Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing

So how do you engage older church attendees… say people over age 50?

The question’s been around a long time. And—as most church leaders could tell you—it’s a bit of a loaded question.

It’s also a question I’m hearing again and again, particularly from churches that are doing a great job reaching young families. Some leaders want to know how to keep older members engaged, especially when a church is doing a great job reaching young families.

As someone who turned 50 last year and whose kids have moved out of the house and into university and life, I can tell you I’ve thought about this question both personally and from my vantage point as a church leader.

The default in many churches is simple: provide programming for over-50 adults that caters to their needs: potluck lunches, Bible studies and social gatherings for their demographic, and, of course, bus trips.

The purpose of this post is to ask one simple question.


As in really—this is as good as it gets for people moving into their prime and then into their senior years?

I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all.

If I have to spend the next thirty years taking bus trips, I want the first bus trip to be straight to heaven. There’s a much better way for 50+ adults to spend their time, influence and energy.

Let me explain.
older church members

Here are four reasons it’s time to kill the bus trip mentality far too many churches adopt for their over-50 attenders.

1. Life isn’t about serving you

What I struggle with most about the North American dream of how to spend life in your older years is this: it’s all about serving yourself, not others.

I’m not saying you can’t take a vacation or enjoy the life God has given you, but a thirty-year vacation? Seriously? How many rounds of golf can you play? How many beaches can you lie on? How many 4:30 buffets can you eat?

Too many churches have played into the trap of trying to cater to the needs of perfectly capable over-50 adults in their church, as though they were a demographic to be appeased, and not mobilized.

When church leaders cater to appeasing needs, they miss the mission potential of a generation.

You aren’t the mission. The mission is the mission.

You can fill your life with activity, or you can fill your life with purpose. It’s your choice. I’m choosing purpose.

2. The next generation wants and needs the older generation

Perhaps one of the greatest surprises to Gen Xers (that’s me), Boomers and Elders is that Millennials want to spend time with people older than themselves.

When I was 25, I didn’t want to spend time with anyone over 30. My goodness, has that changed. And I’m grateful for that.

In my work and in my leadership world, I’m surrounded by young team members. Almost everyone on my team is 15 to 30 years younger than me. And I love it. I learn and grow, and so do they.

I’m a big fan (and practitioner) of the Orange Strategy, which not only combines the influence of church leaders and families, but leverages the faith and wisdom of one generation to build into the next.

Biblical community is more nuanced and powerful than hipsters ministering to hipsters and seniors ministering to seniors. It’s about pairing up the generations to learn from each other, serve side by side and build into each other.

In our church, every generation serves alongside other generations. It keeps older adults young and helps make the young wise.

It does more than though. Serving together creates significance. I love the way Reggie Joiner puts it: people will not believe they are significant until you give them something significant to do.

By giving senior adults something significant to do—like being a small group leader for 5th-grade boys, 12th-grade girls, young married couples or single 20 somethings—they realize they have a contribution to make to the next generation.

Conversely, when a high school student serves at the food bank alongside a 60-year-old retired banker, they often do something more than serve food—they build a relationship, influencing one another and growing together in life and faith.

Kara Powell, in her research, found that having generations serve together in a way that builds relationships between those really helps teens and young adults find or keep their faith.

3. Not mobilizing older adults squanders resources

If church leaders simply pander to the consumer mindset that characterizes an older lifestyle (cruises, relaxation and rest), they deny a powerful reality that could be leveraged for the mission.

First, some workers actually don’t hit their peak earning years until their 50s and 60s. Church leaders should challenge people in that category to increase their standard of giving, not just their standard of living.

As you soon discover by talking to many successful business people, there’s an emptiness that comes with success and money. The reality is that the emptiness they feel in your soul is actually filled by giving, not getting.

Church leaders who are able to help people see that this is what they’re missing will be able to leverage resources to fund the next generation.

It’s more than money, though.

While foolishness plagues both old and young alike (some people don’t grow wiser in their senior years; they just grow older, there are decades of accumulated wisdom that get wasted if it’s not leveraged for the sake of others.

There can be a significant wisdom that’s lost if years get spent only in business, at the lake house, eating potluck lunches and taking trips.

As I already mentioned, Millennials love being around older adults and are wide open to insights, questions and conversations about faith and life. Leverage that dynamic, and you will see powerful transformation happen, not just in the life of younger people, but in the lives of older adults as well.

Fulfillment is found in giving, not getting.

The older I get, the more I prioritize being around young people. In my case, it’s mostly to ask questions, learn, and enjoy the relationship and insights. Being around the young keeps you young.

4. Sacrifice kills entitlement

Given the current decline in church attendance and engagement in North America and the West, passing the faith onto the next generation has never been more urgent.

In fact, I believe the greatest thing this generation can do is sacrifice to bring faith to the next generation.

This is not the time for older adults to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight given the fact that the flight is potentially headed for a crash landing.

What if this one generation actually just sacrificed for the sake of another? What if they gave up their preferences in music, style and taste so that others could come to know Christ?

What if they changed their methods and preferences to preserve the mission?

Leveraging time, wisdom, insight, relationship, money and influence—essentially, your life— for the sake of the young is the greatest legacy you can leave.

Some Help…

How do you make sure your church is positioned for growth?

You likely didn’t get into ministry to watch your church plateau or, worse yet, decline. You wanted God to use you to reach new people with the good news. You wanted to see your church grow. You wanted to make an impact on your community that would outlast you.

But the odds are, it’s not happening. And the thing is, you’re not alone. We live in an era where 94% of churches aren’t growing or aren’t growing as fast as their communities. Barely 1 out of 20 churches are effectively reaching their neighbors for Jesus. Despite how desperately our communities need to hear and engage with the good news about Jesus, many churches are lost when it comes to reaching a postmodern culture.

That’s why I put together the Church Growth Masterclass. It’s everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that. But I believe you can position your church to grow. You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people. That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.

In the Church Growth Masterclass I’ll show you:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The five keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

What Do You Think?

I realize this is a counter-cultural argument, but I think it’s an important one.

No generation in history has had more resources than the current generation over 50. Leveraging them for the sake of the next generation is perhaps the best thing we can do with them.

What are you learning about this?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing


  1. Rev. Sophia Snyder on January 30, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    The Senior ministry in most churches is not very productive. There must be consideration that seniors are from range of 55 to 100 etc. We are all at different places in life. I am 68 and still active in ministry and have plenty to give. I don’t want to be confined to the limitations of most churches. I am Caleb and want to possess my mountain.

    • Hurting Joe on February 8, 2021 at 7:49 pm

      Rev. Snyder, thank you for your comments. I am 60 years old and have toiled, worked, and sacrificed during the heat of EVERY battle at the church I attend. I am or WAS leading the tech ministry. For years I have struggled with the church to progress in that ministry and I have had more defeats than victory. The church has hired some consultants to work ‘alongside me’ to assist the team in getting to where I have been trying to drag them for over 30 years. NOW all of a sudden the ideas that were shot down when I spoke them are GOLD in the mouths of the younger contractors who can do no wrong. I must admit that the Tech aspects of our church are being realized and ‘afforded’, again all of the sudden. What hurts is that I have been speaking, working, and asking for ALL of what the Youngens are suggesting for YEARS…NOW it’s a better suggestion.
      I am moving aside to let the team move forward….it just HURTS like hell and the pain behind the thought of “I am not useful” anymore really haunts me. I feel like I have the CALEB spirit but NOW I am exhausting from all of it. I will retire in a few years but I feel like the secret message is that OLDER people are NOT really needed in this NEW season of the church….except to teach the younger ones about being ‘saved’.

      • Rev. Sophia Snyder on May 4, 2021 at 8:00 pm

        I thank you for sharing. I had a visitation and I will not relinquish it no matter how old I am. I know that I know I am called to do and I know God is faithful to complete it. Blessings.

      • Leanne Miles on July 25, 2021 at 4:30 pm

        Hi Joe
        I’m saddened to read your story
        I hope and pray that you can find a place and purpose where you will be valued and others can see your ability’s, and that have heaps more still to offer for a long time yet,
        60 is not old !

        I’m looking at it from another perspective, am 55 , and have been wanting to do something in my church , to be part of things , more involved, for a long time , and have put my hand up and offered
        ( specifically part of music ) but not invited.
        So that is frustrating for me

        I am a single mum with teenagers, who’s been through a messy few years
        sometimes I wonder if it’s because of that
        And an older lady , bible study group leader , said is worried about me taking on too much extra with my family things , but it’s not for others to put me in a box / make judgments about my abilities because of my past !

        So , I am now in a place to just be Starting , in mid life , whatever God has for me , and my church doesn’t have an issue about age , background etc .

        And I’m saying this to encourage you not to loose hope , there must be someone who will have a different perspective about where your talents and gifts could be used . My father was a minister, so I can relate to your story, He had many knock backs / criticisms from others at times , but also good thing too , Leanne Miles

  2. Tim on January 30, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    This is some great discussion. The topic obviously is a sensitive one and evokes passion on all sides of this topic.

    As a reasonably active person in my 60’s, I’ve experienced a general lack of understanding from the church pastor and staff. Everything is perceived through their own experience. The drive to get everyone to go on mission trips; a reading of a discipleship book that told down to the letter how all small groups were supposed to operate; a lack of understanding from a young pastor that folks in their 60’s who still work can’t keep up a certain pace of ministry. Our small group of 50’s/60’s folks were even called by a staff member who told us he hoped our group would die. We were even told that we were not invite anyone else to our small group. Talk about feeling unwanted. Yes, I got the hint and looked elsewhere after many years at that church.

    Of the churches we’ve visited since, it seems most churches fall into either a high energy pumped up service with loud music and strobe lights or a ministry that is almost a pre nursing home ministry with mostly old people.

    This age difference seems very real. While I hear lip service given by some that our wisdom is greatly needed, I have not experienced that in reality.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 3, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      I’m sorry that you’ve experienced this.

      I truly hope you are able to find a suitable place to follow Jesus and help reach your community.

  3. Wes Wick on November 11, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    I love the balance of 1 Thessalonians 5:14

    Warn those who are idle.
    Encourage the timid.
    Help the weak.
    Be patient with everyone.

    Some older adults need a kick, some need encouragement, some need help, and we all need patience. Probably all of this can happen on a bus. We had a friend in his fifties tell us that if we ever see him getting on a church bus headed for the Jelly Belly factory, “just shoot me.” As time rolls on, I think we know better, that ministry can happen anywhere, even on a bus.

