Need some help. Old folks. Dwindling church.

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by Jkdbuck76, Jul 21, 2012.

  1. Jkdbuck76

    Jkdbuck76
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    Background story:
    I'm a member of an SBC chuch. To make a long story short, the SBC church in my hometown has dwindled down to 10 very old people. They have no more pastor. No deacons. 2 men. 8 women. One of the men is (was?) a very old retired preacher and is in the hospital.

    Our church has 3 men who can preach besides our Pastor and about 150 people on a Sunday. So in the short term, we're helping with pulpit supply. I preached there last week. One of our preachers will go tomorrow. I'll go next Sunday.

    Afterwards, what will probably happen is that they will shut down for a while, re-open but as a mission of an SBC church in the neighboring town.

    Here is what I wanted to talk about:
    These folks are the oldest of the old. I was told by somebody that their church dwindled down because of 2 really bad pastors in a row.

    The folks that are left at first glance seem to be nice folks (they are in their 70's). Anyone younger than that can still drive and have moved to churches in other towns. These left over folks are old and they look tired, beaten down, worn down and most of all SCARED. I can see it in their faces.

    My mom (who I invited to come watch me preach--who hasn't set foot in a church for 10 years) said that she feels bad for these people like they got the short end of the stick and they're too old to drive anywhere else.

    I know that's a lot of info to digest. But I need some help.

    1) I'm asking for prayers for them and for myself.
    2) I have no idea what to preach about. I've been praying about it.

    These are old and tired people who need to be told "KEEP THE FAITH! GOD IS GOOD!" I'm trying to think about what Bible passages address this?

    While I understand that asking you all for "what to preach about" is maybe tacky as I should be asking God. But what I'm concerned with here is prayer and if you can think of any parts of the Bible that address the older folks? I'm thinking about the really old folks who returned from the Babylonian captivity.

    And if you cannot think of anything, then that is fine---I'd just like your prayers for these folks.
     
  2. Scarlett O.

    Scarlett O.
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    A suggestion based on a recent Sunday School experience with my oldest of the old ladies.



    When I went into this lesson with my ladies who are in their 80's and 90's, I had a sneaking suspicion that this lesson might bother them some. Why? Because it's about a senior citizen who God has kept physically strengthened just as he was in his youth.

    My worries were confirmed as we were discussing the lesson and I could see in their faces that they were bothered about their lack of virililty and strength and somehow took this lesson to mean that they were of no use to God anymore. These ladies can barely walk, cannot drive (with the exception of 2), and some cannot even carry a paper plate with a light lunch from a buffet table to the dinner table (I've seen it.) They are physically decrepit (sp?).

    So, I targeted this lesson a few week ago around the phrases that I have underlined.

    Caleb spoke of being equiped by God for daily tasks. Well ..... his daily tasks WERE physical in nature and involved swinging a sword and participating in heavy combat.

    I focused on the fact that this passage isn't so much about Caleb still being physically in tip-top shape as an old man, but about God equiping Caleb to do what God wanted accomplished. God needed someone who could swing that sword with power, but more importantly God needed a powerful, sword-swinging man whose heart beat in rhythm with God's heart and would obey God more powerfully than he swung that sword. Caleb's being physically a strong man of all strong men at an old age isn't the point of the lesson.


    I talked to my ladies about how they and their husbands are not going to be asked by God to don a sword and do the type of physical labor that Caleb was asked to do.

    His "daily tasks" are not their "daily tasks" or their husbands' "daily tasks".

    The ladies in my class DO have daily tasks from God or they would not still be alive. God would have already taken them to heaven.


    So what are those daily tasks of a senior adult who is not physically able to do what he or she used to do for the LORD?
    • heavy-duty prayer in all sorts of areas
    • sending cards of love, appreciation, support, sympathy, encouragement, and more that contain scripture passages
    • phone calls that accomplish the same thing as the prayers and cards
    • telling family members and friends in social settings and church settings about the power of God and encouraging people face-to-face
    There are more ways than this that God can equip those who are physically unable to do what they used to do. But I think you get the point.

    Oh, and there may be just 10 of those elderly people in that church.

    But as for the team of Joshua and Caleb - there were only two.

    Deborah, Barak, and Jael? Only three.

