3 Lessons Every Pastor And Church Leader Should Know About Evangelizing Senior Adults
An amazing story is enfolding in the small, farming community of Colquitt, GA. Colquitt is located 50 miles from Tallahassee, 50 miles from Albany, and 50 miles from Dothan, AL. It is in the southwest corner of Georgia.
In many ways, Colquitt is your typical small town. It has a total population of 1,750. One red light. Restaurants with great home cooking. Everyone knows everyone else. Multiple family generations live there. It is a wonderfully loving community. While many things are typical about this city, something quite atypical is taking place here as well.
Seven years ago, Dr. Carl Marshall became Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Colquitt. During his tenure, the church has grown from 150 in weekly attendance to 400. While that is amazing in a town of 1,750, what is most amazing is that church has baptized over 40 individuals who are 60 years of age or older.
Anyone involved in church leadership knows what a miracle it is when someone 60+ years of age comes to Christ. To baptize over 40 senior adults is one of the great leadership stories I have witnessed first-hand.
I have never heard anyone speak or teach on how to evangelize senior adults. Therefore, I sat down with Dr. Marshall in an attempt to uncover his best practices and find out first-hand how the church is able to have such a great impact in the lives of seniors. He says you must do three things in order to see senior adults come to Christ:
- Engage Them Where They Are – Dr. Marshall told me, “Brian, they won’t come to you.” So he began going to where they were. For several months, he would get to the local restaurant where they met for breakfast each day at 6:00 AM simply to spend time with them. No agenda. Dr. Marshall made it a priority to reach the senior adults in his community.
- Trust Must Be Built – Dr. Marshall advised me that you cannot change their lifestyle. You must communicate to seniors that they can come to church or enter a personal friendship just as they are. Dr. Marshall makes it a point to not wear a tie on Sunday mornings. This may not sound like much but in a traditional Baptist church in South Georgia, this is a big deal. Many of these individuals are farmers who literally are coming to church straight from the pasture.
- Love And Care About Them – An one older gentlemen who gave his life to Christ and was eventually baptized said to Dr. Marshall, “Preacher, I hope you stay. You’re the only one (pastor in the area) who acted like they cared about us.” Pastors, do you truly care about the unreached people group called “Seniors” in your community.
First Baptist Church and Dr. Marshall are not only reaching senior adults. The message of the gospel is changing their entire city. The pre-school department has grown from 3 children to now over 40 during his seven years. Under his leadership, the church is reaching multiple generations.
I have several observations from my time spent at this wonderful church:
- As baby boomers are growing older and people living longer, churches should prioritize hiring a full-time Senior Adults Pastor.
- To grow a church, you must be willing to work.
- To grow a church, you must be patient and willing to invest in relationships.
- You must see EVERY life as valuable in the sight of God.
- Whatever you feel are your limitations (size, age, location, ministry style, financial resources, etc…) as a church, they are no excuse for not greatly impacting your community.
- No one is beyond the reach and love of Jesus.
It was absolutely delightful spending time at this great church. In many ways, it taught me as much about leadership as any church I have ever had the privilege to serve.
What is one thing you can take away from this story as a pastor or church leader to better impact your community?
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