A hand-addressed envelope arrived in my mailbox – a rarity, indeed – and I smiled as I tore it open. The precise, cursive script penned a message, however, that dissolved my smile: “Thank you for asking me to be on the women’s team, but I just feel like it’s a job for a younger woman.”
I was stunned – and so disappointed. I had worked to balance the planning team with all “ages and stages” of women in the church. This 70-ish woman with the admirable penmanship had attended one planning meeting and decided this wasn’t her cup of tea. My follow-up phone call and further explanation – that she was a key representative of her age group and that we so needed her perspective – didn’t change her mind. She stood by her decision and declined the position.
Her attitude mirrored what I’ve heard before: “I’ve served my time; it’s someone else’s turn nowl” “I’m retired; I’m not volunteering anymore.” Ironically, when I began working with WMU and women’s ministry in the local church more than 30 years ago, it was quite the opposite: we were striving to get young women involved.
Our goal as Women on Mission leaders is to engage all ages in missions and spiritual growth opportunities. Consider these three concepts the next time an older woman seems reluctant to reengage in missions.
“Been there” done that” is a good thing! Our most experienced women have survived trials and challenges that occupy a young woman’s every waking moment – spiritual questions, motherhood issues, juggling work and home, health trials, and more. Younger women tell me they want and need to hear from the older generation -- on everything from crocheting, quilting, canning, and cooking to understanding deep spiritual truths, how to build a strong marriage, and how to walk with Jesus faithfully. Remind your older women that their long life is a treasure that can still be shared. We read in Psalm 92: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree . . . . They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming “The LORD is upright: he is my Rock.” (vv. 12, 14-15).
- Retirement isn’t biblical. None of the disciples had a 401 (k) and a timeshare on the beach. We can choose to retire from our vocational work, but we aren’t meant to halt our spiritual journey. God never issues pink slips, and He doesn’t offer a voluntary retirement initiative. Simply put, serving God by serving others is our lifelong assignment. Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
- “I always knew my grandmother was praying for me.” A senior adult may not move as fast as she once did, but she can still move mountains through prayer. Encourage your seniors to pray with intentionality for loved ones and friends, as well as missionaries and missions causes. Prayer is a legacy she can build that blesses a future she may never see.
Remind senior adults to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6). Their light is still needed in this dark world.
Reprinted from the June 2021 issue of Missions Mosaic, Woman’s Missionary Union, Birmingham, Alabama. Written by Cindy Lewis Dake, Arlington, Texas. Used by permission. To receive this issue, or subscribe to Missions Mosaic, call 1-800-968-7301.