    Peter, James, and John? Only three.

    Shiphrah and Puah who defied the Pharoah and would not kill the babies? Only two.

    Mary, who even her husband did not believe her? Only one.

    John, the Beloved, who stood by Mary and watched Jesus die? Only one. The only disciple who didn't hide.

    The number 10 doesn't sound so small anymore, now does it?


    I
     
    #2 Scarlett O., Jul 21, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2012
  3. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire
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    Help me to understand....is it that nobody in the SBC is focusing on the elderly but would rather cultivate the younger folks? From my perspective, it appears that way unfortunately.
     
  4. Jkdbuck76

    Jkdbuck76
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    I don't know. All the young folks left and went to other churches.

    As a matter of fact, I used to go to this church for revival services while I was still a church of Christ heathen and there were at least 100 people there.

    Now where I attend church and am a member, it seems like it is a church of the old people, by the old people and for the old people. However, I have a burden for children's ministry--rather than complaining about the lack of a good and well-rounded children's ministry, I want to contribute. But it is funny that as soon as I tell the Pastor I want to help with the children's ministry, I get called out to preach 3 Sundays in a row! It's like "God, what are You saying to me?" Maybe God is giving me a heart for young and old alike!

    In any case, these folks at the dying church needs prayer. Our associational missionary told me that this church really has a bad reputation and needs to shut down for a while and later re-open as a mission of a church in the next town.
     
  5. SaggyWoman

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    You are in my prayers.

    Pray about change.

    Pray about new life.
     
  6. abcgrad94

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    Our church is mostly older folks, and our church keeps shrinking as they die off. Most of the younger crowd around here attend church for one reason only--for what they can GET. They don't want to serve, to give, to be faithful. They want a place to entertain their children and give them activities, but when it comes to living godly and really serving, forget it. So, the younger folks attend the bigger churches will all the social activities where they don't have to commit to anything.

    The elderly people in my church have given. They've taught Sunday School, helped with AWANA, served in various capacities in the church, and now they are old and tired. The reward for their efforts is seeing the youth drop away for lack of commitment.

    One thing we've learned here, is to keep focused on the FUTURE. The tendency is to look back on the "good old days" when they did such-and-such and the church was larger. We cannot run the race looking backwards. We have to keep going forward, even if there are less people.

    It seems the Lord wants us here to simply strengthen those who remain. It's discouraging. It's tiring. It's hard to see other churches with big crowds, even if those crowds are superficial. But, these folks need us and they have lots of wisdom to impart to those who will listen. God has called us to be faithful. We cannot in our own strength, "grow" the church numerically. That has to be the work of the Holy Spirit. But we can be faithful and continue to encourage the ones who remain, and we know that God honors faithfulness. So we stay here and continue to toil with the faith that God knows the situation and his will WILL be done.
     
  7. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire
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    OK I will trade you stories. The only Reformed Baptist church (a few towns over from me) is mostly elderly people. A few years ago they were thriving but the pastor was involved in adultery & had to leave & so went the 30 something crowd with all their kids (to mega churches mostly) leaving this church with people retiring & moving away, the very old with no place to go etc. The thing is they dont have the perceived need to cultivate younger people & ive even seen them run them out. Thus I would consider them a "almost dead" church. Not that I am disrespectful of the elderly (I consider them vital to the church being balanced) but they have little desire to reach out to the community & thats a clear violation of the Great Commission....and they are doing it to themselves. So what do you do....I believe you have to read the signs & put your faith in the Lord to take care of things.
     
  8. Crucified in Christ

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    Brother,
    Many churches have experienced these sharp declines and it is almost never exclusively the fault of a "bad" pastor or two. Generally, there are underlying problems that keep "pastoral" problems coming back time and again. The fact that the Association Missions Director actually stated they have a bad reputation confirms that there are likely underlying problems in the lay leadership of the church. While it is never too late for God's miraculous hand, it will certainly take a miracle to save a church once it has gotten that small.

    Anyway, I would preach them whatever God lays on your heart. More will be accomplished by His movement than by any strategic planning. You have my prayers brother.
     