  4. Kelly Wieler on November 11, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    Carey – high regards bro. You are one of my heroes. Great article, and interesting timing for this to be forwarded to me. I wholeheartedly endorse the thesis of this article. A church would marginalize any demographic, and especially her most experienced demographic, at her peril. It takes all generations to reach the next generation, and all that good orange stuff.

    I am an involved lay person in a church of 500 (btw thank you for helping connect me with the group we are working with in our pastoral search). Last weekend I stepped outside of my normal volunteer ministries (and my comfort zone), burned two vacation days, and helped lead a church sponsored bus trip. The four day trip included several faith-based experiences as well as some secular experiences. It was an interesting, and to be honest a perspective-changing, extended weekend. As a result I suggest a distinction between the thesis of the article (we must mine the incredible worth of our elders), and a premis that church sponsored bus trips necessarily contradict this thesis. On the bus trip I observed what I can only describe as the hands of Christ extended to a demographic that includes lonely and socially marginalized people. I am not proud of the fact that I rarely think of this demographic in our church as other than “always there when needed”. I am too busy off doing “really important ministry stuff” with my peers. On the bus I observed with interest the Warren-esque mission of our church lived out on the Interstate as people made connections, learned together, and served each other. Believers and non-believers had conversations about faith. A Sunday morning worship service on the bus rivals far more complex worship models I have helped construct, when it comes to simple purity of worship. I guess if I am really honest I expected to “take one for the team” and do a weekend with old people, and am humbled to acknowledge that I instead observed a microcosm of who we aspire to be as a church.

    This is not a carte blanch endorsement of bus trips. However I offer that bus trips be critically examined before they are started, continued, or stopped. Examine them with the same rigor we do any ministry that we direct resources to. If the new play structure serves only to entertain kids, tear it down. If bus trips serve only to entertain seniors, end them. If the youth lock-in serves only to entertain teens, stop doing them. It is easier for my generation to intuitively see the deeper ministry worth of the new play structure than of a bus trip. Collectively I believe we make better choices when we apply consistent tests to what ministries we start, continue, and end. Is it truly a ministry, or is it a babysitting service for a special interest group? Even if it is a valid ministry, does participating in this ministry prevent people from engaging in more important ministries? Does it accomplish desired outcomes? Is it aligned with our mission?

    Had circumstances not conspired to actually place me on a bus trip I would have nodded assent to both the thesis of the article and the premis that bus trips are obvious and low hanging fruit when it comes to discarding what merely entertains and does not value seniors. Interestingly several people on the bus trip are also small group leaders in our church. One man is always first to arrive with his tractor on yard clean-up day. Several of them are typically with me to the end when chairs need to be put away following an event. For four days they, and through their graciousness I can say we, were this weird little community of saved sinners and yet-to-be-saved sinners. Relationships were formed. Learning occurred. We served each other. We prayed for each other. We worshiped God through music, art, and other media. We collected ministry ideas to bring back and try at home. To date I have not seen evidence that, for any of us and for any generational demographic represented in the group, our participation in the bus trip has impaired our desire or ability to also accomplish other meaningful ministries :).

    Peace and great respect,


  5. Rev. Sophia Snyder on June 19, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    I do feel that I am abused by not being used. I am only 67 and I am treated like I am disabled or something. I work as a chaplain in a senior facility. Some of them are my age or younger. Health or lack of it is not avoiding someone because of their age. Many of these folks make me sad because they simply look bored. To live life to the fullest one must be challenged and stimulated in the mind, in the physical and in the spiritual. There is hidden wisdom that is being ignored. There are personalities to be enjoyed. There is a welath of story telling that could entertain us for hours. There are peope who need ministry like healing and deliverance. They need love and companionship. They need an ear and a person to visit. But they also need the opportunity to do the same. It is also in most local churches also, they say they can’t use me because there isn’t any openings. Well expand your agenda or horizon. Get out of your box. Become a bigger infulence make a bigger impact. Church is more than it is doing: it should be more of a family with fellowship and not just shaking hands and introducing each other. What about the other 6 days of the week? I should be more than a tithe and a seat warmer. We are to be liverly stones and not uniformed bricks. We are the body not a dead add on. We are to funciton and treat each other as we would like to be treated. Granted I am not mistreated but there is a knawing away that my life is being thrown away or unimportant.. Hope to have a ministry someday God willing and I hope I can see a way through Christ Jesus to make it the place for all to feel a part of this wonderful plan called church /Body of Christ. My belief is : There is a place for everyone and for everyone a place. There is not only one or few stars in the Heavens nor are there only those who are allowed to serve and be part those who are worthy. Many are called and few are chosen. Let it be our own fault and not that of those who have the ability to create and opportunities and simply just got into a rut.

  6. Carol Windham on June 18, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    As an 87 year old woman who is healthy in mind and body and continues to serve in a variety of ways, including senior ministries, I felt this article was somewhat arrogant and dismissive of older people. I don’t know anyone who has taken a thirty year vacation. As you made comments about lunches and bus trips, the message seemed quite clear. If you can’t serve, serve, serve, you are part of the throw away generation. I was sad for all of the dear people whom I have known, and loved for 40 years , who have served in leadership in the past , but are no longer able to do so. Are these folks throw-aways? Do we just write them off and move on? These folks still need friendship and opportunities to be together. Many cannot participate in physical activities anymore but they still enjoy a pot-luck lunch at church and an interesting/educational program.

    I hope, when you are an 85 year old man, alone, with arthritic joints, a pacemaker, poor eyes, and perhaps descending into dementia, there will be someone who will care about you.

    • dillon1 on June 19, 2019 at 3:30 pm

      Hey Carol,

      Dillon here, Carey’s content manager. I would love to respond on his behalf.

      The purpose of this post was not to call your generation a “throw-away generation.” The point was actually to say that there is a ton of opportunity to live a meaningful and purpose-driven life.

      No matter what age or ability we have, we still have the ability to do life with and serve the other members of our churches. Even if it is just discipling younger believers, you can do something.

      We are so sorry for any pain this may have caused.

    • April on August 31, 2020 at 9:22 am

      Well said.

  7. Wes Wick on November 20, 2018 at 9:50 am


    Great article! Absolutely agree, and we’ve been helping 50+ adults and churches get a vision for what you’re talking about—for over ten years. You might enjoy this short video that tackles this topic: .

    • Deborah Davis on August 16, 2019 at 2:55 am


  8. Rebecca Grace on November 13, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    One thing no one has mentioned yet is that the generation of seniors we’re talking about isn’t just any generation — it’s the Baby Boomers, 76 million strong, representing roughly 29% of the entire United States population. These seniors are bound to have a dramatic impact on the church one way or another by virtue of their sheer numbers. So one big reason our congregations are getting grayer is that AMERICA is getting grayer overall as all of those Boomers have moved into their retirement years. That is easy to forget in our youth-obsessed secular culture where young people are disproportionately featured in advertising, television and film and anyone over 40 is past their expiration date. However, our churches cannot be youth-obsessed at the expense of older generations, nor can churches cater to their Baby Boomers at the expense of raising up the next generations in the faith.

  9. Rev. Sophia Snyder on November 11, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    Yes they the churches more than I care to mention and I do not malign God’s house have acted like we Senior citizens have nothing to offer. Their programs are boring and they don’t want our wisdom. They raise their eyebrows when a senior says they are going to go to seminary. They act they are not giving another generation a chance they said we had when we ask to serve. I am not interested in retirement, I went to school for B.A. when I was 46 and graduted at 49 and when I was 50 I went to Bible school and went for 6 years because I could not afford seminary and I love God’s work, House and His Word. I graduated, got my ministers license and then my ordaination and have had to beg for the crumbs ever since in four states: PA, VA, OR and HI. I am not shy and I am more than enough willing to serve God by serving others. Frustrated and fervent in prayer I know that I am a Caleb who wants her mountain and I will not let relgion or generational differences or any other predijucice keep me from it. I have not given up since I started: saved 44 years and ordained for 11. I am resorting to the secret place and I know My God will reward me openly. There is a rich resource of experience and wisdom in Senior Citizens and the churches are just cheating themselves.

  10. Dennis on November 11, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    Gary W. Whitaker, I am with you! I left a “mainline denomination” church 7 years ago and became associated with an “attractional” model church because I loved the way it reached out to the unchurched and those who have been hurt by church people.
    I had experience coming in, in production so that is where I chose to serve. I have been a “speaker host” for all 7 years now. However, through several staff changes I have felt more and more like “damaged goods” since I am now 62 and came from a mainline church that had a bit of a negative reputation among the Christian musician and technical communities. (A former senior pastor at that church fired the worship leader for having a perfectly honorable relationship with a parishioner. The two later married and have a wonderful family now.)
    I have led a community group of couples my and my wife’s age and have offered to help in other areas, but never receive a call back. I have asked to rotate into areas of production that I have capabilities in, but again . . . crickets.
    I’m not sure if I have done something to offend, (I have asked and been assured “No”) if I have “aged out” of favor, or if the reputation of my former church has marked me as “one of THEM.” I certainly don’t want or need any accolades for serving. It’s what I love to do. I just feel that for some reason I am not the one they want to serve there. I don’t feel like an “old person” so it’s rather sad to be cast aside, but perhaps God has something in store for me that I know nothing of yet. My relationship with Him is tight and to me, that’s what’s MOST important.

  11. Gary W Whittaker on November 11, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    I am SO with you on this, but there are competing factors to making it happen. It seems that churches that want to reach the unchurched millennials don’t want to utilize older adults. There is very little of what you speak of, the genuine seeking out of wisdom from those who have “been there.” I think Solomon wrote the early chapters in Proverbs with this in mind. The one who won’t seek and use the wisdom from others is a fool. Maybe the king would have had more credibility had he been living wisely himself. New generations HATE hypocrisy.
    I love serving with many age groups, but at times it seems that it assumed that I won’t connect with millennials. Do others find that the case? I don’t want to see that happen, any moe than younger ones should be excluded because of their youth (Timothy).

  12. David Bryant on September 21, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    I have recently been appointed to lead a Senior Adult Ministry Team in my church, the first one ever. We have had a Leisure Group for 40 years that currently offers the traditional activities with an average group member age of 76. However, a recent Vision Survey shows the 50-65 year olds want more… I don’t blame them but am struck by the fact that when our Leisure Group was formed the leaders were 50 years old and took initiative themselves! I would love to have a print version of this blog (Shut Down the Bus Tours) for distribution with my team and church.

