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Amy Hanson

A New View of Retirement

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:
1) Imagination
2) Hesitation
3) Anticipation
4) Realization
5) Reorientation
6) Reconciliation.

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?


My Dream

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?


Baby Boomers and The Changing Landscape of Aging

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.


Planting New Churches for the New Old

“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?


Accept Aging or Fight It?

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?”


Is it a Generation Gap or Something Else?

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?


If Not Now, Then When?

This week I read a great article regarding the ministry of YES! (Young Enough to Serve). This article tells the story of Frances, a 75-year old woman who is singing in a Mobile Home Choir, doing senior outreach work for her church and has just begun work on a Master’s degree in psychology and counseling. Her story reminds me of something I heard the late Dr. Gene Cohen (a leader in the field of aging) say in a presentation. He said as we get older we develop more of an attitude that says: “If not now, then when?” Stereotypes say that older adults are cautious, but many 50+ age adults are plunging into new adventures – things they have never done before. Things like going on an overseas mission trip, mentoring a disadvantaged teenager or going back to college! Anything is possible!

How have you seen older adults display an attitude of “If not now, then when?”


Age Specific or Intergenerational Ministries? Why Not Both!

Peggy Horine never dreamed that her willingness to pray for a high school student from her church would one day result in her flying across the country to attend this young girl’s wedding.  The relationship between these two women began when Peggy picked up a picture of Sara at a church gathering and called her to express she was praying for her.  Peggy recalls, “We bonded instantly.  She was so happy to have me in her life and in turn she made me feel like I was truly making a difference.”

There is no question that intergenerational relationships within the Church are valuable and yet so are relationships with our peers.  Some churches build their ministries to reach specific age groups while others emphasize the need for all ages to intermingle.  Dave McElheran, older adult ministries pastor at Cedar Mills Bible Church in Portland, OR, has found that a balanced ministry includes both.  He says, “As people in the same season of life begin to meaningfully connect with one another they are more prepared to engage in relationships that cross generational lines.”

Age-Specific Ministries

Ambassadors is the age-specific ministry for older adults at Cedar Mills.  Monthly luncheons, book clubs and prayer groups are just a few of the ways older adults connect with their peers and begin to see the needs of those around them.  These ministries give people a sense of identity and belonging.

But Dave says there are some drawbacks to specific age targeted programs.  “You can become ingrown and exclusionary.  Finding connection with those who are in a similar life stage is a great starting point but it should not be where people stop.”

When Peggy and her husband first started attending the church, they were looking for a place to meet friends and found themselves involved in a Suppers 8 group with other people who were 50-plus in age.  This led them to participate in an Ambassadors luncheon where the pictures of high school students were displayed.  “This luncheon was the starting point of my relationship with Sara.  From that experience, God began to open my eyes to the needs of young people in our society.  I’ve now become involved as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster children and my husband and I regularly give our time to ministries that support and encourage disadvantaged young people.”  Peggy laughs, “Today we do more things with young people then with those our own age.”

Multi-Generational Ministries

According to Dave, for intergenerational relationships to happen the church has to be intentional.  One successful event has been an annual miniature golf night in which 2 teenagers are matched with 1 older adult to form a team.  Dave says, “We put a lot of care into how we pair the people up as we want to create the best environment we can for on-going relationships to occur.”  The night of the event the teams have a meal together and are given various questions to use to get to know each other. 75% of the teams maintain at least an acquaintance relationship and about 25% develop a lasting relationship that continues on and goes deeper.

Intergenerational events provide a great way for breaking down negative stereotypes.  High school students find out that older adults are real people and actually like to have fun.  In turn, older adults learn that not all young people are irresponsible and reckless.

Dave admits that intergenerational ministry can be hard to do.  “Most people are more comfortable with their peers and it takes work to encourage both the young and the old to open their lives to each other.  But it’s worth it.”  When you hear a story like that of Sara and Peggy, you know it’s worth it.


Baby Boomers On Facebook

Baby Boomers are fastest growing group on Facebook as it sets record at 500 million users

This news article caught my attention as it yet again serves as a reminder that Baby Boomers do not fit the aging stereotypes.

Here are a few quotes from the article:

According to a recent report issued by the Nielsen Wire, “today’s middle aged and older consumers are different than their predecessors. The conventional wisdom that they spend little, resist technology and are slow to adopt new products needs to be re-assessed.”

Nielsen says that  “Boomers are an affluent group who adopt technology with enthusiasm “and have also “shown a willingness to try new brands and products.”

Check out the entire article and then share your thoughts.

How have you seen Baby Boomers defy aging stereotypes?


Investing in Future Generations

In the New Testament era, what Timothy received from his mother and grandmother as recorded by the apostle Paul in II Timothy 1:5, is one of the greatest blessings that can occur through intergenerational relationships. Paul writes, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” This may be one of the most important goals of intergenerational ministry–to leave a legacy of faith for the next generation. In a society where the retirement years are often seen as a time for ‘self’ – some retirees are turning this idea upside down and investing themselves in the future generation.

Ronnie Green, an adult lay leader at First Baptist Church in West Monroe, LA did not set out to intentionally do something intergenerational, he simply wanted to use the second half of his life in service to God. At the age of 55, Ronnie went on his first mission trip and now nearly 10 years later, he’s been on over 10 trips. His work has taken him to Africa, Alaska, Guatemala, and Mexico-not to mention the various ministries he has been involved with in the states. Ronnie has come in contact with many young people throughout these years of ministry and has had a tremendous impact on their futures.

On a mission trip to Zambia, Africa Ronnie asked an 8 or 9 year old African boy if he could talk to him and his friends about Jesus. At first the boy said ‘no’ but then said, “if you’ll climb up in a tree with us old man then we will listen to you.” Zambia does not have very many older adults and the novelty of this white-haired man seemed to make these young people more open and receptive. Ronnie says with a laugh, “At my age, I wouldn’t climb up a tree for just anybody! But for the chance to share the gospel with these children I was more than willing. I have found that if you just make yourself available to God, then He will take care of all the excuses you have about why you can’t serve Him, even the excuse that you’re too old.”

This was never more evident than when Ronnie was working at a youth retreat in the states and an overweight girl felt like she could not participate in one of the races. “All her life, she had been told that she could not run. I told her, ‘Even though I’m 64, I’ll run this race if you will run it with me. And she did.” God continues to stir in his heart a passion for young people. With a lump in his throat Ronnie recalls a freshman boy asking him a simple question during the last days of a youth camp where Ronnie was a sponsor, “Mr. Ronnie, can we go pray together?” Ronnie says, “We found a quiet place to pray and I will never forget feeling this teenager’s tears fall on my hands as we opened ourselves to God.”

Many churches are discovering the exact thing that Ronnie is experiencing – intergenerational ministry is a rewarding, God-honoring work. And as the generations interact with one another, people are finding ways to fulfill what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 78:4, 5b-7, “…we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done…He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.”

How are you helping older adults invest in future generations?

(This is an excerpt from my Leadership Network Paper, Breaking Down the Age Barriers. You can download the entire paper at

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