Last week I took a couple of hours one afternoon to deliver poinsettias to some of our seniors, most of whom are widows and who can’t get out much due to poor health. I usually enjoy these visits, but I’m also overwhelmed by the needs I encounter.
One senior still lives in her own home, and expressed regret that she never moved into a seniors residence while her husband was still alive. It’s easier to make the transition with somebody else to help you with all the sorting and moving, not to mention with the emotions involved with a move like this.
She has daughters and many friends, but, she pointed out, they have their own lives. A good friend may visit for an hour, but there are a lot of hours in the week, and nothing can make up for her husband being gone.
I came home that day a little overwhelmed with the needs of just a few of our seniors, and also a little concerned about the way we think of them.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’ve been part of sleepy churches full of seniors who are resistant to change, and that holds no attraction to me.
But I’ve also seen churches full of loud music and jeans and untucked shirts that have the best lighting and video production, with no gray hair in sight. Is that any better than a seniors only church? I wonder. That holds no attraction to me either.
I have been in conferences in which the speaker has said that we need to change, and if the seniors don’t like it, then that’s too bad. Again, I believe seniors need to flex, but the glib writing off of an entire generation speaks to a serious blind spot in our approach to ministry today.
I returned to my office last week thinking about James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” If our religion is pure, we will look after those who are oppressed and forgotten, and that surely includes a lot of seniors today. I’m increasingly convinced that we need to move beyond generationally divided ministry and take this seriously. And we’ve got to take some of the challenges they’re facing and figure out how we can visit them in their afflictions and actually help.
If we write off the seniors, James says, we’ve failed. That’s a pretty big deal.