Years ago I spoke at a local church for a fill in sermon type thing. Shortly thereafter I got a phone call from a girl who explained that she was a senior at said church and wanted to know if I would come and speak to her group. Admittedly, she sounded a bit old to be a senior in high school but we’re all made different so who am I to judge? Given the fact that I would speak to anyone anywhere I certainly agreed.
A few weeks later she called me to give me a topic to speak on. She asked if I could speak to the generation gap between people still working and senior citizens. She went on to explain that she and they felt pushed to the side and irrelevant. Going to work, out to business lunches, doing the things that they took for granted for so many years were now a distant memory. They were bored and felt as if they were of no use.
So, the first thing that occurred to me was that she was not a senior in high school…anymore (perhaps she was 70 years ago). Yes, I’m pretty aware that way. The second thing that came to my mind was that I had really stepped in it. Seniors in high school? No problem. Seniors in life? Huge problem. This was not my gift set or my typical target audience. “Pushed to the side? Isn’t that where we keep you?” I thought. I really thought it was kind of a welcome agreement from both sides. We don’t ask much, they don’t do much. Her questions to me really changed me.
Now, I’m in a pickle. My expertise is Jesus and youth ministry (in that order…I hope). Certainly age gap and the diminished value place on senior citizens was not on my top ten talk list. So I had to resort to two nearly unthinkable tactics. I prayed and thought. Ok, more thought than prayed but you get my point. I came up with an idea.
I can’t imagine the collective experiences of the members of her seniors group. How many things have they gone through in their life? How many near death experiences have they had? How many loved ones have they lost? What diseases have they had and pushed through? What’s the total number of lost jobs? Financial stress, career changes, friendships ended, marriages over, moving, highs, lows, how much of life have all of these people seen? Yet, how few people in their congregation know about the things they have gone through? Thus, the idea.
What if they (the seniors) each made a list of all of the things that they have gone through in life and would be willing to discuss. They then compiled a master list and made it available to the congregation. That way, whenever someone experienced something in life that caused them to stumble (or kicks them in the stomach or knocks them out completely) there is someone that they can talk to about their problem. They have someone who will listen, help, pray, whatever. What seemed like a dark and lonely place is now brightened by the hope of a survivor.
They received my message with great enthusiasm. I would like to tell you that they now have the most vibrant seniors program in the greater Pittsburgh area. I would like you to know that they have developed great relationships with the younger generations at their church and the community as a whole has grown incredibly. I would like to tell you that…but I can’t. I’m pretty sure they liked my idea and did nothing with it. I still think that it’s a great idea. We’re working on it at Faith Church.
Speaking of that, I wanted to share with you the thoughts of one of my most treasured members of our church. Each week in a bible study I hand out sheets for them to follow along and take notes. The last question asks what you’re taking home (figuratively) from our time together. Here (without context but easy enough to follow) are his thoughts:
*Wow. How much of what we read in our bible is going on in our world today. We should be serious about our attitude toward what is happening in our world so that we don’t make things worse.
*What must we do to inherit eternal life? Love God though Jesus by clothing those who have none, provide for the health of others, actively look for those who need help, do good to all mankind because each ones needs may be different.
*Be kind, helpful, loving, considerate, expect nothing in return.
*I desire to be one who has persevered under trial, who has stood the test of time.
*This is how our lives should be. We need to be concerned with others. Pray-pray-pray and then pray again. Sing-sing-sing and sing again. Prayer soothes the soul. Thanks be to God for prayer.
Are these the words of an irrelevant man? Could he perhaps help you through a tough time in your life? Granted, this is the same man who showed a dead hummingbird to a visitor, but other than that he is a treasure to our congregation.
We can, no matter the age, be of value and use to those in need. Perhaps we need to be more visible in offering and/or letting others no how we can help. Remember, one of the greatest things we can do for another is to not let them feel alone in the crap that comes their way.