  13. Howard on February 11, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Joshua learned from Moses. Timothy learned from Paul. The Body of Christ needs every member to continue to build the Body of Christ until JESUS returns. Yes you can teach old dogs new tricks AND teach young dogs old tricks.

    • Marianne on September 6, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Well, I agree with your thoughts on this, but it seems pretty impossible to apply in a church where the majority is very old – 70-95, and just want to see their friends and have the lunches and be taken care of by the 20% who are under 70 and getting worked to death doing everything. I left that church because that was not how I want to spend my energy.

    • Anthony W.Keve on November 11, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      “Old dogs learning new tricks?” I’ve encountered a few “old dogs” in their 20s & 30s!

      I’m 61 and I’m occasionally blown away some youger and a few older that know only what they learned growing up or have the “always done ‘it’ that way” mindset (read that stubborn) and “it’s wrong” if the little thing is the slightest different. W/them I’m working on myself to “leave them to God” and move on but it ain’t easy… …pride ya know.

      Love your articles – keep ‘em comin’. Tony

  14. john appleseed on February 11, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    I became a first-time missionary at 51, & a first-time pastor at 53.
    I am constantly aware of my need of God’s grace. There are so many people who could do this mission better than me. Why didn’t God send them here? Perhaps he did & they said no.

    • john appleseed on February 11, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      In the mid-1990s I responded to a missions sermon by telling God that I would go anywhere he sent me.
      During 1997-2000 was the most painful time in my life for a variety of reasons.
      Beginning in about 2001, God mercifully began to drop a lot of clues on me as to his will for my life, & soon after he gave me a love for Filipino people.
      The Lord used the next several years by sending me through training & by refining my call.
      I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked, making less money than ever, yet I’ve never been happier.

  15. James D. Quigge on February 11, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Not my experience in the church I attend.

  16. Paul Cummings on February 10, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Great blog Carey – our church is becoming a mix of young and old. Our style of worship music has changed as our worship team all are millennials. This is bringing a younger crowd into the church, however, some of our long term, over 50 members – not all, are having a great deal of difficulty with this change. Entitlement seems to be an issue for some. We encourage our over 50 crowd to be involved, or get involved in ministries within the church that integrate all generations. So, while entitlement seems to continue to be an issue for some, it is becoming less and less of an issue for the majority of the over 50 crowd. Again great blog with some great ideas…..thanks!

  17. Andy Brock on December 3, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Carey, I am over 60, and a pastor to boot. And I agree with your assessment which applies to many small churches like I serve. I have found many of these churches are care facilities, not the body of Christ fulfilling the mission of God where they have been planted. I also warn that we too should not generalize, as I have some seniors reaching into their late 80’s which continue to demonstrate their usefulness in ministry, and a few entering their late 60’s and early 70’s willing to find new ways to do ministry in a changing world. This said, I think that I would like to see more older members relinquish the reins of power in the church, and be focused on grooming and mentoring young adults in growing spiritually and developing leadership in new ministries according to the new reality of our communities. Then some of these older churches will again flourish to the glory of God.

  18. Mark Schulz on October 27, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    For those who are serious about helping to develop older adults and walk with them to clarify their calling and legacy, I recommend checking out Leader Breakthru and their online tools of Apex and Resonance. Apex is a process designed to clarify your contribution … for younger and older adults who have not yet done much reflection on their own strengths and spiritual gifts. Resonance is focused on older adults who have a passion to finish well and to maximize their contribution and influence in these last stages of life’s race. If you would like further info, don’t hesitate to contact Terry Walling at Leader Breakthru or me at

  19. DebbyJane62 on October 11, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    The significance for doing for others, purpose driven, mission to a younger generation is important. There are activities/ways to accomplish this. Bus trips for Seniors (especially disabled) are extremely important. They build friendship, a sense of belonging, and for those who have loss their spouses and/or have no children and do not get to travel anymore; it is a mission. Why should teenagers and children have all the bus trips and summer camps? Entitlement> Yes, much entitlement for respecting the years of wisdom and the losses suffered for many Seniors. I find this article to be unbalanced and “cold”. Sacrifice for Seniors is an obligation; spending time with them, being present with them, is a ministry that is denied by many families, friends, churches. Let us not neglect this Senior needful ministry to focus on achieving results through means for younger and able persons that have not lived their many years of purpose driven significance yet. This is not about luxury or retirement or golf…..this is about “purpose presence” for Seniors. This is about compassion at the very heart of Jesus. Those without understanding lack the empathy and wisdom to see the need for “purpose presence”. Some day when leaders realize the wisdom years that have been lived and the sufferings that have endured; will better understand the get-up-and-go lifestyle has been replaced with a stillness and a fellowship that can only be seen by being present with these Senior souls. Very few Pastors have this gift of kindness, patience, and time. A field trip, a shared meal, a conversation….simple, yet profound….just like Jesus.

    • Elaine Agee on November 8, 2016 at 7:30 am

      now is the time for the young to take care of the seniors…the Bible says to take care of us and while taking care of us you will learn our wisdom. I am a widow and do the young people of the community or church help me to keep my yard groomed…fix lil repair jobs in my home or just come over and play cards with me? No…they are too busy doing things with their friends. I go on trips to have fellowship with my friends or hang at my senior center because I am not important to the young people anymore…

      • Elgonda Brunkhorst on May 27, 2017 at 7:22 pm

        There is a strong new movement SOFL Seniors on tge Frontlines
        With great encouragement to still be active and involved.
        More details at wrbsite
        Right ow locally we are involved with a musical ( invokves people 10 to 78 years okd ) weekly, powerful peaise, wirship and intercession, and then the usual setvice attendance etc. Two of our group just returned, one 74 years old, from short term missions trip to Japan, the other one from doung / teaching a three day seminar in another state, on praise and worship.
        God us doung a new thing. Prophet Joel in chapter 2 speaks about the old dreaming dreams… and always remember: Moses started kast job at age 80 and died at 120.
        Joshua was probably around 80 when he started leading the people to take possession of the kand, Caleb was 85 when he took possession of the hill country…
        Lors more examples.
        Take courage, God is definitely doung a new thing.

    • Roberta on August 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm


      I’m reading so much of how to keep seniors involved in Ministry and nothing about how to minister to seniors.

    • PostLambJam on November 11, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Talk about COLD…”Sacrifice for seniors is an obligation”. It’s just an “obligation”? Doesn’t sound like you enjoy their company very much. I think you totally missed Carey’s point. He didn’t say to completely do away with those things. Many Seniors still want to contribute but don’t think they are wanted particularly. I think Carey is saying “let’s not neglect one of our most precious resources”. Yes, the younger generation does need to respect and serve the older generation but that door swings both ways and the older generation needs to serve the younger generation by passing along their experience and wisdom AND to ENCOURAGE the younger generation. There are so many things like social media and the general coarsening of society that bring down younger people and make them doubt themselves and even doubt the Truth of the Word, and they NEED the reassurance of the older generation that it’s ok and right to live out the beliefs they have and to stand up to the skeptics and haters. It gives the younger people roots and a foundation to stand on and the older people significance and validation that they are needed and have something important to give! It gives both generations a wonderful sense of community, stability, and acceptance! PLEASE read Carey’s article again from this perspective !

    • Rebecca Grace on November 13, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      DebbyJane62, I think you’re misconstruing the role this author is advocating for seniors within the church. In my own church, larger and more vibrant than most mainline Protestant churches and with a healthy mix of young and older members, they use the Small Group concept to help members connect with one another and not feel “lost in the crowd.” However, way too many of our small groups segregate members by age and/or gender, just assuming that seniors only want to hang out with other seniors, young moms only want to hang out with other young moms, middle-aged businessmen only want to hang out with other middle-aged businessmen, empty nesters should be grouped with other empty nesters, and teenagers only want to hang out with other teenagers. As a 45-year-old mother of teenagers, I honestly would love to have more opportunities to pray and serve alongside seniors. The senior church members I’ve met through singing in choir have fascinating histories to share, rock-solid faith that has weathered the storms of life, and SO MUCH TO GIVE! Yet, outside of choir, I would never have gotten to know these wonderful people.

      Furthermore, reading through some of the previous comments from seniors who have asked to serve in their churches and have been turned down in favor of “giving the younger generation a chance,” I have to wonder whether some of our church leaders are subconsciously (or intentionally) selecting members for service based on how closely they conform physically to a “young and hip” image that they believe they need to project in order for the church to be relevant to young people. Like a “corporate branding strategy” for the church. And that troubles me, the idea that someone needs to be young and physically attractive in order to represent the church of Christ.

  20. John Mushenhouse on October 11, 2016 at 6:47 am

    For years, it seems things have been geared around entertainment for bored church goers, why change when they turn 50. How many really witness? How many really have serious bible studies? How many take serious bible courses (many free online)? How many pastors teach biblical languages so the crowd can do their own exegesis?

    Face it. Few hunger and thirst for this. Few Pastors encourage this as this takes time and talent. How many churches go to places and witness to begin with. How many really study the bible in depth? These things are continuations? How many have prayer (real prayer) meetings?

    We all it isn’t happening in the mainline churches or there would be revival.

  21. Craig Giddens on October 8, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    1. why can’t senior saints do both? i mean … why can’t they take bus trips and be active in the ministry and leadership of the church? … it happens in many churches.
    2. maybe wait until you turn 60 or 70 … then write the article.

  22. John Boy on October 8, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    So far as I am aware ‘retirement’ doesn’t really have any Biblical precedent. If I’ve understood it correctly the men serving in the temple stepped down from their physically strenuous roles when they were 50, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t other roles for them to take on. I don’t know when retirement first became the norm. Amongst pastors I get the impression that until the latter half of the 19th century most pastors worked until death or until they were no longer physically capable of doing the work. For the ordinary people there was often no financial security and they had to work until death.

    I’m not saying people should stick at their secular occupations until death (though perhaps people in jobs which are of great public service ought to stick at their jobs for longer and not stop in their prime when they have a wealth of knowledge and experience still to offer). But if we are privileged enough to live in an age where financial security means we are able to retire from secular employment, surely we ought to greatly look forward to that time when we can devote our time unrestrictedly and wholeheartedly to Christian service.

