As a young pastor I found it necessary to keep one eye on the older generation. Many of my struggles in ministry found root in the seniors.
For example, I had been in my pastoral career for three weeks when the sky caved in on me. I had mentioned to a parishioner my idea of starting another adult Sunday School class. The word got back to the teacher of the only adult class in the church. This aging “saint” had the distinction of being the biggest giver, the janitor, the one who unlocked and locked up the church, and strongest leader in the church. In my first board meeting in this little church he became mad, stomped out, and left the church.
As the years rolled by I discovered many of my problems came from the older population. (And I should add, some of my strongest supporters were also in this age group.) But guess what happened? I got old. Now, I am an aging Boomer in the church. And I want to challenge every Baby Boomer to be an asset to the local church instead of a liability.
Here’s 5 ways to HELP your church instead of HURT it.
1. Realize it is not your church.
Oh I get it. I’ve been told on several occasions by older people, “This is my church not your church. I’ve been here 40 years.” That’s great but it’s still not your church. As a long time member you may feel a sense of ownership but the church will always belong to God, not you. You don’t really think it’s your church. What you really mean is “I control the church.” Wrong again. God is in control. Decide now to recognize it is God’s church. Surrender to His authority and to the pastor He placed in your church.
2. Be active in at least one ministry in the church.
Many Boomers have worked for decades in the church. Maybe you’ve taught Sunday School, changed diapers in the nursery, drove the church bus, ushered, and mowed the grass. Now, as you’ve gotten older, you made the decision to sit back and let the young people do it all. Bad decision. When you sit back and have no ministry you become an observer, not a participant. And what do observers do? Observe. And when you sit back and observe you become a critic. You see all the ways things could improve and then you share your ideas with others. Nope. Don’t do it. Be involved in at least one ministry until the day you die.
3. Become the biggest supporter of your pastor.
I know. The pastor is younger than you and can’t possible know as much about the church. But make the decision you are going to have his or her back. Unless you have ever been a a pastor you can never know how difficult it is. In many ways I think it is one of the toughest jobs in the world. And one of the things which make it so tough is the wagging critical tongues. Let me encourage you to watch for opportunities to be a cheerleader for your pastor. Listen to the chatter of your church friends and when they start to criticize the pastor jump in and make a positive statement.
4. Pray more, talk less.
Saying, “I’ll pray for you” has become the equivalent in the church of the “like” button on Facebook. Many times saying we will pray means “I’m glad you told me.” But as older saints we need to get back to taking prayer seriously. Think of what you could do for you church and pastor if you talked less and prayed more. I tell people who complain about their pastor they should pray 5 minutes for every minute they complain. As Boomers we are starting to have more free time. Let’s use this free time to pray more instead of complain more.
5. Set the example to the younger generation in the area of church loyalty.
I’ve seen too church hoppers in my decades of ministry. And I discovered when someone leaves the church any excuse will do. The excuses given are rarely the real reasons for leaving. Why? Because those who leave a church most often leave over petty things. Telling people as you exit “I’m not being fed spiritually” sounds way more godly than “I’m leaving because the pastor stopped wearing a tie.” Make the decision to stick it out. Show the younger generation what it means to commit your life not only to God but to a particular church.
Now, more than ever, the Church needs the older saints to rise up and help the Church not hurt it.
Find a way to be an asset. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Take your pastor out for coffee and blow him away by spending an hour giving compliments without any criticism.
- Listen for the moment when people start to criticize the church and jump in with a positive spin on the subject.
- Walk up to the pastor or a leader in the church and volunteer to become involved in a ministry.
- When someone pulls you aside to tell you they are leaving be prepared to tell them why you are staying.
- NOW, is the time for the Baby Boomer army to rise up in the church and do everything we can to help it.