The other day I got a question from a church planter that I hear a lot: How do I get older, more mature Christians to my church plant? How do I engage and utilize the gifts of business leaders in my church? The answers are deeply connected.
Most church plants are filled with young professionals, young families, and singles. Because of this, most church plants have a lot of energy and a lot of kids.
In every church plant there is a group that is often overlooked. If you ask every church planter what he wishes he had more of, his answer would be this group. It is older people, established people, people with wisdom to share.
For many church planters, they are entrepreneurs, driven by leadership and vision, but they struggle to make that vision come to fruition. They struggle to build systems of follow up, systems to care for people and make sure no one falls through the cracks. While they can cast a vision and tell you what their church will look like in five years, they can’t tell you how they will get from where they are to their desired destination.
Often the person who can help them is a business leader. This person may be in their 20’s or 30’s, but they will often be someone in their 50’s. Maybe they are retired or looking for an opportunity to serve and make a difference with the gifts they have.
Sadly their is one reason this person never gets to serve in the church and use their gifts, and it hurts the business leader and the church plant and the pastor: It is the fear of the pastor; it is the intimidation that a pastor feels towards a business leader or someone with organizational and administrative gifts.
Usually this leader is very high capacity; they accomplish a lot because of how gifted they are organizationally. They have years of experience, so they know how to work well with people, which makes them likable and well spoken.
All of this leads a younger church planter to decide to go it his own way and not utilize the gifts of the people in his church.
Now here is what every church planter tells me: We need more older people. We need older couples who can mentor younger couples. We need wisdom.
But what they don’t realize is they have communicated to that person, that person that they want so badly at their church, We have no place for you.
Not on purpose, but the message has been sent loud and clear.
So what can you do? How do you turn the tide?
1. Give them something real to do. If you want older people in your church, if you want experienced business leaders to connect in your church, you must give them something real to do. Real responsibility. They have experience with budgets, decision making, systems, efficiency, communication and productivity. Tap into that. Learn from them. Ask them questions. You also need to think through responsibility below an elder level for these leaders, as all of them won’t want to do that, and you may not want them all to do that.
2. Stop trying to be the young, cool church. Yes, the target of most church plants is 20 – 40 year olds, which often means the message, sermon, communication, ministries and music are tailored to that group. You don’t need to change that to engage an empty nester, you just need to think about how to do that. Use examples in sermons that would be helpful to them. Highlight the people in your church that aren’t 20-something’s.
3. Be who you are and let go of things. As a visionary leader, if you want to engage a business leader, if you want to utilize the gifts of an older Christian, you are going to have to let go of your feelings of pride and intimidation. Often you are the reason they aren’t engaged; you have communicated you don’t need them or want them. You have made it difficult for them to use their gifts and feel needed. I know you don’t think that is the case, but it most likely is.
4. Engage them relationally & show them respect. The best way to engage older people in your church, to get business leaders onto your team and use their gifts, is to engage them relationally and show them respect. Be their friends, invite them over, spend time with them. Ask them questions, get to know them without a desire for anything else. This seems so obvious, but when an empty nester walks into a church plant they often get treated like a unicorn, and everyone mauls them, so they leave quickly.