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Why Aren't More Leaders Excited About Ministry with the New Old?

More than a year ago in Leadership Journal, Dave Travis, managing director of Leadership Network, mentioned three things in the church that should be changing by now but aren’t. One of these was ministry to the encore generation. Dave said, “With the huge baby boomer population in this demographic, I’m surprised we’re not seeing growth for this sector.”

His words echo my own thoughts. In talking with many pastors, I have found that most of them do not have this area of ministry on their radar. Health care, the travel and leisure industry and even fashion merchandising is paying attention to the bulging numbers of adults in their 50s, 60s and 70s, but the church seems to be ignoring it. Why is this? Here are just a few of my ideas on the subject.

Why is the Church Ignoring This Ministry Opportunity?

1. We believe that a growing church is a young church. But, if the fastest growing segment of our entire population is older adults, can’t our church grow as we reach out to 50+ age adults?

2. We have bought into the negative stereotypes surrounding aging. Many church leaders believe the myths that older adults are slow, stuck in their ways and good for nothing but complaining.

3. We underestimate what adults age 50+ have to offer. Just this week, a leading edge boomer told me that her home church is going to plant a new church out of state. She said that she wished the pastor of this new plant would engage all of the retirees and empty-nesters in helping with the church start. She said she would love to travel out of state to the region of the church plant and help with ‘on the ground work’, like handing out flyers, talking to people, etc.

4. We think that adults over 50 can be ministered to through the women’s and men’s ministry or other ministries for all adults. This might be true to some extent, but we must still recognize the unique issues that affect people in this life stage. Aging parents, the empty-nest, retirement and health needs are all big issues – just like parenting toddlers or preparing for marriage. It is good to gather people of all ages together but there is also a place for speaking to people exactly where they are at.

What are your thoughts as to why the Church has been rather slow to wake-up to this important area of ministry?

This is a revised post from the archives

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    August 4, 2011 10:10 pmPosted 12 years ago
    Robert W Chism

    What Church Leadership needs is (1) to embrace a dual youth &
    New-Old orientation and an INDIVIDUAL lay ministry; (2) to harness third age adults in depth involvement with unbeliever lives through heart beat ministry, volunteer management, and intentional adult nurturing and (3)
    to approach the encore generation inspite of their wealth.

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    August 8, 2013 6:47 pmPosted 10 years ago
    Gary Prehn

    There are several reasons why the Church has not effectively challenged and engaged the boomers.

    1. Boomers are the first generation to enter the encore stage of life. They are in the second half of life but are healthy, well educated, and have career and leisure options. They are not ready to retire and disengage from work and life. They have served in church ministries for 20+ years and want a break and a change from youth, Sunday School and nursery ministries.

    2. Too often the Church asks boomers to fill ministry spots in the church when they want to explore starting new ministries in the church or in the community.

    3. The Church leadership fears loss of control if boomers begin new ministries or put their energies into parachurch organizations. The Church too often limits service options for mature believers to work in the church rather than encourages them to discover God’s calling and live it out in their community.

    4. The Church does not know how to effectively engage boomers. Boomers want to use their professional skills and experience for service and not be limited to the usual church ministry options. The book Unlimited Partnership by Wellons and Reeb could help the Church effectively mobilize boomers for Kingdom work.

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      August 10, 2013 3:49 pmPosted 10 years ago
      Amy Hanson

      Gary – Thanks for these great comments. So, many good points to consider…the Church and society in general has never experienced what we are experiencing today…people living longer and healthier with the desire and capacity to give. We must figure out how to engage these people in meaningful service and this probably will look much different then it has looked in the past.


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