  9. thegospelgeek

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    There are several churches in similar situations in our area. I have preached hundreds of messages at these churches. The best advice I can give is to forget that they are old, forget that they are small in number, and preach the word. Christ can use the elderly the same as the young. The elderly have much to give, it just in a different way than the young. Get to know them, learn to love them. If you stop focusing on their age as a group and learn to love each individual as Jesus does, then you may just be suprised at what God can accomplish.

    I hope this doesn't come across as scolding or attacking you because that is certainly not my intent. I am just trying to help you learn quicked than I did.

    With Love,
    Pastor Keith
     
  10. thegospelgeek

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    I certainly don't know where God is leading you but have you considered that maybe this church of elderly folk might just recieve a spark by building a children's ministry? Pray Brother, Pray.
     
  11. thegospelgeek

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    Not sure why this thread has drawn me in but I also want to warn about what others say about a church needing to shut down for a while or such. Listen to what they say. Consider it wisely. But listen to God.
     
  12. dh1948

    dh1948
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    I want to throw in my 2-cents worth on this subject. I am speaking from the perspective of a 64-year old pastor who has been blessed to be able to pastor churches that thrived over the years of my "full-time" pastoral ministry.

    After retiring from "full-time" pastoring, I eventually accepted the call to pastor a small, rural, dying church. I knew the demographics of the area would never lend themselves to a huge numerical growth. Yet, I really believed I could lead the church back to good health and see it reach its maximum potential.

    The church is made up of mostly family members. The best the church has ever done in terms of numbers was about 120 people. It has never had a "full-time" pastor. Over the past three decades, the children of the mainstays in the church grew up and moved to cities outside the county. Moms, dads, and grandparents remained in the rural area.

    I know I will enter the arena of the controversial by saying this, but....

    Many of the smaller, rural churches have made deliberate decisions that have resulted in their demise. The church I pastor is such a church. I didn't detect it at first. It became obvious after six months that the people who remain don't want to do any ministry or make any change that might move them out of their comfort zone. They refuse to take even baby steps of change. The church leaders (all kin) have let me know in no uncertain terms that they want me to be their preacher, not their pastor. They expect me to be at the hospital when they or some family member has surgery. They don't want pastoral leadership. It is a foreign concept to them.

    It is no surprise to me why the church is on life support. The church has chosen to be so. Occasionally, they mention the "good ole days" of 120 in attendance. I think there are enough un-saved, un-churched within a 10-mile radius to make that happen again. The issue for the church is that it doesn't want any hispanics or "blacks" (they normally use the "N" word) in their church. 85% of the surrounding population falls into these ethnic groups.

    What am I to do? Truthfully, I have resolved myself to the fact that if I stay there, I can only be an undertaker. It is sad to see the church satisfied to die a slow death. Do I feel sorry for it? No. The church is in the position it is in because it doesn't want to do what it takes to come off life support. They die has been cast.

    Forgive the negativity of my post. I am not normally in such a frame of mind.
     
  13. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire
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    Well brother....I found the same thing with the Reformed Baptist Church near me ...except that they are not racists but heaven help you if you want to pull them into active Christian service. Dead Churches by choice....very sad. In your case, Id actively recruit anyone wishing to serve Christ with a particular interest in blacks & hispanics....God is sovereign. :godisgood:
     
  14. Jkdbuck76

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    UPDATE: I preached there yesterday. There were more people than the first time. I even had another childhood friend of mine show up with his mom to hear this one preach.

    One of the old folks there asked "how do we keep you here?" I thanked her for her compliment but told her that I was NOT pastoral ministry material, I have not had one day of seminary (but I've downloaded PLENTY of mp3 courses and listen during drive time for the past 8 years :thumbs: ). I said that they needed to pray about their next business meeting and decide if they want to follow the plan that is on the table. I also said that if they needed anything, they needed to let our regional missionary know about it (this is the same guy who sent me in there 2 out of 3 Sundays since this is my hometown). One of the old folks there tried to impress me with "did you know Adam and Eve had no bellybuttons? That is what our last pastor taught us." I said nothing, but wept inwardly because if the notion that Adam and Eve had no bellybuttons was their ultimate takeaway from their last pastor's tenure, then it is no wonder people left in droves. But I could be rushing to judgment on this one....

