I am continuing my series of posts on life in a smaller Church (under 300) in a smaller town (Under 10,000). I have already wrote about the Pastor, the Past and the Leadership. Today I want to talk about the Senior Adults in a smaller Church.
When I was first entering ministry my fellow students, and honestly some faculty, told me that I should be wary of the senior adults in my congregation. I was told that they will not want anything to change and they will fight you at every turn. I was given the impression that senior adults would hold back ministry while secretly plotting against me. As a result I was skeptical of all seniors adults, questioned their motives and built up barriers between myself and them.
Through the years I have learned a couple of big lessons that have changed my view of senior adults and my relationship with them.
1. All Ages of People Have Deeply Flawed Individuals. I will be 100% honest, I have met some really mean and hurtful senior adults. I will also tell you that I have met some really mean and hurtful teenagers, twenty year olds, thirty somethings and even those in their forties and fifties. There are people with huge character flaws in every age group. Because people had warned me about seniors I began to paint all of them with the same brush and that was simply not fair to them. Most of the seniors I have met are generous, kind, thoughtful and loving.
2. Everyone Resists Change. Through the years I have had more resistance to change from younger adults than older ones. In fact, many times younger adults will not want to change and they blame the older adults to make themselves feel better and look better. The harsh reality is that all people resist change, even when it is good for them. Maybe this gets magnified for senior adults because they have seen so many changes, but I am still not sure that is true. There are senior adults who change more quickly than younger people because they have already seen change over and over again and do not fear it.
3. Senior Adults are a Great Resource to a Church. Leadership guru John Maxwell said that he once held a leadership conference that was mostly for senior adults. He quickly changed his sermon once he saw his audience. He said that he reminded them that they are in best position to help the kingdom of God at their age. They have more free time than ever before, they have more resources than ever before and they have more knowledge through experience than ever before. He says that at the end of conference more than half of the crowd committed to some type of ministry.
Through the years my disdain for senior adults has changed into joy. I love sharing my life and my ministry with older members of my congregation. Sometimes it is hard to visit as much as I would like as my family pulls me different directions then their lives. I find myself closer to people whose kids are in the same activities as my kids simply because of proximity. That does not mean that I do not care, I care greatly and I am glad they have been a part of the Churches I have served. I wish all Churches and Church leaders would show their appreciation to their senior adults not for what they have done but for what they are doing. My experience is that most Churches would fall apart without them.