. Remember the challenges the younger generations face and pray for and encourage them along the way. God’s family should reflect a similar makeup as a healthy human family with younger people, older people, and all ages in between.