Posted On November 13, 2019

Four Practical Ways to Connect with the Older Generation in Your Church

by | Nov 13, 2019 | Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

Growing up, I remember my grandmother would take my cousin and me to the nursing home weekly to visit our great-grandmother. We would see other members of the nursing home community as we walked in. They had the biggest smiles, and they didn’t mind accepting a hug. My other grandmother has been a widow since I was four years old. For several years, she has worked with the elderly. She’s in her mid-eighties and still works a full day serving the needs of the elderly in her community. These two women helped me to see the importance of serving the older generation.

In our society, it seems the older generation and the younger generations are at odds. We are supposed to mind our own business, stay in our own lanes, and get on with our own life. This should not be the case within the church. God has drawn people to Himself from all generations. He has called us into fellowship with one another and commanded us to care for each other.[1] Though it may be awkward, uncomfortable, and unusual at times that does not mean we should not be participating in each other’s lives, caring for each other, and encouraging one another. If you are a part of a younger generation like myself, then I hope these four practical ways to connect with the older generation will help you as you strive to build community with all generations in your church.

Invite Them out for Dinner

What if only connecting with people who are like us is not the only way to build community within the church? My wife and I go out with young couples and folks our age for lunch on Sundays.

During the week, we invite the same friends over, or we go over to the homes of friends who fall into our age range. When we think about inviting older church members over we may think of it as an inconvenience, but it’s not for us. Older people may not really like to travel at night. Our place has steps, which would be difficult for an elderly couple to step up onto.

Instead of inviting them into your home maybe it’s best to meet them for dinner out in town. It eliminates the uneasy feeling of trying to invite you over or worrying about putting them in a difficult traveling situation. Whether you know it or not, elderly couples enjoy going out to eat. Choose a time that is earlier. Pick a restaurant that is close to their home or let them choose what they like. Inviting an elderly couple out for dinner helps you to practice what it means to “lookout for the interests of others.”[2]

Lastly, this is crucial; if they offer to pay for your meal, let them. I find it difficult to allow someone to pay for anything for me. I want to be the one to grab the check. Instead, allow them to serve you in this way. Sometimes you just need to sit back and let them bless you. They remember what it was like to be young and money conscious. Offer to pick up the tab next time. This allows for another opportunity to invite them out. Eating dinner can sound so simple, but it is a great way to connect with the older generations in your church.

Offer to Serve Them in Their Home

What skills do you have that you can use to serve the people in your church? Sometimes there are elderly couples in your church that don’t have family living close. This opens up a great opportunity for you to offer to mow their lawn, pick up some tree limbs, or make minor repairs. It’s a great opportunity to invite your family to join. Maybe it’s difficult for either of them to cook a good hot meal. Offer to cook one for them. Maybe they have a garage that needs to be cleaned out, and it’s been difficult for them to be mobile. Offer to clean it up for them. Not all elderly couples receive the assistance they need at home like having errands run for them or being able to make it to doctor appointments. Offer to give them a ride. You may think it is meaningless, but the time in the vehicle is good for edifying conversations. There is value to the counsel and guidance that the older generation can pass on. When we step out of our generational safe havens and into the lives of those who are ignored by our society, the church becomes more unified.

Sit with Them During the Worship Service

We should not feel so restricted to a certain seat in the sanctuary that we don’t feel like we can move seats. Sometimes the sanctuary is about as sectioned off as a school’s lunchroom. Be the one to change that up and find an elderly couple to sit next to during this Sunday’s service. When God calls people from all generations into His church, He doesn’t command that only the elderly can sit with the elderly. I know of an elderly couple in my church that arrives several minutes before the worship service starts. This is typical of the elderly in my church. If we utilize those several minutes to talk with them and share our lives with them can you imagine how meaningful that would be?

We need to meet the older generation where they are at, and they are showing up early to the worship service. How about decongest the foyer, get to your seat, and have a conversation with older church members? Assist them as they are making their way to their seat. Offer to take their walker or foldable pushchair to a safe place so that they can have legroom as they worship. Jesus set the example of serving one another by getting down on his knees to wash His disciple’s dirty feet. Shouldn’t we get out of our seats to help the elderly get to theirs?

Join Them in Their Hobbies

One reason why it’s difficult to connect with older generations in our churches is that they literally can’t keep up with us. Though I saw that, I know some older men who can whip me on the golf course. I also know some older women who can knit beautiful blankets and cook hearty meals. At our church workday, the older men outshine the younger men because they have that “old man” work ethic.

There are times when they may not want to go out to the movies and watch Spiderman: Far From Home. They might not want to go pump some iron with you. They may not have the ripe knees to play an intense game of pickleball. This is why we should strive to meet them on their turf. But there are times when your hobbies do line up.

My friend, Bill, and I are in the same equipping group on Sunday mornings. He celebrated his 82nd birthday a few months ago. One Sunday I overheard him talking about golf. I let him know that I enjoyed that sport, too. The following week he took a friend and me out to play a round. He beat us on every other hole. Sometimes hobbies don’t line up, but no matter what, ask them what they like to do in their spare time. Take an interest in them.

If you want to build community with the older generations you have to put your hobbies down and be willing to adopt new interests. Remember, Jesus didn’t design His church so that our hobbies would be the primary means that built community. He designed His church to show us that despite our differences we are able to come together on the firm foundation of the gospel. This Sunday, seek someone out who is a part of the older generation. Serve them. Love them. Let them know that they are useful and meaningful to the church. God delights in multi-generational fellowship.

[1] 1 Peter 1:22, ESV

[2] Philippians 2:4, ESV

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