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Archive for October 2010

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”).


Some Thoughts on Leading and Reading

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?


Worship and Older Adults (Do you really want to go there?)

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.