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Amy Hanson

Let's Talk about the Baby Boom

This past week I was invited to be one of the guests on a local radio program with two of my colleagues from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The topic? You guessed it…Baby Boomers. One of the things I appreciated most about the program were the demographics presented by David Drozd. While some of the stats in the program are specific to the state of Nebraska, there are lots of national and even global implications. For example, in the state of Nebraska, before the baby boom, the average number of births per year was 22,000. When the baby boom began (and throughout those nearly 20 years that followed) the number of births per year was 32,000. I’ve known the baby boom was a big deal – but just hearing the way David presented the numbers really put things into perspective. I’ve included the program below if you care to listen. It is divided into 2 parts.

One of the questions the host of the show posed to us was (I’m paraphrasing), “Knowing what you do about the huge numbers of baby boomers entering the later years of life, what is it specifically that preoccupies your mind when you go to bed at night?” Please post a comment regarding your answer to that question. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

“The Art of Aging” Part 1
“The Art of Aging” Part 2


The Baby Boomer Generation in the News

2011 is a defining year as millions of baby boomers celebrate their 65th birthday and cross the threshold into what used to be (and to some extent, still is) the chronological marker for old age. This noteworthy event has been all over the headlines with many news stories being reported on this phenomenon.

Here are a few take-away points that I deemed as important in what I’ve read in the past week.

  • Boomers want to be engaged and will continue to reinvent themselves through work and volunteer efforts.

  • Finances are affecting aging baby boomers, and perhaps their biggest financial concern is the cost of healthcare.

  • Many older boomers are experiencing the phenomenon of their adult children moving back home and some boomers are also having to take an active role in raising their grandchildren.

  • Boomers and older adults are continuing to work past the retirement age, but are choosing to do new jobs that are meaningful to them.

  • Boomers have always made an impact and we can expect them to continue to do this as they move into their later years of life.
  • Below are the links to several articles and news stories that you may want to check out.
    Forever Young: What’s in Store for Baby Boomers? (segment on the Today Show)
    Boomers Take the Retire out of Retirement
    (Segment on NPR)
    This Isn’t Grandpa’s Retirement (USA Today Opinion Piece)
    Baby Boomers: Officially You’re Now Senior Citizens. (Christian Science Monitor)

    What does this information mean for those of us who want to minister with aging boomers? What have you seen or heard in the news lately regarding boomers that we need to take notice of?


Churches Reaching Out to Caregivers

One of the most challenging life issues facing boomers is caring for their aging parents. Eavesdrop on a conversation between adults who are in their 50s and 60s and at some point you are bound to hear them talk about their concerns regarding their aging mom and dad.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how churches can minister with aging baby boomers by providing ministry with the boomer’s parent. Now, I want to suggest a few additional ways that churches can minister with boomers who are caregivers.

1. Offer a support group. Call it whatever you want – support group, small group, discussion group, whatever. The point is to provide a safe place for those caring for an aging parent to talk about their concerns and heartaches, share resources with one another, discuss Biblical principles related to caregiving and pray with one another.

2. Develop a ministry devoted to providing breaks for caregivers. Some churches host an adult day care on their campus where caregivers can drop off their elderly loved one for several hours, knowing they will be well cared for. Even providing this service once a month can provide caregivers with a much-needed break.

3. Invite caregivers to telephone the church if they would like to discuss issues related to their aging parent. One church leader told me that whenever the church attempted to hold workshops or conferences focused on caring for aging parents, the turn-out was low. But, when he put a short blurb in the Sunday worship bulletin suggesting that those wanting to talk about issues related to caregiving could give him a call, his phone was ringing off the hook.

4. Suggest resources. Caregivers are busy and overwhelmed. They do not have time to spend hours on the internet or in a bookstore. One of the most helpful things a church can do is to become a clearinghouse as to the resources available in the community. Churches can research services available and then create a library of brochures and phone numbers and make these available to caregivers.

It is also helpful to have a few books that you would recommend. One I frequently suggest to caregivers is Caring for Your Aging Parents: When Love Is Not Enough by Barbara Deane. While the book is 20 years old, it is still one of my favorites because it approaches caregiving from a Biblical perspective and discusses the emotional and spiritual needs of the caregiver and the elderly parent.

With people continuing to live longer, opportunities for ministry with caregivers is only going to increase.

What have you found to be effective in ministering with those who are caring for an aging loved one?


Ministry with Baby Boomers means Ministry with their Aging Parents

This week, Good Morning America aired an intimate interview with co-host Robin Roberts, her 86-year old mother and author Missy Buchanan. Among other things, the piece served as a reminder of the tender and often complex relationship between baby boomers and their aging parents. Emotionally it can be hard for boomers to see their parents become more dependent. Then there are the practical questions and concerns like ‘how long should dad continue driving?’ ‘how do we choose the right nursing home?’ and ‘how do I help mom deal with the loneliness since dad has died?’ These are just a few of many issues facing adult children who are wanting to love their aging parents.

As we begin to look for ways to minister with aging boomers (both those inside and outside the walls of the church) we would be remiss if we did not consider the relationship of boomers and their aging parents.

I believe one key way to minister to boomers is to provide ministry for their aging parent. Think about it like this. Some churches have preschools and mother’s day out programs that strive to do an excellent job of providing quality programming for children. These ministries not only minister to the children but also minister to the parents, because many parents are looking for safe and fun environments for their kids. Reaching out to the children in the community also means reaching out to the parents. The same thing happens in youth ministry. Many parents will choose a church because of the church’s strong ministry for junior high and high school students.

Baby Boomers want the best for their aging parents. They want their mom and dad to feel valued, cared for and honored. Churches that have vibrant ministries for the old-old will reach out to boomers.

Several years ago, Council Road Baptist Church in Bethany, Oklahoma designed a service and day-long program to honor World War II veterans. These men and women were interviewed and their stories were recorded in a book given out that day. Other highlights of the day included a room full of memorabilia and a luncheon with a military band. Family members from out of state drove hours to be with their parent on this special day and other sons and daughters sent notes of appreciation to the church – so thankful that their loved one was being honored.

Other churches have luncheons where boomers can encourage their aging parents to attend for socialization and spiritual inspiration. One daughter looked on the web to find a church with a quilt ministry that her 80+ year old mother could participate in. Since that time, this older woman and her husband have become involved in all aspects of the church and have found new friendships.

Ministering with boomers will mean ministering to their parents.

What church ministries do you know of that are ministering with the old-old and in turn, are providing ministry to boomers?


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?


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.


Asking Questions about the Second-Half

“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?


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.

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