Older Adults: A Great Sunday School Resource
By Rodney L. Pry
I recently heard an older man who had been asked to serve on a committee for his church. The man declined to serve by saying, “I’ve retired from church work.”
Certainly, there are older persons who, because of physical limitations or other problems, are unable to serve. But, for those who can, is there an age or an amount of service that qualified them to “retire” from the work of the church or Sunday school?
The Bible says must about service, both to the Lord and to our fellow man. For example, we are told we should “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2) and that we should “serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). And, although there are few scriptural directives that specifically apply to serving at an older age, the examples of persons such as Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David, Paul and the many others who served the Lord well into their old age speak for themselves.
In many churches, persons in the 55 plus age group make up the largest adult demographic. As teachers and leaders in the Sunday school, older adults offer many special qualities, talents and resources. Still, many Sunday schools continue to fail to take full advantage of this resource.
To help Sunday schools utilize the resources available in older workers, we should first look at some of the reasons as to why many are not now serving.
Individual older members are often reluctant to volunteer, even if they would like to be involved. These persons feel that they are expected to step aside to make way for younger workers. Some have come to question their own abilities, asking if the ways they would teach, for example, are out of date. Still others question their ability to relate to “the younger generation.”
Sunday schools also often seem reluctant to ask older persons to serve. Many feel that older persons, especially those who have previously given a considerable amount of service to the church or Sunday school, have done their part and should not be bothered anymore.
Older individuals within the Sunday school want to be a vital, active part of the work of the church. Many older persons feel lonely and unimportant and we, as a church, can help them and ourselves by getting these persons involved in the work of the Sunday school.
Many times our church leaders overlook some of the very important qualities that older workers bring to Sunday school:
1) Persons who are retired from the working world or whose family responsibilities are not as demanding often have more time to devote to preparing lessons and taking a personal interest in the work of the Sunday school and its members.
2) Many of these persons have considerably more “life experience” to share with younger Christians.
3) Children, youth and young adults need to be exposed to older adults. Many of them have no regular contact with persons from this age group and need to see the Christian life from another age perspective.
As Sunday schools, we need to remind our older members of the talents and resources they possess and that we appreciate and need their continued service.
As individuals, older adults should remember their obligation to work for our Lord, for as long as they are able. The Sunday school offers many opportunities to serve the Lord and share our faith with others, young and old alike.
Older workers are one of the greatest resources available to our Sunday schools today. Utilizing their skills and talents, to the glory of God, should be a continuing goal of every Sunday school.