Older members are a reservoir of good will and experience and deserve consultant status in all areas of church life.

What makes some church leaders think negatively about the elderly? Years ago it was common to read uncomplimentary descriptions of older people. They were supposed to be slumping in energy, reaction time, and social participation. Generally withdrawn, they were said to lack flexibility and zest.

Some church leaders have psyched themselves into believing these generalities—which, of course, are not true. While older people do not always come up smelling like roses, and some may be set in their ways and a hindrance to progress, their traditional image needs to be tempered. To be sure, churches need to help meet social and physical needs of the elderly. But I want here to look at older Christians as assets, rather than liabilities. To tap the resources of older church members, we must view the older person as a reservoir of good will, a source of service, and a bank of experience.

The values that evangelical Christianity is struggling to maintain are the very ones with which older people, perhaps more than others, can identify. For at least two reasons older members tend to view their churches and their leaders with optimism. First, they have lived in the relationship longer, and so they have faced disappointment and found ways to resolve it. Most older members are well aware of their church’s limitations and shortcomings, but they love and respect it anyway. Second, older members have had a wider range of exposure to spiritual leaders. Some people have crossed denominational lines; many have been identified with more than one local church, and most have worked with many different pastors and lay leaders.

The church ...

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