    I often wonder if a retirement spent in a worldly manner doesn’t undermine our Christian witness. Most people are impressed by elderly people who remain active and don’t succumb to a life of ease. But if non-Christians see retired Christians taking things easy, it doesn’t give them any impression of the sacrificial living that Christians are called to, or or of the urgency of the Christian message, or of our earnestness in spreading it. In many instances a worldly retirement could be a symptom of an unbelieving heart – a person isn’t sure if there really is life after death so they want to make the most of their remaining years on earth ‘just in case’. Or they treat their latter years as their reward for their decades spent working. But this life is not our reward. We are in the world but not of the world. The rewards we should be looking for are in heaven.

    People sometimes say that we work for the first six decades of our lives and that the seventh decade is a Sabbath rest. But where is the Christian spirit in that? In this New Testament age our rest is on the first day of the week, not the last. We have our time of ease in childhood. The nearer we get to the grave the more urgently we should desire to make good use of what little time remains to us. But admittedly I am far from retirement so I don’t know how I will feel when I actually get there. But I would rather die before I retire and have my life-savings go towards things that will be of benefit to the Kingdom, than live to squander it on things that will pass away.

  23. Pam on October 8, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Well……the overall tone of this article just gets under my skin! I’ll just say outright that it kinda makes me furious! I’m in that generation over 50, and our focus is still on getting the message out to others, but let me tell you – I HAVE done my time! My husband and I have worked with the children and the youth for several years in many capacities and enjoyed every minute of it. We raised our son and enjoyed our grandkids as long as they needed us. We both took care of our parents when they became “too old” and too ill to care for themselves. All the while, we were working toward retirement and our “entitlement” of being able to spend more time on the golf course, traveling, enjoying seeing the rest of the USA, and relaxing a bit more. Much of our time now, however, is spent going to doctor’s appointments, watching out for neighbors who “have done their time” and need a little more help, visiting friends and fellow church members in the nursing homes, visiting friends and fellow church members in the hospitals, calling and checking on those “who have done their time”, sending cards, making and delivering dishes, picking up groceries for those that have “done their time”, and on and on I could go with how the “over 50” group spends their time. So, yes……..we do feel a little “entitlement” to some extra time away, spending a little more time on the golf course, taking bus trips, etc.

    As someone mentioned in one of the comments below, our energy levels are not as high as they once were, but we are not dead yet and we do want to enjoy life a little. In case you don’t realize it, each generation has something they look forward to at each stage of their life. Realizing those dreams is what keeps us going! Without dreams, we are dead!

    Now, lets turns that around and focus on integrating each stage of life in our participation in the church. No generation or stage of life should take precedence or focus on/over another! Yes, raising the youth to a better understanding of Christ and the true meaning of life is VERY important. But if we focus on the youth, that is just enabling even more an “entitlement” orientation that is hard to overcome once they get to the “over 50” stage. Just think about how much time THEY will spend on the golf course, taking bus trips, and relaxing they would think they are “entitled” to.

    It is very easy to sit back and look at the “over 50” generation and only see the “entitlement” aspect of it, but you are not seeing all the other things we are doing now that we have more time. I can understand that youth are very near and dear to your heart and the “entitled” are not as important. We ARE ministering. We ARE praying for the youth. We ARE supporting the youth. It’s just that now we have MORE things to do now that we are “over 50”, and yes, that does include relaxing more! We HAVE done our time, but we are not done yet. We just happen to “do” our things a little differently and take a little more time to do it. We ARE slower, mentally and physically, but that doesn’t mean we are through!

    You are still young and have a lot to learn! This article almost makes you look as if you are sitting back and sneering at the “over 50” people! It is almost a double standard sound! Don’t make one generation a negative while trying to build up another!

    • Frankly Frank on October 8, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Pam makes some pretty good points and the article, while probably well intended to keep the old generation from relaxing in kingdom work, smacks of some ageism as well. I’m over 60 and haven’t slowed down at all, except I can’t quite do what I used to do even though I would like to. I think stereotyping older people as the one’s who take bus trips (instead of attending rock concerts or settling into the bar for a long night) of “fellowship”) in the use of their time might be taking the negative approach while attempting to encourage positive ministry. Young man, listen to the wisdom that is coming your way.

    • Pat on February 10, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Well said Pam. I became a widow at 40 and was automatically “promoted” to the elderly widow section of the church because I didn’t seem to fit in any of the prescribed groups in the church. Now over 60 I am still working… because I love my work and still involved in many areas of the church. I may not be involved in teaching the junior high class that nobody else wanted, or Sunday School superintendent (for 12 years) or women’s ministry but I do coffee service, greeting, nursery and play for services. Yes, some people are fortunate to retire at age 50 and have marvellous opportunities to take advantage of while they can. In the area and economy I live in I and for many I know we will be working as full/part time as long as we can. So …. don’t stereotype anyone…. as far as ability, age, etc. Thankfully we are only accountable to ONE who knows our hearts and our abilities!

  24. Katy on October 5, 2016 at 9:27 am

    This article nails it! I hit 60 and boom….. my opportunity for involvement at the church vanished! I was useless except to fold bulletins and hold a baby in the nursery. Yes, both are legitimate jobs and can be part of my involvement in my church, but sheesh….I have so much more to offer. I’m not old and unable to move, or think, or talk. Give me something meaningful to do!

  25. Rockerfeller on October 5, 2016 at 7:46 am

    I think one of the side effects of focusing a ministry, even building a church targeted at younger people, is that you don’t really have much to offer older people. Hence the exodus. Let’s be honest, sometimes the church isn’t even trying. All it wants, it seems, is the financial resources and the service of older people. If a congregation wants to be multi-generational, it has to be willing to make sacrifices that allow for that

    Many churches have ran off the older Christians in their quest to reach a younger generation. The goal is worthy, but the way it was done wasn’t.

    • Procrastin8er on October 5, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Can you be more specific on what you feel the church should be offering older people, in addition to inviting them to give and serve others? What kind of sacrifices would prevent an exodus?

      • Susan Shelko on October 10, 2016 at 11:53 am

        First the rock band problem. Those really cool strobe lights and wild patterned carpeting — along with the ear piercing music — my very good friend has a service dog and a physical illness whereby she cannot tolerate such a narley new fangled hipster approach.

        Translation: the music hurts the service dog’s ears and he howls loudly and the combination lights, carpet and music causes her to throw up all over said wild patterned carpet — and if that isn’t bad enough, she is left with a debilitating migraine. Awesome!

        So church built upon a rock — rock band, that is — automatically eliminates 50% of the churches in my community. She can’t go!

        How many other “older folks” have similar problems — whether that be inner ear issues, hearing loss or ringing in their ears, etc.
        What the teens and 30 somethings (along with their hip pastors) think is the coolest thing in town is downright painful for others.

        Next the message (or sermon) problem. Lets see … it’s book of the month club with a local celebrity comedian, motivational speaker and life coach (pastor). Scripture is window dressing as we learn how to unclutter our lives, dream our dreams and stay optimistic.

        An older man or woman who knows the Lord and walks with the Lord and loves Holy Scripture and prays with love and intimacy is not going to put up with such nonsense. You can market this any way you wish, but it isn’t the gospel and it isn’t Christianity.

        Third problem: the church has lost its first love and its primary focus on the gospel — to know nothing except Christ and Christ crucified. The new priority is: food pantry, diabetes run, shoe drive, homeless outreach, addiction treatment, grief therapy, etc..

        There are a multitude of other groups (i.e., social service agencies and non-profits) that are doing far better and more efficiently job than any church could ever do in terms of social service/ outreach.
        Why do we need church to duplicate what is already being done?

        The city runs a food pantry. The diabetes association sponsors the diabetes run. The fire department conducts a shoe drive. A local couple started a 501(c)(3) for the homeless. We have AA, NA and other 12 step groups. A local hospice has a community grief group.

        What we have is this: The church does what isn’t needed — social service activities that other groups do a far better job at doing. The church doesn’t do what God himself called it to do — proclaim the gospel and make disciples! Save time, volunteer directly!

        And if the “gospel message” is actually presented, it is limited to only upbeat, happy and positive. Words such as “sin”, “judgment”, “hell”, “repentance”, “deny self”, “take up cross”, “follow me” — and like words — are carefully downplayed or completely omitted.

        The Easter Bunny and Minions show up during the church service. There is a Frisbee throw in the middle of the sanctuary to welcome newcomers. The Star Wars cast (Princess Leigh too) helps draw names for the Apple Watch give-away. That’s modern-day church.

        Can we spell s-a-c-r-e-l-i-d-g-e? Can we spell m-o-c-k-e-r-y? Can we spell p-r-o-f-a-n-e- a-l-l- t-h-a-t- i-s- s-a-c-r-e-d- a-n-d- h-o-l-y?

        So the Great Commission, remember that, is no longer baptize, teach and make disciples. We no longer train and equip believers for ministry. It is now: go out into your communities and create life change — meeting the felt needs of all the people you meet.

        Then if you go to a mainstream denomination — that older couple with a decades old marriage. Inclusiveness means rainbow colored clerical garb and same sex marriage proposals in the middle of the church service. Yeah, that’s going to go over really well. Not!

        Can you not see the reason for the exodus? and can you not see why the church is in decline? Lord have mercy. God help us all.

        • Rebecca Grace on November 13, 2018 at 5:51 pm

          Susan makes a lot of valid points — EXCEPT her argument that the local hospice can do a better job at grief support than the church. There is NO consolation for the bereaved like the Gospel of Christ and our faith in the Resurrection. The idea that the church should send grieving parishioners to away to the local hospice center for non-denominational crap about “they’ll always live on in your heart” is terrible. No social service agency is going to comfort the bereaved with 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Christians need grief support from our churches because “we do not grieve like those who have no hope.”

        • Danielle on November 3, 2019 at 4:43 pm

          Wow! I am truly sorry that your church hurt you this way. I guess I’m taken aback at your anger and stereotyping of all churches and pastors. I can assure you that there are plenty of churches in all their forms that are bible based/driven and aren’t all cotton candy and rainbows preaching. But can I address one issue? I don’t think that the church is rendered obsolete in helping out because there’s another group that’s already doing it in the community. In fact, being the body of Christ (including the hands) is biblical. We encourage others by being there. We get compassion through doing. We create relationships by being involved. And, most importantly, we serve Christ by serving others. Without those things, we become more and more entitled, and less and less who Christ called us to be.

