A Replanter must invest in faithful Senior Adults.
Most of us desire to pastor a church that is thriving with new life: with baptisms and births and new births. However, in a replant context, especially early on in a pastor’s tenure, there can sometimes be a lack of this desired newness. A lot of churches in need of replanting and revitalization are filled with senior saints that have been faithful to the mission of the church, but sometimes fall through the cracks of many well-meaning pastors with their mindset for the future.
As a Replanter it is absolutely critical that you invest in the faithful senior adults that have spent so much time and energy in the church that we are serving. In order for a church to be replanted a pastor must see the senior adults not as a burden but as a blessing and a mission field ripe for the Gospel.
Learn from them
Senior adults have an incredible story—if you will take the time to listen! I have learned so much about God’s faithfulness in my church and in the community just by listening to the stories of my older members. Remember, most of them have been invested in your church longer than you, and some of them have been there longer than you have probably been in ministry. Do not take their stories for granted! You can learn so much about the culture of the church and the community by taking the time to listen to their heart. Additionally, these people can truly become some of the best sources of wisdom that you can find, especially when it comes to leading church change. I have found some of the best relationships that God has blessed me with in my church are with people who could easily be one of my grandparents. Learn from these wonderful people—It will serve you well, not just in a replanting context, but in ministry.
I cannot stress this enough—love your people—all of them. Unfortunately, I have met a ton of pastors who see their senior adults more as a curse than a blessing. I have found that spending an extra amount of time with my senior adults, especially my home-bound and widows, has given me not just an opportunity to effect change but also an opportunity to grow as a pastor. By loving your seniors you show that you love your church and are willing to serve your church for it’s betterment. This practical shepherding creates a culture of safety and security because your senior adults will realize that you want their church to be healthy. When these people realize that you love them and their church they begin to trust your leadership, even when it involves change. That does not mean that it will be easy, but when they know that you love them they are far more willing to listen and trust you.
While serving your senior adults it is imperative that you remember that you must also lead them. Older saints need leading and shepherding too. They need encouraging. They need to be reminded that their days of service for the ministry of the local church are not behind them. They need to be reminded that as a part of the Body of Christ they have a role to play. They need to be reminded that they have a future. Just as Caleb faithfully climbed the mountain in the Promised Land at the age of 85, it is crucial to remind older saints that there is no retirement age within the church. Lead your older men and women to faithfully serve the mission of the church. Lead them to embrace their role. Lead them to embrace the changes in their church as they realize that still have a place there! I truly believe that if the pastor will invest in the daily lives of the senior adults he will be far better suited to lead in successful replanting.
Leaving a Legacy Together
It is an incredibly beautiful thing to see the generations actively involved with one another in the ministry and life of the local church. If Replanters and revitalizers are willing to embrace the past by loving the faithful senior members of the church then there is a far greater chance of a new legacy being built. If a Replanter can faithfully serve and lead the senior adults that he has been called to shepherd, that church can truly reach its community for the Gospel. Senior Saints are a valuable resource God has blessed his church with. Do not waste them: learn from them; love on them, and let them love on you; and ultimately, lead them!
Adam Wyatt is the senior pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Central Mississippi. A second-generation pastor, he has developed a love for the rural church in the Southern Context. A bi-vocational pastor, Adam also serves his community as an English Teacher, Football Coach, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes sponsor at the local high school where he has the opportunity to serve alongside his wife. Additionally, he teaches Christian Studies at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS. He loves his wife, his three beautiful daughters, good conversation, books, and coffee. He is also pursuing his PhD in Biblical Theology from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City.
Published January 21, 2016