Article by Teresa Chang
My church is about to transition into a new season and dynamic as our first church leaders are now growing older and a new generation of leaders is stepping up. Many of our youth students and college students are now becoming leaders in our church, and it is exciting to see our original leaders navigate this change in relationship dynamics with their former students. The trust and history that each leader has with their students will be the strong foundation that creates a lifestyle of intergenerational partnerships as we enter this new season!
Our society constantly communicates, “The older you get, the less relevant you become.” It is common for older people to feel more and more marginalized, and we don’t want that mindset found anywhere in our churches—the elder community can do some of our best ministry. People over 60 have a huge impact on the Body of Christ and the purposes of God for a region.
Let’s look at three steps that will help you build a lifestyle of intergenerational partnership in your church:
1. Show your elder church leaders what intergenerational partnership looks like and equip them to walk in it.
Make certain the elder members of your congregation know the stories of Moses and Joshua, Paul and Timothy and other leaders in the Bible who made a significant difference in the lives of God’s people. Let them know how you, personally, have benefited from mentors.
Give your elder members tools to lead, and raise them up as true mentors. Many of them have professional, ministry and marriage experience that can make a tremendous difference in young leaders’ lives. In order for your church to step into the fullness of what God intends, your younger members need the older members, so make sure your elders know they are valued. They have a wealth of information—and much of it wasn’t gained through success but failure. As a church leader, value their experience and wisdom and help them feel appreciated.
2. Teach your elder church leaders how to communicate.
As you spend time with your elder church leaders, speak to them about how to communicate with the younger generation. If older leaders speak insensitively or with a sense of supremacy, they can sabotage the relationships you are hoping they will build. They need to know how to communicate wisdom and experience to the next generation in a way that builds up and strengthens everyone involved.
3. Practice intergenerational partnership.
It may be necessary to bring the older and younger generations together in a room and supervise their interactions. In the partnership you want to initiate, your elder church leaders aren’t simply disseminating information, but they are also receiving life, vitality and innovation from the emerging generation. As this back-and-forth participation is established as a lifestyle practice, everyone in your church has the means to respect, honor and go to the older generation for wisdom and counsel.
The Best Time of Life
Creating a lifestyle of intergenerational partnership begins as you talk to your older church leaders and get them reactivated. Ultimately, you want them to initiate relationships through servanthood, love and care that will bring wisdom and depth to your emerging leaders. Help your older leaders reach a place where they are functioning joyfully and with passion.
The grandparent phase is a wonderful season. As you help your older saints understand what spiritual grand-parenting is all about, they will see themselves as an indispensable part of the community. Show your older leaders that the exciting parts of their lives are not over—they are actually in the best time of life right now!
As a pastor, you have the responsibility to create more than a “seniors meeting” in your church. You don’t need a seniors meeting—you need a senior army! Build a cohort of senior mentors: a group of passionate church leaders who are discussing how they can contribute to the whole body in a way that produces growth and maturity.