“What are your dreams for the second-half of life?” This was the question my husband, Jon, posed to the adults at our table at an older adult ministry event where I was the speaker. The question was specifically directed to the couple sitting closest to us, and the husband made the typical joke…’I’m not that old!’ But after a few moments of silence the wife rather quietly said, “Well…I have thought about what I’d like to do after we retire.”
Her dream was to use their RV for disaster relief. She said, “When a flood or tornado or some other crisis hits a region, I’d like to be able to just jump in our RV and go. We could help with cooking meals or cleaning up or anything else that would be useful.” The more questions we asked her, the more excited she got. And we spent several minutes brainstorming about how she might make this dream a reality, such as identifying ministries she could hook up with and learn from.
The short interchange we had with her reiterated to me how important it is for us to ask questions.
Nearly every night as I tuck our 6-year old into bed I ask her, “What was your favorite part of the day?” I have asked this so many times she has come to expect it and sometimes before I pose the question, she will say, “well, aren’t you going to ask me?” We need to ask adults questions that get them thinking about the second-half of life. Even if they don’t have an answer the first time we ask, just posing the question will get them thinking.
In addition to the question above, “What are your dreams for the second-half of life?”, you might also ask:
What are you passionate about?
What do you like to stay up late at night talking about?
What do you want to be doing in 10 years?
What is something you have always wanted to do but have never had the opportunity?
If money and time were no object, what would you want to do for God’s Kingdom?
These questions are just a few suggestions. It’s really all about taking the time to get to know someone and encouraging them to think a little deeper about all they have to offer.
What other questions would encourage reflection among the new old?
One of the primary components of an effective older adult ministry is having a strong emphasis on service, but creating this atmosphere, where service is an expected and normal thing, does not automatically happen. Some churches have neglected to see their older adults as valuable resources full of life experience and wisdom and instead they have bought into the world’s lie that once someone reaches a particular age they should “slow down” and “let the younger people take over.” It takes effort and in some cases a shift in attitude to build an outwardly focused older adult ministry.
Shortly after Peninsula Covenant Church, in Redwood City, CA began their Plus ministry, Dr. Alan Forsman, one of the strategic planners for Pepsi, talked to the church about the characteristics of the 50+ generation. Rod Toews, pastor of Plus ministry says, “This particular presentation to our church helped to raise the awareness that the church had really not been doing a good job of valuing the 50+ members. Our older members were feeling disenfranchised and like the church did not really care about them. The first goal of our ministry was to help the older adults feel valued and worthwhile and in doing this we realized that our people had the time and the abilities to be involved in missional things.” The Plus ministry began blessing the community by praying for the lost in the city, being involved in community service clubs and taking the elderly to doctor’s appointments. It did not take long until the Plus ministry was recognized by the entire church as being a ministry with an outward focus. In fact, other ministries in the church began to look to them for support and help in various service endeavors.
Mopsy Andrews, pastor of BOLDer adult ministry (Being Our Lord’s Delight) at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, TX is also very intentional about making sure the 50+ ministry is focused on serving. “One of the primary goals of our senior pastor when he first came to Chapelwood was to change the landscape of our church to be outreach oriented. Chapelwood is in an affluent suburb of Houston, and he wanted us to change the image of our church from being inwardly focused to a place where all kinds of people could find love and acceptance.” The older adult ministry embraced this emphasis, and in fact one of the primary purposes of the BOLDer Adult ministry is to supply the people for the many service projects organized by the church. BOLDer adults at Chapelwood now serve in a variety of capacities from short-term mission trips, to encouraging people looking for employment, to providing transportation to nursing home residents. Mopsy says, “Our church now has over 300 mission and outreach ministries and over 1,200 BOLDer adults are involved in supporting these ministries.”
What churches do you know of that have intentionally outward focused older adult ministries?
(This blog post was adapted from a portion on my concept paper, “Creating New Opportunities for Older Adults to Serve”).
Because I am a Leadership Network author (Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults over 50), I was asked to share a few of my thoughts on leading and reading in preparation for their upcoming event called Leaders and Readers. This totally free, on-line event is scheduled for November 11th and there will be six authors discussing their ideas on leading and reading. Register here.
I love to read. I list it up there as one of my favorite hobbies. I am one of those people who reads most newsletters cover to cover. I read the short blurbs displayed in the grocery store on how to cook healthy meals and choose the best produce. I read brochures in the doctor’s office about how to ward off colds and when desperate, I will read the back of the cereal box.
I read all different kinds of books and I read them for different reasons. I read a few fiction books each year simply because reading fiction is a leisure activity for me. I read fiction books while I’m on vacation or on days when I need to give my brain a time to rest and rejuvenate from the demands of ministry and family life.
