My sincere apologies for falling off the blog wagon for well over a month. It is still my intention to share weekly articles with you that will help you in your ministry with older adults, baby boomers and the aging experience! (By the way, this is blog post # 50!! – Thanks for reading!)
It has been a busy fall with lots of wonderful ministry opportunities. I’ve crisscrossed the country a couple of times speaking with pastors and church leaders as well as older adults themselves and I’m encouraged that the conversation about older adult ministry and finishing well seems to be growing. But there is still much work to be done!
Let me share just a few encouraging highlights from my travels over the past 2 months: Read more
This year I’ve spent a lot of time writing and talking about the first baby boomer turning 65 and why the Church must respond to this huge group of people. Well, my mom is one of those baby boomers. She was born on June 9, 1946 in a small Oklahoma town. Read more
“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?
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.