Too often youthful arrogance leads to the false conclusion that are all older persons are inflexible and out of touch. As a result, opportunities to benefit from the insights that can come from veterans of life are missed.

Diana Butler Bass, author of Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith, has noted that older church members can be very resourceful in teaching younger persons about both life and facing the reality of death. That is a good and needed word.

Many congregations build membership by offering very age-specific programs to the point that attendees often encounter no one outside of their age demographic. Yet intentional intergenerational encounters are essential for creating families of faith.

After worship last Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Tenn., I joined a small group of seniors for lunch. Even the most casual conversations around the table revealed rich, deep lives of faith. I wonder how many of the congregation’s younger members — from youth through middle adulthood — know these inspiring stories.

For example, one member asked another about her volunteer service to youthful offenders at the local detention center. When asked how long she had been doing this personal, out-of-the-spotlight ministry, she counted in her head and replied: “Thirty-two years.”

Self-congratulations for going on a summer mission trip or giving a Saturday to work on a Habitat house pales in comparison to one who faithfully, month-after-month, despite health challenges, stays true to a calling to serve others in need for more than three decades and counting.

What a lesson in commitment for those across the spectrum of age. What insights could be gained about avoiding burnout, sticking with a cause and not excusing oneself from the call to put faith into action.

Here’s my point: Next time you see an older person at church (or somewhere else) with a little time to spare, pull up a chair and ask a question or two. You just might go away surprisingly inspired as I was last Sunday.

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