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Leading a Multigenerational Church

Entrance to church with bench in the backgroundBy Ted Cunningham

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’” Ecclesiastes 12:1

When you are young, thoughts of death and growing older are far from your mind. As a child, you jump off steps with no thought of your mobility fifty years from now. In your twenties and thirties, your metabolism allows you to eat as many calories as you want without packing on the pounds. Your driving is faster, your risk-taking is greater, and your range of activities is broader.

As your body ages, you have days where you say, “I find no pleasure in them.” Your joints ache. Your trips to the doctor increase. Your appetite decreases. Your mobility slows you down, and your activities are few.

When trips to the mall are infrequent and the prime earning years are behind you, what really matters rises to the top. It is not about how much money you make or the amount of stuff you collect. Serving the Lord and people are all that really matter. This is why grandma and grandpa love it when you come for a visit. They choose spending time with children and grandchildren over everything.

When Solomon says to “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” he is encouraging us to not wait until we are old to prioritize Him and the people He loves. In your youth, align your priorities with an eternal perspective. While wisdom comes with experience, age is not always synonymous with maturity. Growing old is out of our control. Growing in maturity is a decision we make.

It is refreshing to see people grow older and sweeter at the same time. Watching senior couples hold hands and enjoy one another’s company is a reminder to us all to slow down and prioritize the most important relationships. As your body finds its way into the grind, don’t let your attitude follow. Choose to continue serving the Lord until you take your final breath.

Pastors, we have a unique opportunity with seniors in the church. I pastor in Branson, Missouri where many come to retire. My goal is to put them to work as soon as possible. Sure, we allow them to golf and boat in their retirement, but we’ve got work for them to do. Our church is blessed with many senior men and women who work almost as much today as they did in their prime earning years. RG and Karen Yallaly retired to Branson from Kansas City and direct our Marriage 911 Ministry. They advocate for marriages in our church and community every day of the week. RG recently told me they enjoy their morning coffee together, but after that they are busy following up with couples in crisis. Bill, a retired pastor of 40 years, and his wife Carolyn have served in leadership for the past five years. He is our elder who works with “sheep in thickets”. He relentlessly pursues the hurting members of our congregation. Jim Sedlacek retired to Branson from Omaha, Nebraska and became our almost full-time volunteer executive pastor and treasurer. I am so grateful for the service and dedication of these seniors.

Years ago, I was overzealous with programming our church to reach the next generation. In my efforts to make everything creative and current, I overlooked the wisdom of the seniors in our church. I regret that. Today, I lean into their counsel with a greater desire to love and serve them. We want them on board to reach the young families and retirees moving into our community.

We should regularly encourage the young people in our church with this message: “Prioritize The Lord in your youth. Don’t “sow your wild oats” with plans of later getting serious about serving Jesus. Commit to him at an early age and make the most of your life.” This should be a regular message coming from our pulpits.

Encourage young people to serve at an early age rather than taking advantage of all your congregation has to offer. We need to give the next generation more opportunities with greater responsibility. Church health is evident when young and old serve side by side.

Church leaders, let’s create environments and church services where all generations thrive. Rethink your youth and senior adult programs to include serving, not just fellowship. As you prepare the application portion of your sermon this week, consider a personal challenge to children, tweens, teens, young adults, middle agers, and seniors. Find ways to bring everyone together.

Copyright © 2015 by Ted Cunningham. Used by permission.


Ted Cunningham
Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church. He married Amy in 1996 and now live in Branson, MO with their two children, Corynn and Carson. Ted is the author of Fun Loving You, Trophy Child and Young and In Love and coauthor of four books with Dr. Gary Smalley. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary.
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