Late life is a season of opportunities--for us and the church

Posted by Tracey Daniels at

Missy Buchanan
Writer-speaker on issues of faithful aging

Missy Buchanan

After my husband died unexpectedly in the Spring of 2023, I was wading knee-deep in grief, trying to maintain my balance while navigating unwanted paperwork and the emotional upheaval caused by the death of a loved one. Sitting between friends at church one Sunday, I caught a glimpse of a slide promoting Vacation Bible School on the big screens. I felt a sudden twinge of guilt. Although I am very active in church life, I had not volunteered for VBS since my own children were little decades ago.

Immediately a tug-of-war waged in my mind. On one end of the rope, my 73-year-old self pulled with rational determination. I no longer had the energy to keep up with high-energy kids. I was already serving in adult discipleship and care ministries. Besides, who would expect a grieving widow to lunge into glitter projects, music videos, and snow cones as a step in the healing journey?   

On the other end of the rope, a different force pulled even harder in the opposite direction. As a writer-speaker on issues of faithful aging, I wrestled with a question that I often ask older adult groups. Can you name a dozen children or youth in your congregation by their first and last names? Oof, I could name only eight or so. But it was the follow-up question that provided the final, winning tug: How often do you initiate conversation with these children or youth?

Since my children had grown up and moved away, I had not pursued interaction with the children and youth of my church other than to buy tickets to their fundraisers or to smile when we passed in the hall. So, volunteering at last year’s VBS sparked a series of intentional efforts to nurture relationships with children and youth. Nowadays I write notes to young acolytes, ushers and musicians, thanking them for serving us in worship. I take a few extra minutes following worship to chat with young families and learn about their children. I quietly write a check for the cost of church camp so a youth whose family is struggling financially can attend. I encourage my Sunday school class to prepare and serve the fellowship meal for youth and to participate in an intergenerational activity.

Late life is a season of opportunities if we will attune our hearts to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is a time to expand our understanding of family beyond our own grandchildren. Even when we are faced with grief and loss, God will nudge us back to community where the laughter of a child is the balm you need for that day.   

Missy Buchanan is a writer-speaker on issues of faithful aging. Upper Room Books will be releasing her newest book, Feeling Your Way Through Grief, in Summer 2024. Visit

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