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the new old

What's in a Name?

It is a reoccurring topic of conversation among many of the churches I visit and leaders I interact with. What do we call our ministry? And how do we identify the people we want to serve?

I’ve written before on how most baby boomers do not like to be called seniors. And in an effort to continue to search for answers to this question of what to call the new-old, I want to share something from a gerontology textbook. Read more

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July 20, 20116 years ago

A Powerful Equation

TIME + EXPERIENCE + RESOURCES = SIGNIFICANT KINGDOM IMPACT

Something incredible is happening across the country.  Never before in history have so many people lived into the later years of life with so much health and vitality.  In fact, by the year 2030, nearly a quarter of our population will be 65+ in age.  This is a huge group of people with the ability to make a powerful impact for Christ.  Just consider what they have to offer: Read more

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Something's Missing: Two Reasons the New Old Must Be Part of the Church Planting Conversation

This week in Orlando a big church conference called Exponential has been in full swing. Exponential is a church planting conference that has rapidly grown over the past few years to draw over 3500 people. All kinds of pertinent topics are being discussed including conversations about planting churches that are externally-focused, multi-ethnic and multi-site. Not to mention all the great coaching on leadership, social media, and vision-casting to help those who are launching new churches. But there is a crucial element missing in all of these discussions — the 78 million baby boomers in our country. Read more

A Boomer Bash

Ministry with boomers. We know it’s important. We know millions of people need it. So what do we do? A church that is effectively ministering with the new old will have a variety of components, including service, intergenerational ministry and spiritual growth. But one element of ministry with boomers is providing them with places to connect with their peers. Read more

How NOT to get the new old to participate in your older adult ministry

Sometimes I will hear from senior adult ministry leaders who want to know how to get the 55 or 60 year old to join their senior adult activities. Let me provide you with one example of how NOT to get them to participate. This was in a recent Sunday morning church bulletin listed on the page devoted to senior adult ministries:

At What Age Are You Considered a Senior Adult at “Your Church”?

1. If you are age 50 or over – you may consider yourself a senior.
2. If you have been contacted by AARP – you can consider yourself a senior.
3. If you are retired or semi-retired – then you are a senior.
4. If you take the senior discount – then you are a senior.
5. If you live in a senior adult retirement community – then you are a senior.
6. If you have grandkids – then you are a senior.
7. If you are receiving Social Security or other retirement benefits – then you are a senior.
8. If you have a membership at the senior center – then you are a senior.
9. If you are a snowbird – you are probably a senior.
10. If you have grey hair, white hair, partial hair or no hair – you are probably a senior.
11. If you have artificial joints or parts – you are probably a senior.
12. If you wear bi-focals or tri-focals – you are probably a senior.
13. If you have a handicapped parking permit – then you are probably a senior.
14. If you are downsizing – you are probably a senior.
15. If you see one of our activities and wish you could participate, come ahead – you are probably a senior anyway! C’mon and admit it!

I wish there was some gentle way I could tell this senior adult ministries pastor that this creative method for getting more people involved is not going to work. Like it or not we are never going to be able to convince the new old that they are seniors and therefore should join the current senior adult ministry. They just do not identify with that group and listing 15 reasons why they should come to the group, is not going to motivate them. Rather than spending all of our energy trying to find a way to get these boomers to be a part of the current senior ministry, why not start something new and fresh to reach this unique group?

What is one thing you have done to reach the new old?

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The New Old

Last Thursday, Ed Stetzer invited me to write a guest post on his blog, “Thursday is for Thinkers”. I’m re-posting the article below. I hope it is helpful as we all try to sort out what ministry with the new old looks like.

Well, it’s here. The year 2011. And people like me who have spent their entire ministry, work and academic life immersed in the field of aging and older adult ministry have been anticipating this year for a long time. Just a few weeks ago when January 1st rolled around, the first of 78 million baby boomers turned 65. Pew Research Center reports that 10,000 adults are turning 65 each day and that in 20 years, almost 20% of our population will be over the age of 65.

In the past month there has been a surge of news articles and stories on the topic of aging baby boomers, a group I like to refer to as ‘the new old.’ These are adults who are primarily between the age of 50 to 70 and view the later years of life in a completely different way than their parent’s generation. The new old are active, involved and anything but ‘old’.

Government, health care, fashion merchandising and a host of other businesses are giving serious attention to the implications of this huge demographic.

And it’s time the Church enters into the conversation.

How do we respond to this phenomenon? What do we need to know?

Here are 4 key issues we must consider.

1. The new old are approaching aging in a much different way than preceding generations. For starters, leading-edge baby boomers and those just slightly older, do not like the word senior and they reject just about anything that smacks of old age.

I’ve had more than one frustrated church leader tell me, “We can’t get those sixty-year olds to attend our senior adult activities!” One primary reason for this is because the new old, do not consider themselves to be seniors and for the most part, they are never going to fold into the existing senior adult ministry at a church. They are not interested in potluck luncheons or bus trips. While some of these ministry ideas have worked in the past, they are not going to reach this new generation of older adults.

