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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?

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    August 27, 2010 1:17 pmPosted 13 years ago

    It just makes sense that a 55+ community would be a prime neighborhood to have regular evangelistic events. Whether it be one of multiple campuses like Carillon, a new stand-alone church plant, or periodic intentional events hosted within the neighborhood by a local church.

    People in these communities are unique but they have similar characteristics because of their demographic similarities. Churches can capitalize on people that already are seeing each other on a regular basis at the club, golf course, swimming pool, etc. Friendship evangelism at its best!

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    September 14, 2010 3:48 pmPosted 13 years ago
    Dave Smith

    Living in Florida we have a gazillion communities of 55+. We have toyed with the idea of planting a church in these parks but have run into a problem. Unless you live in the park they are pretty closed off to you. They are their own community and me coming in as a pastor from a local church would be unaccepted as a leader. As of yet, I have not had any of my seniors step up to the plate and offer to begin worship services or even Bible studies. Also, many of the parks already have services in their clubhouses. I don’t know if this is true for every park, but it’s true for us here in Florida.

  • September 16, 2010 9:27 amPosted 13 years ago
    Amy Hanson (Author)

    The church I mentioned in this post has experienced something similar to what you are describing. The pastor moved into the community – and as a resident was able to lead and grow the church. (I do believe that it initially started because of the vision of someone living in the community). They also are limited, in that they can’t invite people living outside the community to be a part of the church. However, in a community with over 3,000 people, there are plenty of them who need to know the love of Christ. We have to get serious about casting a vision for this sort of thing. Thanks for your post!

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    September 17, 2010 9:34 amPosted 13 years ago
    Dave Smith

    I agree that these parks need Jesus. We have a very active organization called Park Ministries that are doing a great job at beginning services within the parks. They start with interested folks and they develop them into the leadership. I believe this ministry is in over 35 parks. The folks in my church group that live in parks tell me that there are already services in their clubhouses. We are trying to make connections with parks that don’t have services, but so far it has been a slow process. We are continuing to try and have a ministry to parks where there isn’t a ministry. We know it is a huge opportunity but it is taking longer than expected.

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    October 22, 2010 1:01 pmPosted 13 years ago
    Lynn Riley

    Village Baptist Church in Bella Vista, AR is one of those churches intentionally reaching out to seniors. The pastor, Bill Bowen, is in his early 60’s and describes him and his wife as the “youth group.” Bella Vista began as an exclusive retirement community but because of the nearness to Wal Mart international home offices, many younger families have moved in. A major highway divides the community, as well as serves as a boundry between two different school districts. Although the area where Village is located is a very nice area, it is located in a school district with a less than stellar reputation. As a result, the younger families locate on the other side of the highway, and there are churches that are tageting them.

    Village has accepted the fact that their demographics will always be older, they have tailored their ministry to that group. They have members who have lived all over the world, and have seen church models who were able to reach their communities. They are both cutting edge and traditional at the same time. The atmosphere is laid back and flexible, but they are doing an excellent job at reaching into the community.


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