The New Old YouTube ChannelSubscribe to Amy\'s Blog via RSS FeedVisit Amy on Facebook

Older Adult Ministry

Two Ways to Create a New Perspective of Aging

My guess is that a number of you have seen this picture before. If you look at it one way you see a beautiful, young woman…if you look at it in a different way you see the face of an old woman. (Hint: The chin of the young woman is the nose of the old woman).

It’s interesting how our view – our perspective – can have such an effect on how we approach something. For many people, aging has been seen as something negative and something to avoid. It is time we work to create a new perspective.

Here are two suggestions of how you can begin to do this in your church.

1. Draw attention to the contribution of older adults.

This woman is in her late 70s and volunteers her time with the tech ministry at her church. She does not fit the unfortunately common stereotype of an older person complaining about the music or powerpoint slides or lights. Rather, she is giving of her time and abilities to serve people in the local church. In fact, she runs the light program! We need to tell her story and the hundreds of other stories of older men and women just like her. Write about them on your church blog. Share their story from the platform on a Sunday morning. Create a video of older adults serving in various capacities. You get the idea. Start doing something to communicate that older adults are valuable and capable of making a difference.

2. Teach about the lives of older adults in Scripture. One of my favorite examples is of Caleb in Joshua chapter 14. After years and years the Israelites are finally coming into the Promised Land. In verse 6 we come upon Caleb who recalls the promise God had made to him 45 years before to give him the land of Hebron and then in verse 10, Caleb says: “…So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country the Lord promised me that day.”

Here is a guy who did not approach aging as something negative, rather he fully embraced this stage of life and all that God had for him. Young people and old people in our churches and communities need to hear these stories, so they know that this can be a reality for them.

What are you doing to help create a new perspective of aging in your ministry context?

Share

Retirees as Volunteers: Avoiding Some Common Mistakes

Last week a very dear friend, who is in her early seventies, visited our home for several days. We enjoyed laughing, eating and catching up on each others’ lives but one short conversation reminded me of ministry with older adults and the importance of churches and organizations providing specific volunteer opportunities for retirees.

Our friend retired from her career as a children’s librarian and among other things, began volunteering for a local school. However, whenever she went to the school she found herself never knowing quite what to do. You see, the school didn’t give her any responsibility. She just had to show up and go to the different teachers and ask if there was anything she could help them with. She felt in some ways that she was bothering them and finally decided that she wasn’t cut out for this type of volunteer work. Interestingly, she is now back working part time at the library.

Unfortunately, her story is not uncommon. There are a number of reasons that organizations fail to fully utilize retirees as volunteers.

1. Organizations believe that they should not give volunteers any major responsibilities. This is a big mistake. Just because someone is a volunteer does not mean they cannot handle leading a big project or running a program.

2. Organizations fail to give people specific tasks or a specific job. Volunteers need to know that what they are doing matters and that they are filling an important need. You won’t retain a volunteer if they don’t have a specific job. They want to do more than just ‘show up’.

3. Organizations don’t find out the unique skills and experiences that the volunteer has. Having been a librarian, our friend would have been more than happy to be put in charge of re-shelving books in the school library or processing returned items. But no one asked her.

What lessons have you learned about engaging retirees as volunteers?

Share

Outwardly Focused Older Adult Ministries

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”).

Share

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?

Share
Pages:« Prev12