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Change can help seniors avoid being ‘pew potatoes’

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–“Change can be positive or negative, but it’s never easy” for senior adults or anyone else, said a national adult ministry consultant.

“We don’t want ‘pew potatoes,’ we want Christians who are Great Commission Christians,” John McClendon, a consultant in adult ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, told conferees at Glorieta, a LifeWay Conference Center.

McClendon spoke to leaders of senior adult Sunday School classes with membership 75 years of age and older during Sunday School Leadership Week June 25-29 at Glorieta.

“In ‘Experiencing God’ Henry Blackaby wrote, ‘You can’t stay where you are and go with God,'” McClendon said. “Change is inevitable in a Christian’s life.”

Senior adults, he said, aren’t really afraid of change since they have had a lifetime of it. What he said he often hears is, “I’m not ready to forsake the past, but I do want to get ready for the future.”

Transformation can happen when we are open to change, McClendon said, but it can’t happen without the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and relationships.

Pointing out that Sunday School classes are an ideal place for transformation to happen, he said, “People need to be accountable, and you need small groups for that.”

“Rick Warren said that we’ve got to be growing larger and smaller at the same time,” McClendon said. “That’s true. We want new people to join our Sunday Schools, but we need to keep that intimacy that is available in smaller settings.”

In developing the Sunday School for a New Century curriculum, McClendon said, LifeWay has tried to determine what Sunday School will look like in the future. “We’ve asked ourselves, ‘How should Sunday School look so we can join God in what He is doing?'”

All along the way, he said, “We’ve been adjusting and tweaking to help make Sunday School what it needs to be.”

McClendon said a Sunday School class’s mission is to have the one hour of Bible study on Sunday morning, but not to stop there.

“Sunday School doesn’t stop there,” he said. “It goes on 24/7! A one-hour session can’t provide all the Bible study a growing Christian needs,” adding that every Christian should be a growing Christian, no matter what his or her age.

In talking about growing a senior adult class, Charles Smith, a senior adult member of Second Baptist Church, Conway, Ark., said a number of senior adults don’t participate in a church’s regular visitation program since it usually happens at night, and many senior adults don’t feel comfortable getting out late. But, Smith added, “We [senior adults] can have our own visitation schedule during the day. We don’t have to be on anyone else’s schedule.”

McClendon said he knew of churches whose senior adult groups would meet for coffee in the morning and then go to visit their members.

“And don’t forget,” he said, “Just because someone is a senior adult, it doesn’t mean they have already heard the gospel. Many senior adults are not Christians, but are very open to the gospel.”

McClendon emphasized that senior adults have much to offer their churches and that what they have to offer is needed.

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  • Polly House