It’s time for a paradigm shift. What images pop into your mind when you think of “The Seniors Ministry” in your local church? Brunches and buses—getting the older folks in your church together for meals and bus trips to regional tourist sites? While it’s great to give your older church members some pleasant contexts to build relationships with their peers, does a church’s seniors ministry focused solely on fun and fellowship reflect the Bible’s calling on their lives? And, to be candid, many of our church members who are moving into their senior years are not that motivated to spend the next decade or two of their lives on brunches and bus trips. So, what’s the alternative? To what should our paradigm of “The Seniors Ministry” shift?
The Bible is not silent on God’s calling on the older generation of believers. God’s calling on “seniors” is quite missional and motivating—much more exciting than brunches and buses. Let’s try these Bible passages, for example:
Oh, and I find this verse so compelling as a senior saint:
Are we seeing it? As long as God gives us the capacity to pour his truths into the coming generations, he wants us to live very intentionally on mission—to pass on the story of his greatness and grace to those coming behind us.
Most seniors in our churches are already grandparents or may move into that glorious realm in the next few years. Even those who will not be physical grandparents could well serve as surrogate grandparents to some of the children and teens of your church. A noticeable trait of most grandparents is that they are highly motivated to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren in positive ways. But what does that involvement look like? Does our current culture shape their grandparenting, or is it being shaped by God’s Word? The grandparents in our churches need to receive biblical training and encouragement in the ministry of grandparenting.
So, what has to happen for that to happen?
Starting a grandparenting ministry in your church could be hugely transformational in your church’s families and the long-term health of your church overall. But where do you start? How do you launch and sustain a ministry that equips and mobilizes the grandparents in your church? Here are some steps to consider:
Ask God to guide and empower you, your leadership team, a band of grandparenting “champions,” and all your church’s present and future grandparents.
2. Shift your paradigm:
Many church leaders have not yet explored God’s missional call on grandparents. If the key leaders of the church are not on board with starting a ministry of intentional, biblical grandparenting, the way ahead will be stymied. Read the Bible’s teaching on the joyful responsibility God gives the older generation of telling the next generation the story of God’s greatness and Grace. The selected Bible quotes above in this article will get you started. Read one of the books at the end of this post to expand your vision of what could happen in your church with this largely untapped resource of grandparents.
3. Select a core group:
Who in your church models a life of faithful followership with Jesus and demonstrable involvement in the younger generations? Who among them also shows humble initiative and servant leadership? Have any of them already been involved in the Christian grandparenting movement? Have they participated in a biblical grandparenting seminar or the Legacy Coalition’s Grandparenting Summit? Approach each of these potential grandparenting “champions,” telling them of your desire to see a biblical grandparenting ministry started in your church. Ask them to consider prayerfully serving on the core team. Call together those who said yes to your invitation, thanking them for their willingness to serve, casting a general picture of what the Lord may do, and asking them each to read the grandparenting book of your choice before the second meeting. Pray with them. Which of these team members or couples might you be able to delegate the responsibility to lead the core group? Meet with that person or couple to give encouragement and direction.
4. Plan and schedule a launch event:
While having a vision-casting banquet serves some churches well, having a teaching event may prove more effective in the long run. Asking grandparents to “catch the vision” may be short-lived if they have not yet had the opportunity to begin building a biblical paradigm of God’s calling on grandparents. Why not schedule a weekend or Saturday seminar for grandparents, inviting a speaker with teaching experience on this subject? Both the Legacy Grandparenting Coalition and the Christian Grandparenting Network have trained speakers who are glad to serve if able.
5. Provide opportunities to equip:
Might your church schedule an adult education class for grandparents? Grandparenting with Grace was designed to be easily used for grandparenting classes. Does your church have a library, a book table, or a resource room? Do you have a few select books on biblical grandparenting available? Might you be willing to include on your church’s website announcements and/or Facebook page news of upcoming national or regional grandparenting events?
6. Plan for sustainability:
As a church leader, think through what would need to happen to see your church’s grandparenting ministry thrive for years to come. Is this ministry on your church’s website? Facebook page? Annual calendar? Have you budgeted money to fund the year’s grandparenting ministry? How might you include applications to grandparents in your sermons? How might you intentionally include grandparents in your public prayers? Why not highlight a grandparenting story in a brief video in your worship service? And let’s remember to thank this ministry’s key leaders.
7. Keep on praying!
The Lord wants grandparents to tell his story to the coming generations, so we have every reason to pray in faith.
Resources to consider:
Harper, Cavin T. Courageous Grandparenting: Unshakable Faith in a Broken World
Mulvihill, Josh. Grandparenting
McCall, Larry E. Grandparenting with Grace Note: Also available on YouTube are video lessons on each chapter of this book.
Fowler, Larry. Overcoming Grandparenting Barriers