Anyone Want to Save Some Old People?

Let me confess, up front, this is a rant about one of my persisting pet peeves with the church.

Also, let me say, I love children and teens. I believe they should know the truth about Jesus and I believe we should make every effort to help them be welcome and involved in all aspects of church life.

I came to know Jesus as a child and I was a teen-age Christian (someday, there will be a feature film of that title).

But repeatedly I’ve heard this annoying and damaging untruth spoken from the front of the church: “The youth are the future of the church!”

Usually, this is proclaimed to justify some change in music style or ministry emphasis and to silence anyone who might object, because, who wants to be the one who doesn’t want to ensure the future of the church? Right?

Have you heard this, too? “We must adapt our church to the culture of the youth because they are our future.” Maybe you’ve even said it.

Sounds true. Hard to argue against. Except it’s a lie.

Children are not the future of the church. Jesus is. Always has been, always will be.

Teens are not the future church. If they love Jesus, they’re the church NOW.

The church isn’t an institution or an organization, it’s a living organism. We don’t care for certain organs because our bodies will need them someday. We care for all our organs because our bodies need them now!

To see children as the future of the church is to see the church as a world-system, which it isn’t. In a world-system, it makes sense that there must be a continual influx of “young blood” but the church runs on the blood of Christ so even if all we had were geriatric converts, we could grow, thrive, and remain vital in building the kingdom of Christ.

Paul tells us in Colossians 1:16-17 that “For in him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

He holds the life of the church in His hands. It doesn’t rest on the future generation. When the Pharisees told Jesus to silence His followers, He replied, “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40.

Jesus can raise followers from the dust. He doesn’t rely on the next generation anymore than He relied on the one that birthed it.

So, why do I care about this? What is so damaging about this false notion?

Because there are old people in danger of dying without Jesus and this wrong-headed worldly -thinking keeps us from reaching them.

There are lost souls wandering through mid-life wondering why none of it seems worthwhile. They could find their answer in Christ if someone was there to tell them about Him.

We put major effort into child evangelism, outreach to teens and campus ministries, and rightly so. This work should never cease. To reach a young person with the truth of Christ is a marvelous thing.

I don’t want the work of the church to change focus, I want it to expand. Surely someone has a heart, a vision, a calling to reach people over the age of 40!

There are youth-heavy statistics out there that every youth minister uses when it’s budget time. Statistics like this: “Less than one out of every four born again Christians (23%) embraced Christ after their twenty-first birthday. Barna noted that these figures are consistent with similar studies it has conducted during the past twenty years.” (2004)

We read those statistics and think like CEO’s of corporations instead of disciples of Christ and put all of our efforts into fishing in the well-populated waters of childhood and adolescence. But maybe, just maybe, Jesus comes along and tells us to drop our nets off the other side of the boat.

Does anyone still have the courage for that kind of fishing?

Imagine a church that was growing all the time – not by adding only young families but also by adding newborn boomers and seniors. And then these “older” newborns reach out to their peers.

Maybe the statistic would never change. Maybe until the end of time only 1 out of 4 people will enter into relationship with Jesus after the age of 21 but thank God for every one of those “ones.”

I don’t put my faith in statistics; I put my faith in Jesus. As we hurtle, picking up speed every day, toward those last days, should we not make every effort to speak out to everyone at risk of missing the truth of Christ?

Can you see beyond the gray hair, the wrinkles, and the glasses and see a future child of God hungering and thirsting for the truth of Christ?

Stop believing that the world has the right system. Children are not the future of the church. Jesus is.

He didn’t call us to be fishers of children only but also fishers of men, women, boomers, seniors, and every generation in-between.

Anyone want to save some old people? God does.

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    The Conversation

  1. I LOVE this!!!! You should submit this as an article somewhere! CBN, Proverbs 31, Focus on the Family, somewhere. It is very powerful and I have to confess it is something I never thought about before, but it is so very true. My mother just celebrated her 70th birthday, and she certainly has a lot of life left to live and a lot left to give!

  2. Karin says:

    This is so well said! You’ve been in my head – but articulated it much better than I could have. Since being a teen I’ve been in ministry serving older people and am finishing my working years in pastoral care in a long-term care and seniors’ housing setting. Even here there are windows of opportunity to reach people for the Lord. Preach the Word and God will do the rest. Blessings!

  3. rdkraines says:

    When I worked in a nursing home after college, there were ladies from a local church who came in and held Bible study for the residents faithfully each week. It was amazing to watch people respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ despite their infirmities!

  4. Thank you all! May we be inspired and inspire others to take the love of Jesus to people over 40 wherever we find them!

  5. Okay, this is just flat-out AWESOME! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

    Amazing that I hadn’t seen how twisted our use of statistics is. If only 1 in 4 comes to Christ after a certain age, maybe it means WE NEED TO TRY HARDER WITH THE OLDER ONES!

    Bless you for this post!

  6. Kay says:

    Thank you for a needed slap on the face for us as we blindly receive worldly information wrapped up as helpful for the church!

    The statement: “And then these “older” newborns reach out to their peers,” is something I have asked the Lord for many times when praying for elderly loved ones who won’t receive from me. “Send them a peer who knows you and loves you, Lord!” But those peers have to hear and see the love of Jesus Christ, too!

    Thank you, Lori.

  7. Always insightful, Lori Roeleveld. Still have no idea how I came upon your blog, but always glad I did. That will stick with me: Children aren’t the future of the church, Jesus is.
    A surprising number of our readers are middle-aged or older. But I hadn’t thought of it in those terms. Thanks.

  8. Cheri says:


    I love this post! And I couldn’t agree more!

    I’ve been MIA lately, working for a CPA office. Tax season is upon us, and I am busy, busy, busy.

    Plus, our son, the one who went to Teen Challenge, is getting married in September, and wedding planning is in full swing. Amazing!

    Hope all is well with you and yours!

    Love and hugs,

  9. Amy says:

    Absolutely FABULOUS!! Thanks so much for this article. I would love to post this on my blog, while giving you the credit of course.

  10. Amy, Absolutely! Help yourself. Thank you.