  26. Aaron Stimpson on October 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    This is one reason I got fired from youth ministry. I thought that the older generations had something to offer my youth in small groups. My pastor didn’t feel the same. I love this article. You’re not done until you’re dead.

  27. Cynthia on October 3, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    I hope a lot of churches see this. My husband and I are in our fifties, both still working full time, with married children but also one still in college. We recently visited a new church because we are impressed with their commitment to outreach, but have been disappointed to find that all the “Life Groups” are generally grouped by age. We would love to see them group by general geographic area, with a commitment to all ages working together to meet and reach our neighbors, in addition to the benefits of intergenerational fellowship in the group itself.

    • Suzanne LeBlanc on June 16, 2017 at 7:58 am

      I am part of a thriving and growing parish in which I have been very active to get generations together to grow in Christ. I am 65. I am open to new things and enthusiastic about so much that we are doing.

      I have felt that our work with inter-generational faith formation wasn’t valued and now feel like it is being discouraged with a focus on getting millennials into ministry and moving the age groups further and further apart. I know I am not alone with this experience.

      Upward communication is very poor and it seems to be getting worse with more grumbling as a result because so many do not feel heard and valued for their gifts and commitment. It is very discouraging, to say the least.

      A good thing is that you are known and respected among leadership in my parish. Can you give me something to take to them to encourage opening up to so much expertise that they are missing out on? I am having a hard time just seeing wasted opportunities for young families and people of all ages to be empowered to grow.

  28. Mark Butler on October 3, 2016 at 9:11 am

    I have been blessed with a wonderful example in my father (74 yrs old) who serves his local church and is a part of a group of men who meet weekly for lunch and plan/serve widows and those in need in the community they call themselves ROMEO’s (Retired Old Men Eating Out). My favorite comment my dad made even after a health scare is “When God calls me to heaven’s shore I am not going in oars up” it is such a great picture for me to follow.

  29. Bob’s Links – Sep 26-Oct 2 | Bob's Links on October 3, 2016 at 6:54 am

    […] Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing (Carey Nieuwhof) “So how do you engage older church attendees… say people over age 50?” […]

  30. Rebeccalynn Smith on October 1, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on how to engage folks who are in the “Encore” portion of their lives in meaningful ministry . Most of the people in my congregation are in this category of “retirement” and items you discuss in this blog came up in conversation earlier this week. May I share your blog in a condensed format in our upcoming newsletter?

    I’ve appreciated reading the comments … and keep in mind that we are all in Jesus Christ’s mission, that of bringing about the kingdom of God here on earth so that all will know of God’s love…

    God’s continued blessings on your ministry and the mission of Jesus Christ!

  31. PaulWilkinson on October 1, 2016 at 10:24 am

    In the Christian bookstore environment where I spend about half of my week, I engage with many twenty-somethings, and I often wonder how receptive they will be to someone from another generation, but am usually surprised by the degree to which they allow me speak into their life.

  32. Char Seawell on October 1, 2016 at 8:31 am

    This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I committed financial suicide to retire early from a 30 year teaching career to care for my 95 year old mom in our home. Then she passed on that summer. I looked around me over this last year at friends who were snowbirds/traveling/hanging out. We played music at senior residences and meet healthy seniors who seemed a little trapped in their “homes” still eager for meaning. And I looked around and asked myself, “Is this all there is?” I told my husband I did not want to meet my Maker and talk about my relaxed last third of life. There is kingdom work to be done. As an “elder” in my church and as a former “contemporary worship leader” in several churches and church plants, here is what I observed.

    1). Older folks do not give younger pastors much credit. These pastors are, in my experience, not serving themselves, they are serving their God and ours in a way that He has called them to do. It is not how the last guy or girl did it. Hallelujah! God is making all things new. Some of the most Christ centered, self sacrificing, community loving people I have encountered are young pastors.

    2). Yes, a different culture is engaged. Again…Hallelujah! Just because it is different does not mean it is inauthentic. If your pastor is wearing jeans and dressing casually, join him or her. God doesn’t care what we wear to church.

    3). Look around at the needs in your church and the needs in your community and seek ways to help with the ways you have been gifted. I happen to love technology. That means I can create mail chimp newsletters for the women’s ministry and help put in youth attendance or the youth pastor. By the way, if being around youth makes you crazy, you can still serve. One of the greatest unspoken needs for youth ministry is cookies for their worship and study groups. Trust me on this! As a former teacher, I adopted a kindergarten teacher and do all her copying, which is a waste of a value resource if she has to spend her time doing it.

    God desires a spirit of gratitude in his people, not a spirit of grumbling. I can’t tell you how many times I have to say, “It is not about us, it’s about the next generation.” If the music is too loud or too different, be a greeter until the music is over and then listen to your favorite hymns on the way home. If you don’t like the preaching style, sit in church and pray that the message will reach the person that needs to hear it today, which might be you. Embrace the way the spirit is moving today…open up your hands to reach out to your community…be an encouragement to every leader in your church.

    Yes, it isn’t always easy, but I always try and remind myself that I am saved already, and that is all the gift I need in this life on earth. Now it’s time to share that gift.

    As always, this is an opinion of one. I don’t normally write diatribes, but this one hit a chord with me having seen pastors and churches hurt by preferences getting in the way of mission and God’s human resources getting squandered.

    • greg walker on October 2, 2016 at 7:26 am

      Thank you for your comment and for your servant’s heart. Your church is blessed to have you.

    • PostLambJam on November 11, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      Char, I love your “diatribe”! You and I could hang out! Lol!!

  33. greg walker on October 1, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Late reading this week. I am waiting to board my flight across the continent back to sunny FL after spending my first anniversary of joining the 50+ club house hunting. My wife and I are about to pack it all up and move to the west coast to plant a church. I ain’t doing any bus trips.

    This is a great post, and I heartily agree, and am disappointed by some of the comments. To those who say that the younger generation doesn’t want to be in relationship with older folks: My observation is that they want to be in a respectful relationship, not an extended childhood, where they are “told” by their elders. When we recognize them as mature adults with valuable experiences and thoughts, they tend to reciprocate. When we offer a diatribe on all that is wrong with the world, and “kids these days,” they tend to be less interested in hearing how screwed up we,think they are.

    To the commenters who are offended that “it’s all about reaching the,young”, I don’t think that is what Carey is advocating. But it’s not about catering to the elders either. The attitude in my current church from my generation is “I did my time.”. That isn’t helpful in reaching the lost. We need everyone, and unless the bus trip is to the homeless camps or another ministry destination, you may be misunderstanding your purpose in the church.

    Oh, and my 70+ parents? They’re selling their starting to make plans to move with us. Although they are serving in their current church, leading a small group and volunteering in the office, the idea of being part of a new thing is stirring them as well.

    Carey is calling us to a new perspective. It may not be convenient, but it is much more fulfilling. Consider his thoughts before you just dismiss it out of hand.

  34. Martin Haglund on October 1, 2016 at 8:21 am

    From 2009-2012, I was the Community Life Director for a 150 suite Stunningly Beautiful Assisted Living Facility which included movie theater, chapel, billiards bar, coffee shop and a central staircase that looked like it came from the Titanic.

    The larger share of the residents once were business owners, well traveled executives educators or high end sales persons. About 20 percent were large farmers and more common folk.

    At least one spouse had medical issues which required access to daily care or observation. 26 of the units were in a separate, but connected, secure building which cared for persons in varying stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Though well staffed and gorgeous, most of the residents initially suffered from a mild depression and didn’t use the theater, chapel, billiards or coffee shop even when their families visited. All were large enough to host 35 – 50 persons.

    I was 56 at the time and recognizing in myself an increasing sense of diminished utility to the ministerial world. I’d been, and still am looking for pastoral ministry without success.

    I noted that whenever I felt challenged with a Purpose outside my own issues, I thrived.

    I investigated psychological studies on purposelessness and determined to discover the skills, hot buttons and hobbies of the residents so that I might develop a strategy to create Community and Purpose to help them alleviate their loneliness and depression.

    I started by interviews of residents and the young health care workers. I asked for and obtained permission to share this history and as well struggles within the community.

    I kept data of interests, family, and skills gleaned from their careers. The residents were initially enlisted merely to pray for their care givers based on their new knowledge of who these young women were. The care givers were enlisted to help the resident create an entryway that represented who they were and are.

    From this humble start, fitness groups started, miniature golf tournaments inside the facility were established, the coffee shop was continuously full of conversation and on Thursday a Mocha Bar. Billiard competitions developed, guests hosts were enlisted for select movies with theme dinners and elegant attire events.

    Beneath all the Community Activity was a spirit of prayer and caring for One Another.

    Intergenerational activities became the standard.

    Whole families came often including grandchildren and great grandchildren.

    Best of all, statistics proved that falls decreased, strength increased, medication for depression decreased, longevity rose. Percent of occupancy increased and stabilized. Unfortunately, that was not what the owners of the facility wanted. They wanted activities without spiritual underpinnings.

    They attempted to change my job description to exclude all spiritual input including chapel advocacy. Sarah and I prayed, grieved the proposed changes and I resigned.

    2.5 years later, a sense of Community no longer exists, the hallways are silent, turnover is back to being problematic and depression haunts everyone who goes to visit…as well as the staff and residents.

    • PostLambJam on November 11, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      That’s tragic. 😭

    • Deborah Davis on August 16, 2019 at 5:17 am

      How very very sad

    • Julia on August 20, 2021 at 3:04 pm

      Oh my! Heartbreaking. But kudos to you for what you did for that time. I can tell from your heart that you will also be able to do some wonderful things for the kingdom in the future.

  35. Saturday Links - DashHouse - on October 1, 2016 at 4:10 am

    […] Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing […]

  36. perry on September 30, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I think the more ” wise and mature” Christians have been given the boot. Many have been told to leave if they didn’t like the direction the church was going. They got tired of being labeled as controversial when they objected to the seeker friendly ways of the younger “smarter” pastors in churches today. They know the faith being spread in most pulpits oops I mean off the stools today won’t hold up during the trials that they know are coming. They know the trials are coming because they have been thru them. They’ve been told, we really don’t care what music you like we are not trying to reach 80 year olds we cater to the young crowd. They might think the purpose of the church is to equip the saint not entertain the sinner, but church leaders today know if church isn’t entertaining the sinner may never come back. We can’t do that because we have make sure we grow the numbers.

