Women are designed by God to be flexible, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy. Sometimes we have a little stiffness, a little resistance to change. It’s hard to give way when we are accustomed to things as they are. We can feel a little insecure about who we are or what we’re supposed to be doing. But there is no sin in “adjusting” to change. Though it can be uncomfortable initially to adapt and stretch into new circumstances, if we just catch our breath, we’ll be okay. This is just normal.

Though I’ve seen women go through times like this at just about every stage of life, it’s very predictable with women whose children have finished school and moved out and on. These women can feel very much at loose ends, with time on their hands. And it’s this group of women I’d like to address here.

It’s tempting to think that you ought to go get a job. But let me give you a few other suggestions. First of all, if you are a wife, your primary job as your husband’s helper has not changed. He still needs you, and it may be the first time in a long time he has your undivided attention. People have asked me if it’s weird having an “empty nest” now, and I have to say, no, not at all. Not because I didn’t adore having a full nest. But when we first got married, there were just two of us after all, and we managed quite nicely. So in many ways, it is just delightful. But that’s not my point, and I digress.

Though being your husband’s helper is your first calling, you’ve probably been very preoccupied, and rightly so, raising children for the past twenty or thirty years, depending on how many children you have and how they are spaced. So it takes a bit of regrouping and rethinking to determine what it is you’re about now that they are all grown up.

But I would like to encourage you to think about how you can be of service to the church now that your children are raised. Most likely helping your husband doesn’t take all your waking hours, unless you are in unusual circumstances. (If that is the case, then just ignore what I’m saying here.) And though your children may still need your help and support in many ways, you may still be at loose ends when it comes to thinking of the big picture. Many women who have run the race, raised their kids, and have come in for a landing, seldom think about how they can be of benefit to their church and community.

Most women in this age bracket have tremendous experience and more time and resources than the younger women. But the one thing they lack is direction. If they are serious Christians, they don’t want to spend all their time on themselves: shopping, working out at the gym, spending money at the spa, and socializing. So that’s why they consider getting a job. But they may not see how they can be of much use to the church. Well here are a few ideas.

First assess your gifts, abilities, desires, and opportunities. Are you a great cook? Why not start a little cooking class (or sewing class) for young girls in your congregation? Do you love entertaining? Then invite people over. Host one of the church meetings or a shower. Are there any elderly or widows in your congregation? Visit them, take them to lunch, run errands for them. Are there young moms who could use a meal delivered? Make them one. Help with the weddings, cook for the funerals, sponsor the baby showers, visit the sick, reach out to the needy. Each congregation has far more needs than are currently being met (I promise), so get to work. If you need ideas, talk with your pastor. If you’re shy, start with the people you know.

If all the older women began to minister in this way, the impact would startle us all. The older women in the church are a tremendous resource, and we need to get to work doing what we do best, which is caring for people. The side benefit is that then we won’t feel at loose ends. We’ll see that we have an important place in God’s design for the Christian community, and our usefulness didn’t end when the kids all left for college. Far from it! Actually, we are just now warmed up and ready to go.

So don’t flounder around wondering what it is you’re supposed to do now that the kids are out of the house. Open your eyes. Ask God to give you some good ideas. Be flexible. Stretch out a bit and do something new.

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14 thoughts on “Loose Ends

  1. Many of us “younger” women are desperate for godly mentors. I second the idea of leaving time in your schedule to pass along your experience and wisdom.

  2. Hi Mrs. Wilson,

    Thanks so much for all your wise posts. They are to the point, full of common sense and they show forth the abundant wisdom with which God has blessed you.

    I’m especially touched by this post, because God has blessed me in recent months with just such a friend. Sue is almost at the empty-nest stage. Her youngest is a senior in high school, but she has exemplified in an excellent way, everything you have described here.

    As an only child, care of my elderly parents has come to me in a sudden set of circumstances. I also have three teenage daughters, and a loving husband who are in need of my care. Needless to say, it’s a busy household! A few months after moving my parents to our town, my dad became seriously ill and was first in the hospital, then in a rehab center for about two months. He died a month ago today..

    During the time of his hospital/rehab stays, Sue anticipated our family’s every need. From delicious meals (too many to count) to transportation for our girls, a shoulder to cry on, and godly wisdom and encouragement, Sue was a faithful friend and servant of Christ. She even sat with mom at the rehab center during dad’s last day, so that I could have a brief rest before I stayed with him the night he died. After dad’s death Sue’s thoughtfulness continued in myriad ways as well.

    I think now I truly understand what a “sister” truly is. I am so grateful to God for giving me this sister in the Lord. Her humility and caring spirit bring honor and glory to Christ.

    Sue ( and you through this post) has inspired me to want to serve Christ’s church in whatever ways I can. It is my prayer that many women will heed this encouragement as well.

    Thanks again for all that you do.

    Soli Deo Gloria.

