A Pastor’s Perspective on Senior Adult Ministries

My wife Faith teaches a college class at Faith Baptist Bible College called Ministering to the Aging. She invited me to speak in her class. It was the first time I wrote down my thoughts on senior adult ministries in the church. Below are my notes. I added some ideas as I spoke that are not included here. I hope this perspective may be helpful.

A Pastor’s Perspective on Senior Adult Ministries

I had the opportunity to pastor two churches that had specialized ministries to senior adults. One was developing and the other well-established with a full-time pastor overseeing it. As the lead pastor I did not directly oversee this ministry, but definitely had a heart for these people’s spiritual growth. As I look back over the years of ministering to these dear people, I am grateful for their vital role in the church and their personal impact on me. They are some of the most faithful, prayerful, generous, and supportive people I have known.

Ephesians 4:11-12 says that pastors equip the saints for the work of the ministry unto the edifying of the body of Christ. Senior adults are included in the saints that pastors equip, and they are capable of effectively doing work that builds up the body of Christ. These objectives provide guidance for thinking about effective senior adult ministries in the local church.

A ministry to and for seniors should help them do the following:

Continue growing in godly character.
Did you know there is a passage of Scripture that describes the kind of character a senior adult should have? It’s in Titus 2:1-5.

Paul tells Titus to teach his people “the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (v. 1). “Sound” means healthy. “Proper” means fitting , suitable, appropriate to. What follows are attitudes and actions that are fitting for a  person who lives life by God’s Word.

What age group is “older men” in verse 2 referring to? Hippocrates the Greek physician who lived about 4 centuries before Paul wrote his letter to Titus categorized people according to age. He used this term to refer to people who were over fifty years old. That is younger than we think of senior adults being. But the age range it refers to definitely includes those we think of as senior adults today.

What about “older women” in verse 3? This is a little different from the men. In their culture, grown women were categorized by whether they were of child-bearing and child-rearing age or beyond. A typical married woman who would bear children from her teens into her early forties would be rearing her children up to about sixty years old.  The term “older women” generally referred to a woman who was past the age of having and bringing up children, so sixty or older. “Young women” in verse 4 were younger than 60.

Paul instructed Titus to teach the senior men and women he shepherded to demonstrate attitudes and actions that were fitting for the truth contained in God’s Word. Sounds like a seniors ministry to me!

Let’s take a quick look at these character qualities. They are probably not exhaustive, but a representative list addressing the situation in the Cretian church.

FOR MEN

  • Sober – not under the influence of alcohol or any substance that keeps you from thinking clearly
  • Reverent – worthy of respect; a personal dignity and seriousness of purpose that invite honor and respect
  • Temperate – sensible, using good judgment
  • Faith – trusting God for salvation and through every test and trial of life
  • Love – selfless concern for others, putting others before yourself
  • Patience – endurance with a purpose

“Older believers have lived long enough to see many people . . . experience serious misfortune, suffer great pain, and perhaps die at an early age. They may have seen a spouse or a child suffer from cancer of some debilitating disease. They have learned the value of time and opportunity. They better accept and comprehend their own mortality, the imperfections of this present world, and the inability of material things to give lasting, deep satisfaction. They have seen utopian ideas fall and have learned how short-lived and disappointing euphoric emotional experiences can be.” John MacArthur

Seniors need to exercise faith in God, love toward all, and endurance to the end.

FOR WOMEN

  • Reverent – view life as sacred, approach each day, role, responsibility as a sacred duty and privilege
  • Not slanderers – avoid malicious gossip
  • Not given to much wine – similar to “sober” in verse 2, but evidently addressing a specific problem of alcoholic women in Crete
  • Teachers of good things . . . admonish the young women . . . – be a mentor

Seniors can fall prey to the idea they do not need to grow or they are not vulnerable to temptation. They can become self-indulgent and self-centered, influenced by the world’s idea of enjoying retirement and old age. They need to challenged to remain vigilant against the flesh, to show genuine love to others, and to influence the next generation. A biblically based senior adults ministry will teach these principles and provide opportunities to live them out in relationship with others, especially the younger generation.

Another objective of an effective senior adults ministry is to guide and help seniors to

Stay involved in ministry.
The qualities of love and impacting others motivates them to be active in various roles in the church and help with ministry projects. Some seniors are in a secure financial condition that enables them to give toward ministry projects and missions support. The church that provides ministry opportunities to seniors will benefit from their wisdom and generosity. They are also some of the greatest prayer warriors in the church.

Have gospel impact on their friends and neighbors.
Seniors are often connected to people in their neighborhoods and community organizations. Activities and trips provide opportunities for them to invite people they know who are looking for things to do and enjoy social events.

Engage in mutually encouraging fellowship.
Seniors may grow lonely, depressed, and anxious. Some are grieving the loss of a spouse. They have unique financial pressures, medical issues, and family burdens. Christian fellowship provides truth-based friendship and encouragement. Also, the church can facilitate opportunities for cross-generational fellowship that is healthy for both young and old.