I read a lot of books and articles related to my specific ministry focus – baby boomers, older adults and the 50+ generation. As a speaker, writer and consultant in this area, I study a lot of academic and secular information about aging and retirement and then try to synthesize how this research relates to the practical world of older adults and church ministry.
When I am reading for the purpose of studying the latest research and discovering trends and theories, I often skim and speed read. You can glean all kinds of ideas and concepts even if you read a book very quickly. I also jump around as I’m reading a book. I read for main points, illustrations and lists. I especially like to read the end of books and conclusions to get an overall feel for the action the author is hoping I will take.
I’ve got to be honest. Now that I am an author, I’m not sure I like the reading approach of people like me (skimming and speed reading). Having gone through the painstaking work of laying out a book, choosing the order of the chapters, being careful not to repeat myself, etc. – I want people to read every word! I know there are important concepts, ideas and examples early in the book that lay a foundation for what is to come later. Skimming can be beneficial, but so is reading and entire book from cover to cover. Especially when reading books designed to feed your soul.
Some of the best books I’ve ever read that have helped me as a leader have not been leadership books but rather books that cause me to press in to God and go deeper with Him. Getting closer to God ALWAYS helps my leadership and is never time wasted. I can think back to moments over the past several years, where I have poured over a book and allowed God to use it to minister to me, and in every case, I emerge a better teacher and leader simply because I am filled with more peace, more joy and less anxiety.
I’m able to relax in my leadership decisions because my soul is more connected with God and I’ve once again been helped to ‘set my mind on things above.’ Whenever I’ve taken the time to drink deeply from a spiritual book, the results in my life have been positive and in turn this is good for those I am leading in ministry.
Finally, reading and discussing books with others has been a great experience. I love discussing a book – whether a fiction book in a book club or a ministry book with a colleague or a soul-feeding book with a few fellow Christ-followers. My mind is more active when I read knowing I am going to discuss it with someone else. I am more apt to underline, take notes, and work to apply the material. Discussion also helps with retention.
Here are three of my favorite reads over the past few years:
(For other resources I like related to older adult ministry and intergenerational ministry, see my recommended resources.)
We Would See Jesus (1958) by Roy and Revel Hession.
This is one of those ‘soul’ books. It’s a short, classic piece of literature that gets to the heart of the Christian walk. The authors remind us that it is enough to simply see Jesus. Above all else, this is our primary purpose and goal.
Same Kind of Different as Me (2006) by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.
A very engaging book that cuts to the heart about loving people as Jesus loves them and giving of our own life for someone else. It is a great read.
Who Stole My Church? (2007) by Gordon MacDonald.
A fictional story that highlights many of the feelings that adults in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are experiencing as their churches are changing in style and format. It shows how the young and the old can work alongside one another and how older adults can continue to have an important role in the life of a church.
What are some of your favorite reads? And, especially, what are you reading in regards to ministry with baby boomers and the new old?
You can’t be as immersed in older adult ministry as I am and not be faced from time to time with the worship issue. You know what I’m talking about – contemporary , traditional…loud, soft…etc.
In trying to deal with this issue, many leaders jump to the conclusion that they need to start a more traditional service for their older adults – one where hymns will be sung and the preacher won’t wear jeans. But offering this service may just be a band aid. Before starting a new service or doing a blended service or sending your older adults out the door to find a different church, I believe all leaders need to wrestle with these questions:
1. Are the older adults fully engaged in the mission of the church?
2. Are they an integral part of what is happening in ministry in terms of outreach and service to the community?
3. Is there clear communication that the church wants to grow and reach all age groups of people, or is there a very direct focus on reaching the younger set?
These are the real questions that must be considered and answered in an honest manner. It’s a question of VALUE. Are you starting a traditional or classic service simply to pacify the older folks so that you can go on and do the stuff you really want to do? Or, are you starting a service because you truly want to reach out to unchurched older adults as well as minister in an intentional way to those who are already believers?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
With the first baby boomer turning 65 in 2011, there is lots of talk in the media about retirement. In this post, I’ve got three articles on this topic to share with you – all which are worth reading.
1. Bill was 57 when he retired after a career as a salesman and spent his first few years of retirement gardening and fishing. There’s nothing wrong with those two hobbies – but Bill was designed to do more. And there are millions of others who are retired or soon to be retired that need to find a new calling – one where they give a portion of their time to ministry. Check out Bill’s inspiring story of how one man turned his retirement years into a time of productivity for God’s work. It’s my dream that we will see story after story about men and women like Bill. If you have a story like this, please post it in the comments.
