The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the best known parables of Jesus. In fact, this parable really should be seen as filled with parables. One of the parables within is the Parable of the Older Brother. Today there is truth in those closing verses of Luke 15 which need to be heard by many leaders and members of Sunday Schools:
Luke 15:25-32, NIV
25 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
28 "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
31 "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"
I would encourage you to allow God's truth to echo in your heart and mind. Allow Him to speak, and seek to respond obediently. Here are some thoughts that came to my mind:
- LOSSES. Some of our churches have lost young adults. Others have age group gaps. The older brothers who remain in these Sunday Schools should be aware of and pray for those who are missing. They should mobilize themselves to pray for, care for, contact, invite, and include absentees and prospects. Enlist and train more leaders to give attention to those who are missing. Don't simply accept the losses.
- CELEBRATION. Sometimes pastors and Sunday School directors forget and neglect the faithful older brothers. Older brothers are not necessarily in the later years of life. Instead, they are those who have remain connected and serving in our Sunday Schools and churches. While it is very appropriate to celebrate the return of every prodigal, it is also important that we pause to thank, affirm, and celebrate the time, work, investment, and faithfulness of these older brothers. These are teachers, workers, and members of classes. Let's celebrate!
- ENCOURAGEMENT. It is easy to get discouraged about lack of attendance, leadership, giving, and more. Encourage the older brothers who are serving, investing, and supporting the work of the Sunday School. Pat them on the back. Catch them doing something good and affirm them. Share Sunday School testimonies from the pulpit, in print, and at events. Write notes of thanks. Call these older brothers on their birthdays and anniversaries. Let them know you care. Let them know they make a difference.
- OLDER. While not all older brothers in our Sunday Schools are older, many of them are. It would be easy for senior adults to grow weary and to step down to give others a chance to serve. Nowhere in God's Word does it talk about retirement. We can stop serving when we rest from our labors in heaven. On the other hand, these senior saints are needed to coach, mentor, and apprentice younger Christians and leaders. Take them with you as you serve. Equip them to serve.
What other lessons come to your mind and heart? Share them by pressing Comments below. Do you have older brother Sunday School? Encourage your teachers, workers, and members. Celebrate their faithfulness and service. Give attention to those who are missing. Pray. Make disciples. Train leaders. B e revolutionary!
For more ideas about reaching people and filling age group gaps in your Sunday School, check out these blog posts: