How does a pastor encourage the elderly, while teaching the younger in his congregation?

As churches revitalize and do so with younger people, one of the ramifications of this is the alienation of the older members.  As a younger pastor is brought in to pastor, more folks his age possibly begin to arrive, and unintentionally, the older members begin to feel squeezed out.  Having faced this season of unintentional alienation, here are a few ways I have found to encourage the elderly in the congregation and unite them with the younger in the midst of such a transition:

Honor them for their years.  A primary complaint of the older about the younger in the church is that the younger think they know it all, yet having lived one-third of the years of the older.  Older does not automatically mean “wiser” but in many cases it does.  The young might be more theologically astute, but they have yet to raise children who serve the Lord in adulthood.  The younger may have strong marriages, but time has not tested their marriage like those married 60 years.  Years should mean something.  Often times they do not to the younger, but they most certainly do to the older.  I dare say once the younger become the older, it will then mean something.  Help the younger learn this before they become older.

Honor them for their past service.  When younger folks stand in an old existing church, they are standing on someone else’s shoulders.  Many of the elderly who were once work horses in the church, cannot do what they once did and they begin to feel useless.  Take opportunities to honor those who built the buildings, who kept the church open when the rest left.  It is hard for the younger to look upon those who are now old, weak, and feeble and see a former giant who held fast through trials and difficulties within the church.  Unless you help them understand.

Honor them for their steadfastness.  Regardless how they got there, when you meet a 70, 80, 90-year-old Christian still following Jesus, still reading his word, still trying to grow in godliness, and still a part of his church, that is worth celebrating.  A certain elderly member may not be able to challenge you with different views of the atonement, but they can probably tell you how the atonement was their hope through the loss of a spouse, child, or major sickness.

Pastors, help the younger grow to love and appreciate the older.  I have found the elderly who often feel useless and shut-out, warmly welcome that younger pursuit.  Take every opportunity to affirm these things in a public way: through sermons, testimonies, and public prayer.  This was the means the Lord used to not just encourage our elderly in our church, but to unify them with the younger.  Publically teaching the younger to appreciate the older is one of the best ways to encourage the elderly.  Try it.  You might be surprised of the fruit to come from it.

Posted in Caring for Widows, Discipleship, Oversight of Souls
5 comments on “How does a pastor encourage the elderly, while teaching the younger in his congregation?
  1. Sam Bierig says:

    Great post! So true…

  2. Matt Henry says:

    This very thing has happened to my church. We went from having almost no young people to many. That sense of alienation definitely took place in the minds of several of the faithful. One man very honestly said that it was the older members who were paying for everything, which was true–serious unemployment was an issue for the younger folks. It has been a few years now and there is no sense of that alienation anymore.

    One thing that I did notice though early on was that many older members charged me with ignoring them and only spending time with the younger people. I finally sat several of them down to talk and I asked them which of the younger people had they invited to eat with them and which of the younger people were they discipling. The answer was none. It gave me a chance to exhort them to realize that for years I had discipled them and taught them, now it was their turn to reach out to these young people and pour that into their lives. It was a point of joy to see many of them realize that this was a good idea and they embraced it. Now many of the young people are being discipled by those who are older. Problem of alienation? All gone.

  3. stewart says:

    One thing I have tried to do since most of the church membership is over 60 (still waiting for younger people to come along), is to honor our veterans. The people here are very patriotic and if a young pastor will honor the veterans and do something special for them, they can convey a message of respect that is sadly lacking in our nation. Thanks for the post!

  4. ShilohS says:

    Remember that there is no age to spirit, and that often, seniors are still who they always were, just trapped in aging bodies.

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