Survey after survey has begun to stir up fear in the hearts of churches across the United States. The amount of “gray hair” that can be found in our pews has become a source of worry for many. As the average age of members increases across denominations, “senior” becomes a byword. Leadership teams, pastors, and church councils begin to ask with increasing fervor: “How do we get more young people in our doors?” I think we are asking the wrong question. Please don’t misunderstand. The youth in our church are incredibly important, and it is imperative to share the Gospel with them. However, what if we saw this increasing “age” in our congregations as an opportunity for discipleship instead of as a negative factor?
There is an interesting passage of Scripture that speaks to this found in 2 Samuel 19:31-40:
Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim; he went on with the king to the Jordan, to escort him over the Jordan. Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. He had provided the king with food while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. The king said to Barzillai, “Come over with me, and I will provide for you in Jerusalem at my side.” But Barzillai said to the king, “How many years have I still to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? Today I am eighty years old; can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks? Can I still listen to the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? Your servant will go a little way over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king recompense me with such a reward? Please let your servant return, so that I may die in my own town, near the graves of my father and my mother. But here is your servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do for him whatever seems good to you.” The king answered, “Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do for him whatever seems good to you; and all that you desire of me I will do for you.” Then all the people crossed over the Jordan, and the king crossed over; the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own home.
There is no retirement plan in the Body of Christ. Following Jesus as one of his disciples doesn’t have a minimum or maximum age requirement. Please join us October 17 and 18 at Reformation Lutheran Church in Culpeper, Virginia as we host the NALC’s first Senior Ministry Conference including breakout time, small groups, workshops, and key note presentations by Gary Pecuch, Pastor Wendy Berthelsen, and myself.
For details, please visit: NALC Senior Ministry Conference
Written by: Pastor Brad Hales, who serves as chair of the Renewal Team, and the pastor of Reformation Lutheran Church, Culpeper, Virginia, and the Dean of the Virginia Mission District of the North American Lutheran Church. Through the power of Jesus, Pastor Hales has helped to renew several older congregations in discipleship, outreach and mission. In 2009, his present congregation was given the “Best Practices Award in Senior Adult Ministry” by the National Council on Aging. Hales has also authored the Bible study, A Covenant of Aging, published by Sola Publishing.