“It’s sad because they have no young people at that congregation.” How many times have you heard or made that comment? It’s understandable. When you see a church or you are in a church of mostly older people, you fear for its future.

In some cases the older members may be at fault. They may have been content with just going to church and never tried to convert people in the community. In other cases they are not to blame. Families moved out of the area and left the neighborhood and the church without many children. In either situation, not hearing the laughter of children or seeing the participation of young couples can be discouraging to older members.

Before we become too dismayed, we may need to remember that some churches have mostly young people. New congregations often begin this way. Yes, it is sad to see a church without youth, but it is just as concerning to see a church with no older, seasoned members. It is even more alarming when a church has older members but the younger Christians won’t seek their advice or the older members fail to give direction to the youth.

Older people are very important to the church, the home, and the nation. The passing of years brings wisdom and patience. Experience teaches lessons you can’t learn at school or on social media. This is why the Bible strongly exhorts us to listen to older people. Young Rehoboam, who was forty-one at the time, caused the nation of Israel to permanently divide because he ignored the advice of older men and listened instead to his young friends (I Kings 12). Solomon said, “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Prov. 23:22). In the church, the elders who lead are to be mature in the faith, not novices, and they must be old enough to be married and have believing children (I Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-6). Even if the older ones are not in the office of elders, the youth should look to them for counsel: “Likewise, you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders” (I Pet. 5:5). If we are wise we will tap into their store of life’s lessons and church experiences.

There are drawbacks to both situations. If a church has no young people, it lacks the energy and enthusiasm to get things done. If it has no older people, it has little self-discipline and wisdom to restrain and channel that youthful drive. A congregation’s zeal coupled with their inexperience can get them into trouble. In a culture dominated by the whims of youth, we had better not put the counsel of old people on the shelf. At the same time, we must not take youth for granted or fail to encourage them. We need both groups in the church. That is why Paul talks to both groups—young and old men and young and old women—in Titus 2:1-8. Let us not wait until they’re gone before we appreciate them.

-Kerry Duke