In recent weeks I have spoken to a number of ministers who are in ageing congregations, they lament that their communities are too old to grow young. I say never!! It might sound crazy but I am reminded of when Nicodemus visited Jesus – “Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” John 3:4 It is never too late for you to share the good news of Jesus with another.
I probably need to start by helping us understand a little better the community we now live in. I imagine if you think you are too old you probably grew up in an Australia where alot of people were Christians or at least knew about Christianity and attended Church. I hear there were social clubs, sports clubs, couples clubs all connected to the Church, the church was central to the life and gathering of local communities.
Things now are really different. Do you know that alot of children have never heard the Gospel? That is children living in Australia. There are adults who have never heard the good news either.. These people are your neighbours, the shop person in Woollies, the person sitting next to you on the train. It could be the person you eat dinner next to you in your nursing home. Then there are people who do know about the gospel but have been so hurt and disillusioned by the Church they are left broken and separated from our communities. These people are not lost to God. Who will be the one who God will send?
I want to share with you 5 ideas about how no matter how old you are you can be the part of God’s movement.
1. PRAY – It doesn’t matter how old you are you are never too old to chat to God about how we could grow young. Pray for our young leaders, who God is calling to step up. Pray for our children and family ministry people that there opportunities to share the gospel bring about fruit and help all children to know God’s love. Pray for our young people and our youth workers as they try to figure out who they are and that they are treasured people in God above all else. Pray for our Young Adults as they wrestle with God’s call and how to put that into practice, pray that they might courageously share their faith with the people God puts in their path. Pray pray pray. Dream big my saints and join with us as we hope for God’s spirit to transform our Church and our world.
2. Be Kind – Every time you engage a younger person how can you show the love of God through your words and actions? It’s ok if you don’t have any young people or children or families in your Church, there are children in your shops, who walk down your path, who live in your community! You could write letters or cards of encouragement. I remember hearing about an elderly man who became a Christian because his brother wrote to him regularly sharing his faith.
3. Go God crazy – When I first became a Christian I was a bit God crazy. I would have Jesus cards to hand out, with little bible verses. 20 years later I ran into a friend who I had given one to, she still had it in her wallet and showed it to me and had commented that it had encouraged her when she had gone through some tough times. Nowadays there are Christian gifts you can make (Pinterest is a fun place to have a look!) why not have a group that make up a collection that you can donate to scripture teachers, schools or preschools in your area, or just leave them everywhere you go!
4. Build relationships with families in your community – How could you more intentionally partner with your local schools and preschools. Could you volunteer to come and read with the kids? or tell them about the story of your life? or share one of the gifts and skills you have? Maybe there is even a family you know who you could connect with and support. You would be surprised how many families are doing it tough with no grandparents around to support them.
5. Mentor / support/ engage with/ disciple someone about faith intentionally. Who is someone you know that you could ask whether they would like to catch up for a coffee regularly to talk about life and faith? If you don’t think you could talk with someone about faith that isn’t connected with the church, who can you meet with from your church to pray with and build up that skill to talk about faith. If you are not sure what to say why not check out Ian Robinson’s book First Love as a simple conversation starter.
Stepping out in faith to tell another about your faith can be scary and intimidating, but we know that the gospel is a relational dynamic, people don’t respond to flyers but to invitations by people, who care about them and they trust. People may not like worship the way you like it, so how can you make space for something new and support it? In Growing Young their research found that young people don’t need flashy services, a fancy building and slick youth workers but a community they belong to, where they are seen, respected and are loved.
Karen Mitchell-Lambert is ordained in the ministry of Deacon and is the team leader of PULSE.