    • T Chil on October 1, 2016 at 6:30 am

      Amen and Amen… and on top of this “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:15.

    • Rockerfeller on October 5, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Perry, you are right on. The whole “You’re being Selfish” is priceless and sadly it is true. You don’t have to be over 50 to see how the younger pastors of today have re-shaped the churches into their image of what church must be.

      I won’t be a part of any church that is NOT multi-generational. I want to see a lot of younger families and a lot of grey hair. I don’t care how good the “band” is, if you don’t have old people, I won’t be there.

  37. Dave Telling on September 30, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Interesting observations. I’m soon to be 65, and am semi-retired. My income has dropped significantly since being laid off from my former position (I was/am an electronics design engineer), so my financial status is not as rosy as others. My wife and I have struggled with this issue of how the church should deal with the different age groups, and I would tend to echo what others have said about the younger folks not wanting to spend time with us older folks. The reasons for this come form both sides of the age “fence”. Much of what younger people like as far as music and other media is either distasteful or literally painful to many older people. Younger people tend to have a certain amount of contempt for the old folks who don’t “get it”, whether it be about social issues or technology. Older people are put off by the arrogance of young folks (although to be fair, we were often the same at the same age). Young people have much more energy and want to do things that use that energy, many of us older folks are worn out at the end of the day, and don’t have the physical strength to do things like that. What I think older people find most offensive is the idea that young people are the only group on which the church should focus. Music, media, activities – all tend to lean toward the younger crowd. The concept of singing worship songs more than a year old or (heaven forbid) hymns causes eyes to roll and typically results in a “you can’t live in the past, God is always doing something new, you have to GET WITH IT!!!!” Older people are often marginalized and made to feel like they are standing in the way of progress. Our local church is somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. I have been told, when asking if the music volume could be turned down, that “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!”, but on the other hand, my wife and I are still seen as people who love and support our local church. We try to spend time with the younger folks, and we have been invited on some of the hikes & other physical activities, but we can’t do some of them. We enjoy some of the contemporary songs, but also find great theology and comfort in some of the older songs and hymns. I think that finding ways to incorporate older people into church ministries is great, and we have done just about everything you can do in a church in our 40+ years as believers, but trying to force social interaction where there is a strong mindset against it may not work out that well. Another factor to consider is that older people often have children and grandchildren who live out of the area. In the summer, particularly, we travel to visit them and are gone quite a few Sundays. In addition, we participate in other community activities that interfere with some church ministries (not too many Sundays – just a few times a year). People who have worked hard most of their lives look forward to having more freedom and recreational activities, and it is hard to commit to something that makes it very difficult to travel or do other things that mean that you’ll not be at church. I agree that church staff should look for ways to build upon the wisdom and (hopefully) patience and grace of the older crowd, but just like as in so many other areas of society, there needs to be a fundamental change in the way that the two groups view one another.

    • Rebecca Grace on November 13, 2018 at 6:14 pm

      I’ve been on both sides of the Music In Worship War. As the daughter of a church choir director, I love the traditional hymns and anthems (but only the good ones) AND the contemporary music (but only the good ones!). I have been in the congregation of many traditional services full of gray-haired parishioners who may claim they love those hymns, but they are mumbling them so quietly that mine is the only voice ringing out loud and clear through the sanctuary. But we’re not singing for our own enjoyment; we’re offering music up in worship to God. In a recent re-reading of my Bible, I was struck by how many times, over and over again, scripture tells us to “sing to the Lord a NEW song.” I only found ONE reference in the entire Old and New Testament to singing the OLD songs. When I sing my favorite childhood hymns like “Earth and All Stars,” “Lift High the Cross,” or “How Great Thou Art,” I feel that strong worship connection, not entertainment or singing just for fun. But there are contemporary Christian songs that make me feel safe and connected to God through faith as well, like the song “Oceans” that talks about trusting in Jesus through times of adversity:
      “You call me out upon the waters
      The great unknown where feet may fail
      And there I find You in the mystery
      In oceans deep
      My faith will stand
      And I will call upon Your name
      And keep my eyes above the waves
      When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
      For I am Yours and You are mine.”

      To me, that’s expressing the same theology of my one of my grandmother’s favorite hymns, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”:
      “What a friend we have in Jesus all our sins and grieves to bear
      What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer
      Oh what peace we often forfeit of what needless pain we bear
      All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer
      Have we trials and temptations is there trouble anywhere
      If we have don’t be discouraged take it to the Lord in prayer.”

      It’s unfair to generalize that young folks “have contempt for older folks,” just as it is unfair to generalize that older church members are hostile to change and/or no longer have anything to offer to their churches or their communities. You know, when I think about the Kingdom of Heaven, one of the coolest things I’m looking forward to is all of these divisions of race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, etc., just disappearing and instead of looking at one another and seeing all of our superficial worldly differences, we will see each other as God sees us, as precious children who all belong at the table.

    • Gloria Banken on November 14, 2018 at 6:54 pm

      Gloria Banken Puyallup Wa.

      Thank you for talking about older folks not so physically able to be as active. They are not being loved and treated respectfully when labeled as users and kicked out of the church they loved and served.

  38. Rev. Dr. John Landis on September 30, 2016 at 11:41 am

    My opinion on this I find to be very controversial . . . not with millennials but with those over 60. (BTW I am over 60 🙂 ). I believe that, in general the two groups need to be autonomous to function and exist on their own. I think that the needs, expectations and methods of both groups need to be specifically addressed and therefore segregated. Both groups have widely divergent needs and interests. Both groups are willing to serve but in widely divergent ways.

    Neither group wants to be integrated with the other (contrary to what they say) and spend so much time discussing how to integrate but fighting integration that they focus internally out of self defense. But as you indicated most 20 somethings don’t want to spend their time with 70 somethings! There can be points of contact, particularly in jointly held visions of mission and ministry. But to expect the age groups to function as an integrated group is counter productive, in my opinion and observation.

    It is my genuine belief that God is redesigning (not re-purposing) “Church” to meet the needs of the future world. Not redesigning the purpose but the methods of delivery. I remain unconvinced that the older generation (in general) is willing to accommodate what the church is becoming and is therefore an obstacle to what God is doing. God is phasing out church as we know it (as opposed to ending it suddenly) in order to honor and provide for the needs of the older generation However the coming church I believe will be so radically different that the older generation will not be able to deal with it. The coming church must remain unencumbered by having to conform to the methodology and requirements of the current church.

    Carey, I agree with you on point 4. The older generation needs to be willing to support and resource the necessary changes for the younger generation. That is the best case scenario. But for whatever reason they do not seem to be willing to do so, at least not in my experience. Both groups seem to me conserve their resources, financial, intellectual, and time for their own use, as if God would not provide what is needed.

    All of this is my opinion and I am still doing the research to support it, but if this hypothesis is valid we will need to reevaluate how we do church for the next 10 years, how we do ministry and how we resource the work of the church.. I am interested in your opinion and the opinions of the readers of this blog. I highly value both.

    • Char Seawell on October 1, 2016 at 8:34 am

      I totally agree with you, and I am 65:-).

    • Rebecca Grace on November 13, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      So John, the most interesting thing to me about your comments is not that you are willing to “pull rank” and criticize the attitudes of your own generation, but the fact that you view the generational struggles of the church as a battle between the “20-year-olds” and “those over 60.” I was born in 1973 and I’m 45 years old. In your vision of the church, MY generation is the one that has nothing to offer at all — we’re too old to be the young and hip future of the church, but not old enough to be invited on bus tours with the seniors. Has it occurred to you that your 40-somethings can be a bridge between the young adults and seniors?

  39. Brent Steeves on September 29, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    First, welcome to the club! I joined it myself last year. I have read your blogs and followed your insight for a couple of years. Your best is yet to come Carey. I hear your heart in this post. I don’t always hear your heart. Sometimes its hidden behind your mind (and your mind is pretty darn sharp!). 50 is a milestone, an achievement of sorts. There is a freedom of speaking and thought that seems to accompany this stage of life. Your passion is shining through in this post–and your wisdom and experience is evident. When those elements combine there is power. Embrace it and continue to lead those of us who look to you for insight. This post will be the subject matter for discussion at my next staff meeting. Thanks again for caring enough to do what you do.

  40. Annette Wells on September 29, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    While I wholeheartedly agree that seniors still need to have opportunity to serve, I also think there needs to be a balance. You ask, “What am I entitled to as a person over 50?” — nothing is correct, but I think that is the answer for people of any age. Yes, we need to work together, but when I am told that someone else needs to be the ones to engage the young adults because I am now too old to relate, I don’t think so.
    Over 50s may need to sacrifice for the sake of the younger generation, but I don’t believe they have to sacrifice all of their enjoyment at church. There is nothing wrong with having a hymn sing or other kind of worship that older people are going to enjoy. Who knows, maybe some of the younger fold would actually enjoy it too if they were willing to give it a chance!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      I hear what you’re saying Annette, but I would gladly trade off everything I like if it meant we had a church where faith beat in the next generation. I’ve been in far too many churches where there 12 people left who liked it just the way it was. Last one out…turn out the lights. I just don’t want to see that happen any more, and certainly not on my watch. So my preferences will take a back seat to a greater mission.

      • Hannah on September 30, 2016 at 6:42 am

        Really? Please read that again and realize just how arrogant you sound!

        Seniors may not be ENTITLED to anything, but we are still God’s children and we need to be fed as well. The greater mission encompasses the entire church, not just younger people! You make it sound as though our entire focus as seniors should be on conserving youth in the church. Well that has not worked for the last 30 years. Adding more contemporary music, blaring guitars, pounding drums, and ideologies such as the emergent church and the ecumenical movement have done more to harm the church than help it.

        Church membership continues to decline, not because seniors are not involved, but because somewhere along the line the church decided they didn’t need to preach the gospel of Christ. But instead they feed their congregation a steady diet of pablum…soft, unoffensive, “feel good” food. The church is dying because it is starving to death at the hands of church leadership….pastors, administrators, and more pastors for every single conceivable “group” in the church.

        When the entire church is fed baby food out of FEAR of offending children, teens, youth, young people and old people…when the church tries to be ALL THINGS to ALL PEOPLE it WILL DIE. Church growth has NOTHING to do with how involved seniors are. It has nothing to do with how involved teens are. It has to do with how involved the hearts of the church are, how on fire for CHRIST the people are. And in this day and age of “feel good” church targeted mainly at teenagers, the church is starving to death.