Be faithful until God calls them home.
Senior adults can be treasures in the life of the church. As they age, by God’s grace, they exhibit the character of Christ in ways that bless everyone. With encouragement from their church family, godly senior saints endure the trials of old age. One day they are called home by their Heavenly Father and a comforting refrain sounds around the church family,

Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.
Psalm 116:15

Prayer List for Preaching

In Episode 1 of the Shepherdology Podcast, I refer to a prayer list for preaching. This was first shared with me by Dr. Jim Binney. I have added to it and use it regularly as I prepare to preach.

Prayer List for Preaching

Personal cleansing
Power and filling of the Holy Spirit
Enlightenment and enrichment in utterance (1 Cor. 1:5; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3)
Recall and wise use of Scripture
Exalt Jesus Christ – preach about and for Christ; He increase, I decrease
Magnify God’s Word
Glorify God
Have the mind of Christ – understanding (1 Cor. 2:16), humility (Phil. 2:5)
Bind the forces of Satan
Arrest the attention of the hearers
Prepare the hearers minds, hearts, consciences, wills
Choice of text, message, emphasis, application
Preach with boldness, liberty (free flow of thoughts and words), power, authority from God, love, compassion
God’s Word bring conviction, hope, faith, salvation, transformation, nourishment, growth, edify for maturity, equip for ministry
Rapport with listeners, as a shepherd with his sheep
Physical strength, energy, vitality
Please God (Psa 19:14)
Represent God accurately (1 Peter 4:11)
New birth, growth & life-transforming response
Not rely on self
Pure vessel
No fear of man
God will accomplish what He intends
Lasting effects, change, growth fruit from previous messages and this one

MANIFEST YOUR WORD THROUGH PREACHING (Titus 1:3)
PUT YOUR WORDS IN MY MOUTH (Jer. 1:9)
CAUSE YOUR WORD TO RUN SWIFTLY (Ps. 147:15; 2 Thess. 3:1)
HASTEN YOUR WORD TO PERFORM IT (Jer. 1:12)
IT IS TIME O LORD FOR YOU TO WORK (Ps. 119:126)

The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – What Does a Pastor Do? (1)

The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry posts encourage and guide young men who are interested in being pastors. Start here.

If you’re thinking about being a pastor, you should learn what a pastor does. 

How does a pastor spend his time? What are his primary responsibilities? The work of a pastor can be divided into three categories. Pastors minister the Word, care spiritually for people, and lead and oversee the church.

The Ministry of the Word
The first area of a pastor’s responsibility is the ministry of the Word. You probably immediately think of preaching. This area definitely includes preaching, but there’s more. The pastor’s ministry of the Word is both public and personal.

Ephesians 4:11 links the word “pastors” (or shepherds) with “teachers.” The work of a pastor includes explaining and applying the Bible. Paul told Timothy to “Preach the Word” and to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”  (2 Timothy 4:2). Elders (another term for pastors) “labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).

A pastor may spend between 10-20 hours a week preparing to preach. Studying the Bible occupies a lot of time in his schedule. Pastors work hard to understand the meaning of Bible passages and to communicate the meaning and application clearly and in a way that is interesting and helpful to people.

He may also teach a class or Bible study. Some pastors preach or teach 3-4 times in a week. That requires a lot of studying! A faithful pastor will also pray for guidance and enabling power as he studies and as he gets ready to deliver his message.

A pastor’s personal ministry of the Word includes sharing the gospel with unbelievers and discipling and counseling believers. He will explain sections of the Bible and help people understand difficult spiritual concepts. He uses the Bible to help people who are struggling with conflicts, temptation, and sin, showing them how to apply the truths of God’s Word to their lives.

Let’s circle back to preaching, because it’s a big part of what a pastor does. You can take steps to learn about preaching right now.

  • Listen attentively to good preaching. Take notes on the content of the message. Also observe how the preacher structures his message. You can even pay attention to how he uses his voice, face, and body language to communicate effectively.
  • Learn as much as you can about the Bible. Read through it. You might want to start with the New Testament, then start through the Old Testament. A book I find very helpful in getting the big picture of what the Bible is about is Nelson’s Book of Bible Maps and Charts. This book includes background information and an outline for every book of the Bible.
  • Make yourself available to give challenges, devotionals, and short messages. Let your pastor or youth pastor know you’d like to have opportunities to share the Word. Go ahead and work on a message even before you’re asked to give one.
  • Ask your pastor to show you how to put together a simple Bible message. When you’re given an opportunity to speak, prepare as diligently as you can and pray for God’s help. Enjoy the opportunity and learn from it.

Taking these steps will give you an opportunity to experience this important part of pastoral work. By learning and doing, you will find out if you like it and if you are gifted at it.

Next we’ll talk about a pastor’s second main responsibility, spiritually caring for people.