By Dennis Wiggs
Several older ladies and one man gladly went to Sunday School early. They gathered on the front church pew for one main job—fold the bulletins. For years they’d assumed this responsibility. Probably an hour or more before anyone arrived, those faithful members neatly folded every bulletin. The vital means of communication were stacked, ready for the ushers to distribute before the morning service.
Mistakes That Hurt
Only once or twice did I get to the church early enough to observe this faithful crew eagerly performing their self-appointed responsibility. Very few of those who met for worship really knew who provided this service.
Since we also produced a church newsletter, funds became available to purchase a paper folder. The machine certainly saved time. The office staff was excited. “Let’s fold the bulletins, too,” declared a secretary. Great idea, I thought.
So, the next Sunday the folded bulletins were placed on the usher’s table. I told one of the dear saints that their services would no longer be needed. Case closed! Not a single one of those volunteers ever complained or criticized me. They could have. They should have!
You see, I robbed those faithful servants of the one job they did in the church. Later, I apologized and confessed my error to the Lord. But I also learned a lesson, I hope.
Use Senior Saints
Most seniors are just waiting to be asked. A wise young preacher will make a list of church jobs that need to be done. Determine which of the jobs can be performed by a senior citizen or retiree. Then ask the older person to pray about the opportunity.
You may be pleasantly surprised at how much work can be accomplished. They can open and close church buildings, attach labels to mailings, make telephone calls to advertise special services, and call those who missed a service.
Their schedules allow them to cut church grass, trim bushes, wash windows, and even clean the building.
Set Special Days
Older members of the congregation deserve to be recognized for their lifetime of faithful service. Sponsor “Senior Sundays.” Recognize everyone above a certain age with a small gift. Provide a special luncheon for this elect group. Have a senior’s organization for those in the church family who are of that age and above. Ask them to select their favorite songs one Sunday. On their birthdays, give them the opportunity to testify or select the congregational songs or read the Scripture. Make them feel important!
Harness Older Men
It was my honor to have two former pastors in one of my congregations. They sat together on the second row. The amens from their feeble lips put fire in my sermons. When I asked one to render a solo on a Sunday evening—even though the hymnbook almost shook out of his hands—brought a sparkle in his eyes.
Both loved to fill the pulpit in my absence or on special occasions. At times I would take them to revival meetings, church conferences or visiting in homes. What a blessing these veteran preachers proved to be to my ministry.
Lean on the wisdom of an older man in your congregation. Find the man who displays trust and faith in the Lord, one who has been in the church many years. Discuss your plans for the church. Seek his counsel when you are facing difficult people in the congregation. Request his prayer support. Pray with him.
The Praying Widow
Find a senior in the congregation who prays regularly. One morning I went to the study, eagerly anticipating a fruitful day. But an annoying telephone call and a disgruntled employee got my day off to a terrible start. About 9:00 a.m., I told the secretary that I was leaving and didn’t know when I would return.
Frustrated, I drove up and down several streets. I didn’t know what to do. Praying for guidance, the Lord seemed to lead me to the home of a widow who lived alone. She hesitantly invited me into her home. I sat in her presence and listened to her reveal how two of her children and her husband had died.
She did not shed a tear but rejoiced in the Lord’s provisions. I found a new friend in this precious saint. Before leaving her home, she prayed for me, and it was a special touch from heaven. It was so refreshing to hear her voice utter blessings upon her pastor.
Young pastor, some of the most valuable members of your congregation are those in pain, gripped by arthritis, covered with wrinkles, and often feeling useless. Run with the teens, play with the juniors, meet with the church officers, but, by all means, seek the counsel and prayer of the senior saints.
About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.
Adapted from Contact magazine, November 1998.