        Christ said “feed my sheep.” So I suggest you get started before they all leave.

        • T Chil on October 1, 2016 at 6:34 am

          Amen, let’s get back on track and do what God says, the church growth movement at all costs is building empires for leaders, not Christ.

          • Char Seawell on October 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

            I am so sorry this has been your experience. We have found our young, on mission pastor to be totally Christ centered and Biblical in his preaching. And I agree with Susan that becoming involved in study at home is so rewarding, especially with commentaries. Here’s a funny story to end with. Our pastor is gifted in memory of scripture. He would deliver the text directly to us as though we were hearing it for the first time. It moved me to tears to hear God’s word spoken over me anew, so I could only imagine the effect on new hearers of the word. He no longer does that. Why? Apparently he was not being Biblical in his sermons because He wasn’t using God’s word, at least the way it was supposed to be used.

        • Susan Shelko on October 1, 2016 at 9:06 pm

          Hannah and Annette,
          I am not sure that this new model of “doing church” is going to change. It seems to be the future. I see two choices: one, find a way to stay at a seeker friendly church and get fed spiritually apart from church (i.e., on line sermons and blogs and solid home Bible studies, etc.) or two, find one of the few remaining churches that is Bible based like a 9 mark church and join and support that church with everything you have. (Or I suppose stop going altogether.)

          Can you come late and miss the rock band? Can you bring ear protection like you would wear for cutting the grass? Maybe you can attend every other week to make it more tolerable with fewer exposures? Maybe you could host a Bible study mid-week from your home or meet for breakfast and Bible study at a local restaurant? Do any of your friends have a piano at home and know how to play? You might have a monthly “hymn and praise night” at home?

          Certainly, pray and ask the Lord what he would have you do. I am sure you will be given an answer. Susan

          • Char Seawell on October 2, 2016 at 8:25 am

            Thank you Susan. You offer some great suggestions.

          • Susan Shelko on October 2, 2016 at 8:46 am

            A good friend and I began two Bible studies that we co-facilitate midweek. One is on Acts (the Early Church) and the other the Bible Timeline. I set up an account with a Christian publishing company so we had an administrator. We have streaming video with a well-regarded teacher/ lecturer doing the presentations and we have study questions for discussion. We invited all of our friends and neighbors.

            We also invited the pastors and their congregations to join us. This is where it gets interesting. Would you ever have thought that Christian clergy would oppose Bible studies? Now we’re not talking about questionable studies. The publisher has won best of the best awards. We are viewed as a threat and as the competition. We charge not one cent – just buy your study guide. It was eye opening to say the least.

            I think our experience says it all with respect to what is happening in the churches. Upon what do you build your church – on rock or on sand?

          • Craig Giddens on October 8, 2016 at 9:42 am

            …. a lot of churches appear to be building on rock ….. music.

          • chimom1 on February 12, 2017 at 3:43 pm

            Sorry to hear that. A growing church tries to direct and accomodate those who wish to serve. Yes, there may be some questions to be sure the goal is in line with serving God and bringing people to Christ or building relationships to that end, but your experience is surely disheartening. Keep on studying and following your heart

          • Susan Shelko on February 12, 2017 at 6:08 pm

            It’s okay Chirmom1. Four month later and I am official done with institutional church. The 9 marks church I was attending decided to turn their weekly community group into a group therapy session without the therapist. When they say, “We do life together,” they mean “We have no boundaries and we share everything and anything.” Imagine a total stranger telling us all about her psychiatric history along with a whole lot more. (Yep! When I complained and objected and said it wasn’t healthy or appropriate, I was told that they like it that way and that it was my problem.)

            If I wanted a 12 step program, I would find a 12 step program. If I wanted group therapy, I would find a licensed and competent therapist to lead a therapy group. I haven’t been back, and if ever I am tempted to go back to that church or any other church, I will just bring to mind my prior experience. The Bible studies, on the other hand, are doing great. We are finishing up Acts and plan to do a Lenten study on Ephesians. Maybe if enough people do what I am doing (leave for good), the Church will figure it out and reform itself.

        • BeckyV on October 2, 2016 at 3:53 pm

          you have to ask yourself too, is turning the music down a smidge and the house lights up a little such an unreasonable request? It isn’t. Well, unless it’s all about the look of the experience and not serving the people. 🙁

        • Rebecca Grace on November 13, 2018 at 7:10 pm

          Hmmm… The question is, WHO are the sheep and WHO are the shepherds? Do we as Christians see our church as a destination where we go as sheep needing to be fed, or do we see our church as a launching pad where we are equipped to be shepherds ourselves, so that we can go out and find and feed those sheep who are lost? John 21:17 — three times Jesus said to Peter, IF you love me, FEED MY SHEEP. Not “if you love me, congregate in churches where others will feed you.”

          The youth in our church volunteer at the local soup kitchen, do fundraising and then go Christmas shopping for underprivileged families in the community, and volunteer with an organization where they support families of children facing cancer and other terminal illnesses. Right now they are busy setting up an Alternative Gift Market to encourage people to spend a portion of their Christmas shopping budget on a variety of charitable gifts that will positively impact people in need all over the world. Our teens are hearing the message at church and taking it outside the walls of our building, into the community, and feeding the sheep! Now, why on Earth would these kids be spending their free time this way if the church was failing in its mission to preach the Gospel? Those kids are out there feeding Christ’s sheep BECAUSE their hearts are involved and “on fire” for Christ. The mission of the church, since the very beginning, has always been to bring in the lost and send out the found. What if Peter and the Apostles had just stayed home and “fed their elders” rather than going out into the world and sharing the Light of the Gospel with others? Would we all be having this conversation at all today? Would any of us know Christ at all?

          You claim that “the church is dying” and point to declining membership as evidence of that. You decry “feel-good church aimed primarily at teenagers” as if teenagers feeling good about themselves, knowing that they are loved and valued children of God who are called to serve others is a bad thing. Instead of looking at this like the church is CATERING to young people at the expense of older church members, consider that the church is EQUIPPING young people to go out and feed the sheep BECAUSE the older generations have put in years of faithful service, don’t have as much energy as they used to, and won’t be around to do Christ’s work forever. And I think the author of this article is advocating that we recognize, value, and enlist the gifts and wisdom of older church members and encourage them to share their faith and experience with those young people, NOT that we further marginalize and ignore seniors at the expense of youth-focused ministry.

      • Rockerfeller on October 5, 2016 at 8:02 am

        Carey, I am with you on that one. But, the church is in mega decline right now and it seems the younger generation is passing on faith. You have to ask why that is happening?

        In large part, it is because the church has shifted her focus to reaching non-Christians, instead of nurturing, feeding and equipping believers. Believers come to these surfaces week after week and leave malnourished. After a while, they just stop coming. What is the point?

        Combine that with services that entertain and lack real substance, the seekers come, look around and think “There is nothing here, this Christianity thing must be a joke.”

        There are some congregations that do better at this than others, but I think the current version of “This is how you do church” has been tried and found wanting.

        Should we double down on this idea of church or look elsewhere?

        • Susan Shelko on October 9, 2016 at 7:32 pm

          Beg or borrow or buy a copy of The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. It explains everything. I read the book and I had an epiphany as to what is unfolding in the Christian churches.

          • Rockerfeller on October 9, 2016 at 10:17 pm

            I am VERY familiar with it!

        • John Boy on October 10, 2016 at 7:30 am

          Maybe young people just don’t learn to take Christianity seriously because they don’t really see any evidence of it being taken seriously by their elders. Instead of seeing eminent older Christians whose lives are devoted to serving Christ, living examples of Christianity maturity and of what the Christian life should look like, they generally just see people who are living very relaxed and comfortable and contented lives, taking pleasure in the things of this world, showing no sense of devotion to God, or of urgency and of being on a mission to seek the lost. Logic (and Christian biography) would suggest that the more Christians mature, the more detached they should grow from the pleasures of this world, the more worthless it should all feel in comparison with what is eternal.

          • Rockerfeller on October 10, 2016 at 8:27 am

            That is a good observation. I would take it one step further. If the followers of Christ are not really following Christ on a consistent basis, I think that this generation of Church leaders is very much to blame. Their version of “Church” heavily influences how Christians understand their faith, and the scriptures that guide that faith. Feed them stale bread and water long enough and they grow sickly.

            If today’s church leaders develop and implement their preferred method of doing church AND the church implodes and everybody leaves it, THAT is on them.

          • John Boy on October 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

            We seem to live in an age where being a pastor is treated as a 9-till-5 job, and not regarded as a lifetime calling and gifting from God. These hireling ‘pastors’ place self-imposed restrictions on what they consider their responsibilities and duties and reduce their labours to what is convenient rather than striving towards the ideal. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that as long as a pastor has spent enough time preparing his sermons, he has done sufficient. Everything else is regarded as superfluous, or even as undermining the supremacy of preaching (though whether two dry lectures delivered on Sundays constitute a biblical conception of ‘preaching’ is doubtful).

            If often feels that enough of a distinction isn’t drawn between teaching and preaching. We live in days where we try to cram everything into two Sunday services – a bit of prayer, a bit of singing, a sermon aimed at both believers and unbelievers. By trying to kill all birds with one stone, we probably fail to do anything very effectively – everyone is catered for in a deficient manner and so, as you say, believers grow sickly on the diet that is fed to them. We don’t often hear Calvin’s method of preaching to his congregation ten times every fortnight held up as desirable pattern to follow. Nor to preachers venture out of church doors into public places to preach the Gospel where non-Christians are actually gathered, but are content to wait for non-Christians to come to hear them in the churches.

            In some recent blogs I’ve seen I’ve been astonished at how much pastoral visitation is being condemned as being unbiblical and detrimental to a church. And it’s been disturbing seeing how many pastors agree with this assessment. They don’t seem to recognise how much mere words from the pulpit (however sound) can just wash over people, and how much people actually need real visible examples of people living out the faith, and how powerful a testimony it could be for church members to have the opportunity to see how the pastor behaves outside of the pulpit in real life.