  3. I was tickled when I stumbled onto your site. My daughters and I have a similar thing going, and we are currently beginning a study of Titus 2 and how it applies to women of all ages. What an army we would be if we could all get in rank and file, serving the church in all these various capacities, even as you have mentioned.
    May He do a work in all of us, that this may be accomplished!

  4. I am reminded of the verse in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 where it encourages Christian women to adorn themselves with good works. And all the ideas you presented, Nancy, are wonderful good works! I would like to suggest that some of the women in the stage of life you are addressing may not think of themselves as “qualified” candidates to minister to younger women or in other areas of ministry. But how untrue this is! As Nancy pointed out, you not only have time, but you have years of experience and have survived! The Lord is so good and kind to use us even when we may feel a bit insecure to trod on unfamiliar paths. So step out in faith and reach out to those younger women or elderly widows who will most likely welcome your interest in their life. Is God done with our fruitfulness after the children are grown and gone? Silly of us to think so when we’ve just gone through some of the most intense training of our lives! Yes, it is just our “warm up.” Satan may want to tell us we are no longer useful to the Kingdom of God, but God’s Word has given us a wonderful invitation, even a mandate to serve Him all of our days.

  5. Mrs. Wilson –

    I am a young wife and mother with two sweet babies, ages 19 months and 3 months. My life is wonderfully full and I praise God for the blessing of my husband and children.

    We are in a church that is still young, and learning what it means to be brothers and sisters to one another. The older-women-teaching-younger-women experience is not a reality for me yet. I long for it though, and trust God will grow our church body to the place where it is a common part of our lives.

    While I wait for God’s timing in this area, I am blessed by women like you who encourage younger and older women through your writing. Thank-you for using your “empty nest stage” wisely; you are blessing me and many others immensely.

  6. My mother is such a woman as you describe: busy helping, encouraging, and serving the younger women in her church. She has touched so many lives, and so many young moms have been blessed by her presence and input.

    She loves what she is doing and how God has equipped her to do it. But it has come at a price. All but two of her friends (and one of them passed away a year ago) have sold out to the golfing/spa-going/self-seeking life you have described above. They are not a part of my mom’s life anymore, and although I know she would not give up that to which God has called her and the blessings that have accompanied her obedience, she has found it very telling and sad to watch these women who profess Christ essentially pursue hedonism rather than sacrificial service to their King.

    May God raise us all up to be women with great purpose and devotional to serving Him after our children have grown and moved away.

  7. Nancy, you’ve described exactly what I hope to be able to do when I have an empty nest. My husband and I are in agreement that my first thought should not be to rush out and get a job. We’ve watched mother after mother enter the work force when the children are grown and witnessed how the church suffers from the lack of older women who are free to minister to the Body. My nest will begin to empty in just over a year or so. My oldest is 17 and my youngest 11, so I still have many years to go, but we are thinking and praying now about how those years can be fruitful outside of paid employment. I don’t think paid employment for older women is necessarily wrong; it’s just been my experience that it’s what most people default to. That’s sad, I think. I’ve so appreciated your example!

  8. Just some food for thought. You are presenting this as an “either/or” topic. I.e. either minister in the church or earn money (inference “mad money”)? Are there no other options? Are there no reasons that earning money is a right and godly choice for a couple?

    What you are suggesting is fine, but since there is no clear command in Scripture that this is what empty nesters should do next, it seems, at the very least, unkind to suggest that women who enter or re-enter the work force are in some way failing in their ministry.

  9. Of course many women have good reasons for getting jobs outside the home, and they can honor the Lord in that. My concern is helping those women who feel at loose ends find ways to be and feel useful in the church. I’ve talked with many women who are in this age group, and they wonder if they should go find a job so they don’t feel bored or unproductive. My point is that there are other ways to be productive. Scripture does tell the older women to be teaching the younger women, and if they are too busy, they won’t have time to contribute in this way.

  10. For the last ten years, I have had the most marvelous older woman as a mentor and prayer partner. I treasure any time that I spend with her.

    I will soon be in the position of being an empty nester, and I can see why older women do not go to their pastor and offer to help with dinners etc. It is because the needs are endless, the pressure is intense, and that is a quick path to burnout in today’s church. There is no reason that younger women cannot deliver dinners and give showers.
    Older women have not cornered the market on self-centeredness.

    I think that it is wiser to befriend younger women and offer to spend time with them on a regular basis as a friend/prayer partner/mentor.

    It is also important at this stage of life to rebuild and rekindle your marriage. My mother in law told me that an alarming number of their friends divorced as soon as the children left home.

    Church busyness may make your pastor happy, but it is not necessarily what God is looking for.

  11. Mindi,
    I am not suggesting that women feel pressured into a guilty kind of giving. If it isn’t an overflow of joy, no one, especially not a godly pastor, is going to be pleased.
    Blessings,
    Nancy

  12. I really appreciated this post. Especially what you said about it being an overflow of joy. The idea does not seem to be to run yourself ragged, but rather to work hard to serve Christ’s bride and enjoy knowing that it is a sweet aroma to the Lord.

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