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YES! Blogs

Footloose and Fancy Free

Wes Wick

We received this note recently from a church leader responsible for second half adult ministry:

Would love to see ideas about getting the seniors group in my church off of their retired rear-ends and ministering. I fight the "I'm retired, let the younger ones do it" all the time. The seasoned, experienced, seniors group---with the most time on their hands and the most seasoned experience---don't want to commit to ongoing ministry. 

They want to be footloose and fancy free. Take off any time they want, go visit grandchildren any time they want. While I understand, that means they don't commit to ministry through our church. The Bible even instructs the elders to mentor the young ones. But nope, 'we are retired and ready to play.'

Most of what I hear is the issue of neglecting the elderly in church. I don't neglect them; I beg them to be involved, and they mostly say no.

Our retirement culture has a tight grip on some folks, and it's a mindset that has been allowed to germinate for years, often unchallenged by the Church.

With our focus on serving, we're often tempted to poke fun at the leisure lifestyle. But we're aware that some real ministry and life impact also takes place within that context.

At one church I unwittingly remarked about Christian retirees who seem plagued with an addiction to cruises. After speaking I was greeted by a precious couple who told me they go on two cruises a year and take a suitcase filled with Bibles to share with the cruise staff. Touche! 

I must respectfully take issue with the premise that visiting grandchildren equates to a disregard for ministry, but I do understand the frustration of working with capable adults who conclude they've moved beyond serving through their local church. Adults who have been tied down geographically for decades because of job responsibilities often have a natural craving to hit the road more often.

It's true that many perceive retirement as a right of passage from having a boss to now being their own boss---with a plethora of other new entitlements.

How 'bout seeing retirement as removing an earthly master so our heavenly Master can have at us in a deeper, unhindered way?

Having younger voices in our leadership mix helps to both encourage seasoned adults and challenge the retirement status quo, leading to some breakthroughs. Some retirees need a fresh wind of the Spirit. It's hard to get the cross-breeze blowing when only like-minded peers (sharing similar self-centered visions of the American dream) surround them.

Many young adults today have a high sensitivity to social injustice. Ageism (neglect and devaluing of older adults because of their advancing age) gets their attention. But social injustice cuts both ways. They can also see injustice in able-bodied retirees living only for themselves.

Before becoming too critical of retirees who scatter, let's remember that the Great Commission starts with "GO!" Here are some links to friendly advice for leaders who want to go deeper on this subject:

Please let us know when you see some movement among the footloose and fancy free at your church!

And please chime in with your own thoughts on this important motivational challenge. I haven't retired yet and would love to continue learning more.