            The pastor of the church I attend often says how important it is that the pastor practices what he preaches, and the implication always is that he is just such a man – but we are just expected to take his word for it. Yet people’s experience of his behaviour outside of the pulpit over many years is actually quite contrary to how he presents himself in his sermons. He often throws in anecdotes of admirable things he’s said or done in the past, and yet these examples often seem incompatible with what people have experienced of him for themselves. By hiding away in their studies preparing sermons, pastors don’t get the opportunity to really demonstrate that they are men of integrity who are worthy of being listened to.

          • chimom1 on February 12, 2017 at 3:38 pm

            That’s sad. My pastors, paternal team,,leaders and congregation members take pastoral visits very seriously. We encourage everyone to listen to the still small,voice that say, hey, call Susan, drop a card to George, invite Jin for tea. That’s a pastoral,visit.

    • chimom1 on February 12, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      When I was a teen in the 70s, I loved trying to integrate ‘folk songs ‘ with more traditional worship. However, it also excited me to find a hymnal from the early 1900s and use that music as well. I still enjoy many types of music. I do however, believe both the first song and the last of each service should be something 80% of the congregation is familiar with. If your congregation is standing during the final song, preparing to go forth and no one but the worship team is singing, you’ve lost a powerful punch. Be flexible

  41. Cory MacNeil on September 29, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Great post, Carey! I agree. The older generation is one of the biggest untapped resources for the Kingdom. We too are learning that young folks enjoy spending time with older folks. You’re mention of the 30 year vacation was right on the mark! Thank you for pointing out the importance of emphasizing mission rather than consumption.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      30 year vacation. Man, I can hardly handle two weeks!

  42. Garrick Conner on September 29, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts. I lead our church’s adult discipleship ministries, which also involves 55+, mental health, community outreach, etc. For me, ministry to the over-50 crowd is all about balance. It’s absolutely essential for maturing and senior adults to be involved in Kingdom-focused ministries and mission efforts. There’s something seriously wrong with any congregation where that demographic is sitting on the sidelines as grey-haired consumers. However, I’ve seen many churches shift in recent years, putting so much time, money, and attention on younger generations that the older members feel neglected. Those who have poured their lives into the church are already arguably on-mission. I think it’s important to provide them with opportunities to connect with others through fellowship activities, just as it’s important to provide them with meaningful ways to use their unique gifts to serve the church and community. I think when it comes to ministry — especially with senior adults who are often lonely and less mobile — offering some well-planned, hassle-free day trips (or even a few nights away) can go a long way toward meeting their mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. I’ve even seen these opportunities become effective ways reach out to others. I appreciate your thought-provoking leadership insights.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks for your ministry Garrick. I think the greatest fulfilment still comes in giving.

    • T Chil on October 1, 2016 at 6:34 am

      The “church” thinks we are senile and treats us like morons.

  43. ralph juthman on September 29, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    This is a great kick in the pants for everyone our generation Carey. I am pastoring in Lotus land, Vancouver Isalnd. The home of everything gray and white. My church is very much a reflection of the community demographic. I have a handful of young families. Both generation are saying the same thing to me, “What are you ( the church) going to do for me? Both generations need to hear this. The older needs to hear that life is not about them. The younger need the same message. I love your phrase, ‘The mission is the mission.” I have just begun conversations about vision and purpose. Of course the default answer is, add another program. But where I desire to do is lead the church through the process of revitalization. It will be long, Tough. But I am looking forward to the ride.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 8:13 pm the work you’re doing. It’s a ride worth taking for sure!

  44. Marlene Jiannino Daley on September 29, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks Carey. I am the food prep lady for functions at church. My two main gifts are Service & Administration. I do what I can & pray that I can continue for years to come and yes, for as long as I can breathe.

  45. Judy on September 29, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    I am a little tired of the idea that people over the age of 50 think they are not valuable, I lead a ladies bible study for women over 50, there are 12 of us and not one I know believes they are invaluable conversely they are offering much! Now more than ever men and women over 50 are investing in the lives of their children and grandchildren, this is the most important mission and more than that they are involved in serving their parents. As well many of us have a position in the church or work within them. Invaluable…I think not.
    Vacations yes…bus tours, whaat?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      Good for you Judy!

    • sisteract on September 30, 2016 at 12:35 am

      There’s a big difference in each decade. Many 50-somethings have just launched kids, are empty nesters and are taking time to travel while they are able. As stated, many have aging parents and want to be involved with grandchildren. I found it easier when the kids were home to be involved than now! We seem to be away a lot and committing to leading groups is difficult. We are active physically and in our community but no longer do regular leading. Podcasts and online studies fill in the gaps.

  46. kaj ballantyne on September 29, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Love this Carey!

    When we launched as a new church we quickly filled up with a lot of people under 30 … I remember desperately asking God for people with more years in their rearview mirror.

    God answered and we now have a great group of older members who aren’t looking for their special cushion on their reserved pew 🙂

    By doing what you’re saying here (calling them into the mission) we’ve attracted those who are really “leaning into the tape at the end of the race”.

    We’ve found that when they are valued as key members in the mission they’re absolute gold (praying, sacrificing, mentoring, caring, serving) … and the more fired up they get about being on mission they attract more people like them!

    We’d be lost at our church without them.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      Love this Kaj. Thanks so much man…and so grateful for the difference you and your crew are making in Muskoka!

    • Char Seawell on October 2, 2016 at 8:14 am

      Love this expression…”leaning into the tape at the end of the race”. I wish I was an artist to paint it. Since I am not, I will try and live it….????

  47. Robin Jordan on September 29, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    To my mind a church in which the 50+ members are not actively involved in ministry and mission is not a New Testament church.

  48. Marlene Jiannino Daley on September 29, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Yes, I totally agree, however, there needs to be more discussion on people over 70. Health, mobility, stamina, focus are all part of aging, but most want to be a part of something without being overly exerted or taxed. I’m 72 & still able to do many things, but I know the day will come when my body will rebel against me. How can we older seniors fit in?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      Hey Marlene…great to hear from you! I’m not in my 70s but my parents are. They continue to find ways to contribute. My dad runs a camera at church. My mom helps with the accounting and serves on guest services. They also lead a small group. And as my wife and I have talked about when that day comes for us where our bodies don’t do what we want them to do, the three things pretty much all of us can do is pray, be a friend and introduce people to Jesus. You can do that as long as you have breath.

      • Ryan Shipp on September 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm

        We just had a funeral yesterday for a 80+ yr old adult at our church. His physical body had failed him in recent years, but the recurring comment in the room was, “who will now stand in the gap and intercede to God for this church and community?” I didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, but his legacy as a man of prayer will have a lasting impact on me.

  49. ServantHeart2012 on September 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Retired six years ago today and am blessed to belong to a church that “gets it” when it comes to the 50+ crowd. I have invited several people my age to my church over the past few years. When they ask; “What kind of activities do you have for people our age?” I have to say “We don’t do bus trips or senior pot lucks . . . it’s way better than that.” Then I explain that we serve in ways that benefit the generations coming along behind us, rather than expecting to be entertained. Some like that and some don’t, but those who take a chance on us nearly always are pleased and gravitate toward our mission.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      I love the ‘it’s better than that’ part. Full points!!!!

  50. Mark Sanders on September 29, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I love this! I have said so many times to our older people what a powerful resource they could be to the younger generation. They are all talented, relatable, and loving, but seem to lack confidence that they can make a difference anymore. I think the problem lies more in how many churches have tried to transition. Instead of bringing the older generation along, they have been set aside, marginalized. This has disarmed a powerful sector of the church.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      True…so let’s remobilize. Thanks Mark!

    • Rebecca Grace on November 13, 2018 at 7:25 pm

      You know, this isn’t just a problem within the church. Our secular culture is so relentlessly worshipful of youth and we are bombarded constantly with a value system that says that anyone “over the hill” is irrelevant and has nothing to offer. Every visible sign of aging must be “corrected” and disguised if we want to be taken seriously. I think those attitudes have seeped into our collective subconscious it’s baggage that all of us carry into church with us in the 21st century.

  51. Janet Adams on September 29, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I quickly clicked on this blog when your twitter feed shared the title. My husband and I are now retired as of 3 months ago. We have led an adult Sunday morning group for the last 4 years during the “first service” at our local church. The attendance has grown from 15 to 33+ and all adult ages are invited. We bring in Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, The Truth Project, Ray Vanderlaan and more through their DVD series. The time together has been rich in prayer for one another, building community, and learning to grow up in Christ and be transformed.

    Attendance at this local church has been about 150+ for the last 7 years. The church bulletin does not mention our class/time/meeting place so this time when the next series began, “Prepared” with Andy Stanley, I sent a few graphics to be placed in the weekly bulletin. The graphic was added and the heading listed the class as an “Equipping Class”. An “Equipping Class” is defined on the church’s website as one-time events that meet throughout the year.

    The church web also described the next class that meets after ours during the second service as the “Senior Adults”.

    Description: There is plenty to do for Senior Adults at ______, both physically and spiritually. Every Sunday morning in the ministry center they meet to dig into God’s Word and throughout the year special day trips and events are planned to build relationships and just have a good time getting out of ________! Some of the trips they’ve gone on this past year include a Bald Eagle Nature Tour at ______ Lake, overnight trips to the coast, local theater performances, and a visit to the _____ Zoo in ______.

    Your tags on this blog read: old members / older church members / senior citizens These words are truth but they hurt…are we the retired race horses put out to pasture?

    I appreciate your blog this week and your points are clear and correct.

    Point 3 – If church leaders simply pander to the consumer mindset that characterizes an older lifestyle (cruises, relaxation and rest), they deny a powerful reality that could be leveraged for the mission.

    I have been an administrator for a local school district, a consultant for a publishing company, an educational consultant for a local university and now my husband and I are supposed to go on “field trips”! We are fully aware that living in a small community has limitations. Comments?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 29, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Good to hear from you Janet and congratulations on retirement. Keep serving. 🙂 Keep building into the next generation. Ignore the labels. That’s what I’d do. We make our own reality.

  52. Anthony on September 29, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Thank you so much for this blog. Our church is in a transition phase right now of redoing our platform design, kids ministry, Life Groups, etc. So it has been a unique year so far. The next areas of concern for 2017 are the Student Ministry and the Young Adults. The young adults & students have not had the opportunities to lead, because there is this culture right now of “earning your spot”. My wife and I are hoping we can help make a difference here and not create division but rather unity for the greater cause. This blog really helps give us wording for upcoming conversations with our lead pastor. So thank you so much for all of the blogs, podcast, and information you put out. You are such a blessing! Anthony

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