As a former pastor’s wife and a Baby boomer, I’ve lived through the many ministry fads and growth campaigns of the past few decades aimed at bringing young families back into the church. I have experienced firsthand the pain many of these well-meaning programs and changes have brought with them.
Over the years, I’ve spoken at gatherings and written articles in an attempt to convince ministry leaders they were throwing grannies out with the baptistry water with many of their church-renewal campaigns. I encouraged these leaders to consider the value the older members still have and asked them to treat these pillars of the church with more respect and consideration before turning the worship service and church life on its head to attract young, un-churched people.
My emphasis was on what the older members still had to offer the church, but I think it is time for ministry leaders to consider what the church has to offer the elders.
I remember, when I was a child, seeing the pews of my little church filled with my friends’ grandmas and grandpas. I remember sitting beside these elderly saints sharing a hymnal with our voices raised in God’s praise, theirs reedy with age alongside my childish piping. I remember following fingers bent by arthritis as we read from a worn and cherished Bible. These memories are suffused with the sense of serenity these older members of my church family emanated as their lives grew ever closer to the longed-for meeting with their Savior. Even as a small child, I knew I wanted that same serenity and I saw from these examples exactly how I might achieve it. Their faithful presence in worship, eagerly re-reading God’s Word and joyously singing the hymns learned in their own childhood, filled me with a sense of security and trust in the faith we shared.
The gift I received from these precious folks is priceless and deserves to be valued by ministry leaders today. However, now that I am one of the non-essential, irrelevant impediments to growth and change, as seen by many in church leadership, I can tell you there is very little serenity to be had in today’s worship services. Gone are the hymns and praise songs of my youth, gone are the hymnals and organ. The comfortable order of worship I could follow even with my dim eyes and failing ears is replaced by something new and exciting each week, aimed at making the service more appealing to youth. Social projects are replacing Bible teaching and my generation is being made to feel insecure and unwanted.
When Christians come closer to the end of life on Earth, we yearn for times of worship to bring us ever closer to Christ and prepare us for that glorious day when we will see His face. Many of us can no longer find spiritual nourishment, even in the very churches we grew up in. We leave each service empty and frustrated.
I’m writing today to beg those who are leaders in ministry to stop for just a moment and think about being true servant leaders; leaders who serve not only those demographics you think will benefit your bottom line. The older members of your congregation aren’t resisting all your new ideas just to be cantankerous. We are in pain at what we have lost. We are hungry for worship experiences we can relate to. We feel like lost sheep who are ignored and uncared for while you are busy seeking new lambs.