Most people hate Monday’s…I am starting to love them.
In Graduate School my first semester I got one singular piece of advice that would stick with me or the final three years I was there. That piece of advice came from a pastor who had committed 30 years to his pulpit ministry, he said this: “When you enter full-time, you may not want to have Monday be an office day, you might want to schedule meetings or do your visitations on Monday.” His reasoning: “Monday is often the worst day of the week for a pastor because that is often the day he or she will experience the greatest depths of depression.”
Well, when I received a call to a pastorate in rural America in a Church where I am the only full-time staff and where all my Deacons and Trustees have day jobs, I could almost immediately rule out having meetings on Mondays. So I decided to set aside Monday’s as days to do my visitations to the nursing home here in and town and in another nearby town where we have a few members. I also decided to take another pastor with me so we could share lunch together for encouragement and a chance for me to learn the history of the area from someone who grew up here. It also gives me a chance to fill my day with incredible conversations that encourage and build up both Saints having the conversation, which of course, should be the goal of our Christian Discourse in ever conversation, building up.
I write this because I have so many friends my age who have the mentality of generational warriors. That is, they tend to see older members as the problem and they just think that if they can get those old pesky people out of the way they can do what they want. You can see this mentality at the forefront in Francine Rivers Novel “And the Shofar Blew” where Paul, the young pastor intent on turning a small, backwoods church into a mega church, something he accomplishes by pushing out the same older men who called him. Because I did not want to be that way, some of the women were given a copy of the book to read to hold me accountable. They were also told if they see the attitudes that exist in Paul form in me, to call me on it.
Many young pastors take Paul’s stance, they say things like: “I do not need to visit the older people in my church, they are just in the way of progress.” I would hope that I would not need to point out how unbiblical that attitude is, especially in a small church, but yet, it is a sinful one and one I have heard many in my generation espouse in one form or another. It is an attitude that devalues the image of God and the inherent worth that image carries with it to your older members.
I get it, our churches should not be family chapels intent on being married and buried and little else. Nor should they be entertainment centers where you come and get a nice light show and maybe a 20 minute talk about how to be a better person. Our churches should be missional, outward focused, but part of that mission are the people who have one of the vital parts of that mission, your older members, who may not be able to do much, but boy can they pray, but pastor, they do not know what to pray about if you do not visit them to tell them what the needs are.
Every Monday I visit with a 92-year-old lady who was a pillar of our church for her entire life. She’s in the nursing home now and does not make it to Church on Sundays, but every time we meet she tells me: “I am not done yet, God still has something for me to do.” Going to these visits is not about what I get out of them, but I do always leave her room with a smile on my face as she hollers to me: “Come back soon.” Another gentleman in that same wing of the Nursing Home called me right after we arrived here and told me how glad he was we had come and how he had been praying for us. He also asks me weekly how God has answered the prayer requests on the back of the bulletin or the things I have asked him to pray about. Again, even though I am there to encourage and minister to him, I always leave those meetings encouraged.
I could fill this article with pages of stories, just in the first three months, about visiting the older members of my church. Saints who once built that church and now pray daily for it and for you. The fact is, you need them, they have many years of wisdom and knowledge that has been given to them by God and by life. Some of them have more understanding of scripture and of God than your 3-year seminary degree can ever teach you.
So, young pastor put down Calvin’s institutes and go and visit your older members, they need you and you need them, they are vital to the mission of the Church. It also may open some doors for ministering to their families.
Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.
I am so glad you took that advice. Our hearts don’t lose their longing for fellowship with other believers simply because we grow old and frail. My mom’s friends visited nursing homes each week and sang with the residents. When she became to frail to go with them, they came to our house to sing to her. How she looked forward to their visits and oh how it touched my heart.