2. Did you know there are actually phases of retirement? In Chapter 5 of my book, Baby Boomers and Beyond, I talk about the stages of retirement as Dr. Robert Atchley describes them, but last week I read a study that had a bit of a different take on the stages of retirement. Looking at these phases can be very helpful to us as we seek to minister with people. Can we identify the phase they are in? How can we pray for them during this phase? How can we support them? Here are the phases identified in The New Retirement Mindscape study:
3. Finally, the third article I want to draw your attention to is The Retirement of the Future and it is right on in terms of how boomers are viewing the retirement years. Many want to keep working in some fashion, however they also want time for leisure pursuits. And many of them want to do something purposeful with their lives. In the article is a quote from Ken Dychtwald who says, “There’s a dawning realization among boomers that a life of pure leisure, with no challenge or stimulation, is both unaffordable and boring, especially since—with increasing life spans—this phase might last for 30 years or more.”
Let’s not sit by passively as millions are deciding how they are going to spend their retirement years. We need to enter into the journey and point these people to Christ and help them discover how they can use their lives to make a Kingdom impact.
What are you doing in your ministry context to address the issues of retirement?
I’m sure you remember Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech. It was a pivotal moment in American history. Well, I too have a dream. It is a dream about ministry with older adults that I describe in my new book, Baby Boomers and Beyond:
It is a dream where older adults are motivated to give their lives away to people needing God’s grace. A dream where aging is not feared but rather welcomed as a God-ordained season of life.
It is a dream where adults are telling their life stories to the next generation—proclaiming God’s faithfulness and provision. A dream where older adults find purpose and meaning through a relationship with Jesus Christ. A dream where no one is marginalized because of age.
It is a dream where older adults continue to grow in intimacy with God. A dream where older adults are fully using all of their talents, gifts, and abilities to make a major Kingdom impact.
God began to stir this dream in me at a young age, and by the time I graduated from high school and entered Bible college, this spark to make a difference in the world of older adult ministry was being fanned into a flame. Even as a college student, I wrote papers, read books, and pursued internships in this emerging area. People thought I was crazy and couldn’t believe that a competent nineteen-year-old woman with a year of college under her belt would want to jump into the almost unheard-of arena of ministry with people over fifty. Shouldn’t I be using my ministry gifts serving youth? Or maybe I should look into women’s ministry or children’s ministry?
But God had a grip on me, and I had a burning passion to see the entire landscape of aging and older adult ministry change. Over the years, I have served as an older adult minister, pursued further education, taught classes, written articles, and done just about everything I could to speak this message. When I would become frustrated that no one was listening, voices would say, “The time isn’t right,” “The church isn’t ready yet,” “We’ll get there one day.”
Well, the day has finally come. The bulging numbers of adults marching into their fifth, sixth, and seventh decades of life is larger than it has ever been. Now is the time to make the dream come alive. Now is the time to unleash older adults to live out their God-given purpose. Now is the time to create effective ministries that reach out to adults over fifty. Now is the time to explore the possibilities.
Now is the time. (Excerpt from Baby Boomers and Beyond, 2010, by Amy Hanson)
What is your dream for older adult ministry and how are you going to make this dream a reality?
This week I read an article in The Sacramento Bee and I was smiling and nodding my head throughout the entire thing. Everything the reporter said is right in line with what I’ve been discovering as I talk with church leaders and boomer-age adults across the country.
Here are just a few points from the article that those of us in church ministry should consider:
• Boomers want different things then the Builder generation. In the article, a director of a local senior center noted that the boomers wanted the shuffleboard court removed in order to put up a new fitness center. It doesn’t take much for us to take this and make a connection to ministry. New programs and activities will be required to reach the new old.
• Baby Boomers want to serve but in a different way. Here’s a quote from the article, “Older seniors wanted to answer the phone at the desk one day a week and do their job and go home,”…Baby Boomers need a project. They want to do something worthwhile and utilize their talents. They want to be involved.” I am finding over and over again that boomers want to do more than staple papers and fold newsletters. Let’s find ways to fully engage them in ministry.
• Boomers want to age in place, which means they want to stay in their own home. Because of this, building contractors will be asked to widen doorways and adjust counters to accommodate their needs.
• Boomers are attentive to their health. One way of reaching out to boomers in our communities is by providing resources for them to improve their health. For example, a fitness class held on your church campus or a biking group where churched boomers invite their unchurched friends.
• Boomers have buying power. This one really made laugh because the article said that 61% of Baby Boomers whose kids have left home remodel their kitchens. My parents, born in 1946 and 1942 just did this! But on a more serious note, how can we help the boomers in our churches understand how to use their financial resources for Kingdom work? Many of these people have spent a lifetime accumulating – now they need some guidance as to what to do with it.
This article has some great insights. Take a look at the whole thing here and then post a comment about what you are doing in your ministry to respond to the different characteristics of the boomer generation.
“All my life, I’ve known something was missing, and now I know what it was.” These were the words of Bob, a man who at the age of 80 found his way back to God and named Christ as the Lord of his life. Bob became a Christ follower while living in Carillon, a 55+ living community located in Plainfield, IL. Nearly 6 years ago, Community Christian Church, a multi-site campus based church in Naperville, IL, saw the ministry opportunities within Carillon and started weekly church services in the community’s clubhouse. Since then they have seen many older adults come into a relationship with Christ.