Community senior centers are discovering this and making adjustments like taking out the shuffleboard court and putting in fitness centers. Some retirement communities are even removing the names ‘senior’ and ‘retirement’ from their titles. The Church will need to follow suit.

A handful of churches across the country are creating boomer ministries (separate from their senior adult ministries) and are calling these new ministries Encore, Adult Impact or simply Boomer ministry. Whatever the format, we need different ministry names, fresh ideas and a whole new approach to how we do things.

2. The new old are reinventing retirement. The New Retirement Survey conducted by Merrill Lynch found that 76% of boomers want to keep working in some fashion during retirement. Many adults want to retire from their current career and launch into something new, like part-time work or a job that has flexibility. The type of jobs boomers are most interested in are working in the nonprofit sector, starting their own business, or just doing a fun job that is less stressful. One thing is certain. Boomers do not plan to sit in a rocking chair and simply relax for the next 20 years of their lives. They want their retirement years to include a component of work – either paid employment or a significant volunteer role.

3. Not all older adults are Christians. I know that sounds so simple, but think about this for a moment. Many churches invest a lot of time, staff and resources into children’s and youth ministry – which is important – but few churches are intentional and strategic about reaching the millions of older adults who do not have a relationship with Christ. Ironically, there are some characteristics among 50+ age adults that make them very receptive to the gospel. They are facing a number of life transitions such as caring for aging parents, concerns about their own heath and mortality, financial worries, and evolving relationships with their adult children and grandchildren. All of these stresses provide great opportunities for communities of faith to reach out with ministry. Boomers are also receptive because they are searching for purpose. They are entering a new phase of life and are asking questions like, “now that I am getting older, my work life is changing and the children are out of the house, what is it that gives my life meaning?” Obviously, Christ-followers hold the only true answer to that question.

I’ve been thrilled to learn of a few church plants and multi-site venues that are purposing to reach out to this age group. But we need more.

4. Aging boomers have the potential to make a tremendous Kingdom impact with their lives. They have time, experience and resources and they want to participate in purposeful endeavors that will benefit others. As these adults enter their retirement years, they desire to do more than staple newsletters, fold bulletins and make coffee. One man said about his retirement: “I want to give my time to ministry through my church, but I’d like to do more than be an usher.” These are adults that can lead community efforts to help with homelessness, give hours each week to mentoring children at an underprivileged school, serve for an extended time overseas, counsel those who are facing unemployment and on and on the list goes. It is imperative that we open our eyes and recognize the potential of this generation and then find ways to unleash them into ministry. My fear is that if the Church does not engage them, they will look elsewhere.

Never before in history have so many adults moved into their later years of life with so much health and vitality. We have a window of opportunity right now to harness the capacity of this enormous generation. To grow them up as disciples of Christ and to mobilize them for His mission. Let’s not miss the chance.

What are the barriers you’ve seen that keep us from developing robust ministries with aging boomers in our churches and communities? What are you doing in your ministry context to reach out to this age group and tap into their ministry potential? What other comments and ideas do you have about ministry with the new old?

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Churches Hiring Pastors for the Baby Boomers

The boomers are coming! The boomers are coming! It’s all over the headlines. CBS News and USA Today recently did a week-long series on the aging of the baby boomer. We know it is happening but there are some major unanswered questions for those of us in ministry: What does ministry with aging baby boomers look like? What works in reaching them and engaging them in Kingdom causes?

This week I received an e-mail from a boomer pastor who expressed what I often hear from ministry leaders who are attempting to reach boomers.

With some of my own paraphrasing, here is a portion of what he wrote:

The problem we are having is getting the boomer engaged in kingdom focused thinking and involved in the call. You point out in chapter six (of Baby Boomers and Beyond) that the boomer does not like to be involved in activities linked with their parent’s generation, and that is the problem we are having! No matter how we try and differentiate the ministry, our church of around 1000 sees anything in this arena as for old people.

Can you relate to his challenge? Those of us who are attempting to create ministries to reach aging baby boomers are pioneers. We are starting something brand new and don’t have much of a road-map. This can be exciting, scary and HARD!

I would like to help move our efforts forward by identifying those churches who are attempting to do something specifically targeted towards aging boomers. I know of only a handful of churches who have hired someone on their church staff to give focus to this area, but I’m hopeful that there are others.

Do you know of a church that has a staff member (either full-time or part-time) specifically leading a ministry with adults age 50 to 70? (I’m looking for churches that have hired someone in addition to their senior adult or older adult pastor).

Do you know of a church that has a lay-leader or lay team specifically in place to lead ministry with adults 50 to 70?

I know there are a number of churches who have an older adult pastor (senior adult pastor), responsible for adults 50+, but for the purpose of this post, I’m looking for those churches that are working to create something entirely specific to the boomer.

So…if you know of a church (or churches) that fit this criteria, please post the name of the church in the comment section (and the leaders name, if you have it). I’ll then compile these churches and hopefully we can do some informal networking in order to learn from one another.

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