Are You Ever Too Old?
What keeps people from serving? The apostle Paul knew of one thing that could keep Timothy from serving God to the fullest extent and that one thing was ageism. Ageism is the term used to describe the negative biases we have about certain age groups and this is exactly what Paul was addressing in I Timothy 4:12 when he says to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” Ageism happens when someone is told they are too young to do something and it also happens when someone is told they are too old.
This video highlights a 91-year old woman who is serving with a mission team. At first, she thought she was too old to serve but she quickly discovered that was not true.
Not only is her story inspirational, but there are several key elements that leaders should consider when engaging older adults in service opportunities.
Lessons From a 91-year old’s Mission Experience
1. The mission team that this older person (Mary) is a part of is an intergenerational team. Several teenagers are serving as well as other men and women. All total it is a 23 person crew. I have found over and over that one of the best ways to connect multiple generations together is to involve them in a service effort.
2. Mary shares that when she heard about the mission project, she wanted to take part, but thought she was too old. It was her daughter who encouraged her to go ahead and get involved. This is a great reminder that we need to constantly be encouraging older adults to get involved in ministry. I was so impressed that Mary’s daughter did not buy into the societal beliefs that her mom was too old, rather she came alongside her and engaged in the project with her.
3. Mary was viewed as an important part of the mission project — and she was! Her task of wrapping breakables was just as important as pulling out the carpet.
Re-Thinking the Contribution of Older Adults
Too often in the church, we underestimate the contribution that older adults can make. Several months ago I was on the campus of Anderson University speaking to a group of seminary students on engaging older adults in ministry. One of the students, Justin David Ross, told a very poignant story about an older couple who were involved in the church where he served. The church made plans to host a Vacation Bible School for inner city children and this couple signed up to serve. Out of concern for their safety, the staff suggested that the couple be Prayer Warriors, but they communicated their intent to go! The result? This couple had a huge impact on the kids being served.
Do you have a story of an older adult who served in an unexpected way? Share the story in the comments so we can all be encouraged.