There are nearly 78 million baby boomers in their fifties and sixties, not to mention the millions of adults currently over the age of 65. In fact, in 20 years, nearly a quarter of our population will be over the age of 65 and millions of these adults do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, a new and untapped area for church planters is the 50+ population.
There are a variety of approaches worth considering in regards to church plants for older adults.
1. Consider a church plant inside a 55+ living communities. Some communities, like Carillon do not have any formal church structures within their community. Community Christian’s Carillon campus holds their church services in the community clubhouse. There is also a strong emphasis on small groups. Non-Christians living in Carillon are invited to join a small group and over time relationships are built and conversations about faith and God occur.
Community Christian currently has plans to launch a new campus in another 55+ living community –Del Webb Huntley – where over 9600 people will live. Perry (62) (the pastor) and his wife Becky (59) are moving into the community and will begin forming relationships and establishing small groups with the first church service to be held in March of 2011.
In both of these examples, the pastors moved into the communities and are forging relationships with the people while living next door, so to speak. The church leaders play golf with the residents, participate in other activities on the campus and even serve on the Association board.
2. A second way to plant a church is to look at the demographics of a certain region and determine if they have a high percentage of adults who are in the 50+ age category, then start a church to reach this group.
3. Another way to reach this population group is by creating a new church service, perhaps on a Saturday night, to reach unchurched older adults. One caution with this approach is to be sure you are not creating a new service just to pacify those current church-goers who are upset about the contemporary worship style or the loud music. Your focus must be on the unchurched 50+ age adults.
In an era when many church leaders are focused on reaching the younger generation, the need for focused evangelism efforts toward the 50+ generation is imperative.
What churches do you know of that are intentionally targeting the new old?
Last week, I was asked this question, “When does reluctance to accept growing old become dangerous to one’s spiritual health?” Here was my response:
In our culture, we are bombarded on a daily basis with the message that younger is better and we must do everything we can to maintain our youth. Whether it be make-up, hair color or clothes, many go to great lengths to ‘stay young’ and in the process they neglect to see that growing old has always been a part of God’s plan. Once sin entered this world, we became mortal beings and our physical bodies would eventually wear out. The process of aging is simply God’s way of moving us from birth to death and then to eternity. We should not avoid or fear aging but should view it the way Scripture describes it, as a blessed time of life. (Genesis 15:15; Proverbs 20:29).
Another point to consider in regards to aging and our spiritual health, is that God desires for us to be totally dependent on Him. He wants us to be desperate for Him, to need Him above anything else. And yet, in our society we tend to be very self-sufficient.
In my book, Baby Boomers and Beyond, I write: “The losses and challenges associated with aging can persuade older adults to throw themselves on God. Even though people fight it, aging cannot be reversed. Physical health does decline, aging parents need care, and loved ones do die. In these circumstances, when people have nowhere else to turn, we can point them to a deeper dependence on God, and in turn they will find peace and intimacy with Him.” (p.161). “My soul finds rest in God alone…” (Psalm 62:1)
Please chime in with your answer to this question:
“When does reluctance to accept growing old become dangerous to one’s spiritual health?”
Not all 20 year olds like loud music and not all 70 year olds like a pipe organ. There are 40 year olds who prefer to sing hymns and 60 year olds who enjoy Chris Tomlin. Generalizations about the differences among generations are not always useful.
I read an article last week regarding a study conducted by the University of Illinois about how businesses can create better work relationships among employees of different generations. This was a quote from the article that I think has lots of application for those of us leading in churches: “Assumptions based solely on age can lead to some very faulty conclusions and missteps.”
While the article was about businesses, there were a number of transferable principles. For example, one finding in a review of the research was as follows:
Generational factions also can emerge based on when employees start work with a firm, similar to the lifelong bonds formed by soldiers during boot camp or deployments, the study found. Because those factions can include workers of all ages, the study says age-based solutions to unite those workers with colleagues are ill conceived.
This made me pause and consider the timing of when people start attending a certain church. There are those older adults who have been there for 40-plus years, but also those older adults who have come in the past 5 or 10 years along with those younger adults who have come to church in the past 5 or 10 years. Regardless of age the feelings and impressions held by those members who have been there for 40 years may be different than those who have been attending for 5.
The article concludes like this: “It’s human nature that workers interact with their cohorts, seeking out their own,” she said. “Figuring out ways to bring them together will allow companies to tap into all of those knowledge silos and reach full potential.”
Isn’t this exactly what we want to have happen in the church? Check out the entire article and then let me know what you think.
How can we keep from making generalizations that tend to polarize?