    So maybe I will be there in the future on an as-needed basis. I certainly hope so, but I will make it a matter of prayer...maybe God doesn't WANT me there and I can accept that. However, there was a lesson I learned that can be applied to the church where I'm a member.

    If anything, I've learned a lesson from the comments here and from walking thru this church--- it is EMPTY! No kids in Sunday School, but an ENTIRE WING dedicated to it. State-of-the-art facility, but nobody there. A beautiful auditorium, but nobody to fill it up. A great looking and acoustically PERFECT pulpit/sanctuary (whomever designed it must have known what they were doing), but no steady preacher to preach from it.

    Those empty Sunday school rooms really got to me. Our Sunday school rooms are going empty. There are not too many young folks coming in anymore. No bus ministry. No children's ministry after 1st Grade. In other words, the church where I'm a member now will look like the church in my hometown pretty soon if we are not obedient to the Great Commission.
    I don't want for us to end up on life support. My visit to this church in my hometown was sort of like a visit from the Ghost of Church Future where he shows me a tombstone commemorating a dead church! "This could be the future of OUR church if we're not careful!"

    I ask for your continued prayers.
     
    #14 Jkdbuck76, Jul 30, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2012
  15. Crucified in Christ

    Crucified in Christ
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    I appreciate what you have said here...it is heart-breaking to see a church that has fallen into an unBiblical pattern with the sermon take-away from the previous pastor being nothing more than speculative trivia.
    I would prayerfully seek God in this matter. It seems that He is definitely trying to show you something. It may be that you are the person He desires to use to begin to turn that church around. On the other hand, you may very well be correct in saying that He is showing you this as a warning of what will happen to any church that begins to turn inward and self-serving. God bless you brother.
     
  16. thomas15

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    I'm not a pastor and feel a little shy about weighing in on this but I'm getting ready to move on from my current rural church where i am a member for reasons quite the same as you describe. Funny to me is how certain of the elders and deacons have time to fill the pulpit (now that the FT pastor has resigned) but have not in the past had any time for any kind of meaningful youth program or have made the few newcommers feel truly welcome or had the energy to at least encourage any who might try to do this work.
     
  17. dh1948

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    Thomas15, this may be a subject for another thread, but I will throw it out here as a footnote to what I said in my initial post. In my small rural church...average 40 (+/-) on Sunday mornings...we have 6 deacons...6 deacons! Can you believe that? The youngest is 65. The oldest is 82. Here's a sad note: Only one will teach. The one who will teach comes to SS only on the Sundays (4 teachers each teach one Sunday per month) he is scheduled to teach. All of the deacons are related either by birth or marriage. Their tie to the church goes back for several generations. Those generations are buried in the church cemetery. It goes without saying that these guys are untouchable. To 90% of the church, they are the cream of the crop!! Yuk!! lol.:BangHead:
     
  18. abcgrad94

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    You've said this well, with much kindness and sincerity, dh. This is what we have found as well in our church. The Baptist churches here have one of two mindsets: the pastor is either the supreme "dictator" over the church, or the church wants a preacher, not a true leader, and refuses to change ANYTHING, even minute things that have been proven NOT TO WORK time and time again in that particular church. As you stated, often there are too many "deacons" (related, of course) who believe the real job of a deacon is to supervise the pastor.

    It's heartbreaking to come to a church, young, energetic, and full of life, only to find the older folks want you to do all the "work" while they control all the puppet strings in the background. It takes much patience and love to s-l-o-w-l-y pray and wait for change. In our particular church, I think the older generation will have to die off before we will truly see new spiritual growth here.
     
  19. Jkdbuck76

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    UPDATE: they disbanded.

    They will re-open as a church plant in maybe 6 months.

    Guess who they asked to be the church planter?
     
  20. Crucified in Christ

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    You know, I always get a little sad to hear such things. Yet the truth expressed in this thread is often seen in these cases- churches turn inward and no longer fulfill their commission. Let us pray that the plant that will come out of this will do far better in serving the Lord by bringing His gospel to the community in which it is planted.

    And are we to asume that they have asked you to plant this new church? If so brother, you are in my prayers. You will have a very difficult task ahead. Yet with God's grace, help and guidance, there is no limit to what He can accomplish for His glory through this new church. Praying we will hear miraculous reports in the future.
     

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