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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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  • October 8, 2010 12:35 pmPosted 13 years ago
    Dave Miller

    Great topic and questions. Timely and I have thought much about this after being challenged by you and reading the book on the ‘new old.’

    We see these multi-styles of worship all over the country with the churches that we work with.

    The ones that don’t appear to be strategic are the “hymn sing/pacify” style that you mention. Many times there are 80 people in a room that holds hundreds or thousands and it is poorly done.

    A few shining examples would be those that look very similar to what we might have done in the late/80’s and early 90’s. A programmed approach, a band, some presentational things…I think there’s room and strategic reason why churches should consider this:

    1. The church still needs change. What many call “relevant and contemporary” is actually more like the service that you might call an “encore.” It is relevant for the early 90’s. After all the heavy lifting it still feels as though the church is stuck 20 years behind. These churches need to turn it up and become more relevant to reach an increasingly disinterested crowd (those 15 years younger than me and 10 years younger than you!).

    2. Your message: Church needs to re-engage the 55 to 70 year old ‘new old.’ It seems like accomplishing number one would re-engage this group. This is where your message needs to be heard loudly.

    Seems like the church changed once (see willow creek 70’s – mid 90’s) to reach this crowd. I think it needs to change again to reach them again. Seems as though there are many among the ‘new old’ that love their church and are happy to continue to be part of it. But if they are truly engaged, where do they take their friends? Probably not to a relevant service to 2010. They probably are looking for something more styled in an ‘encore’ way.

    As a side note…I often wonder about the 50 year old worship leaders out there. Seems like this would be a great fit for many who should move off the stage, and hand it to the young guys and girls.

    You need to keep talking.

  • October 11, 2010 10:27 amPosted 13 years ago
    Guy & Naomi Worsham

    Ann…excellent article! A wonderful thought provoking subject that needs to be addressed producing a universal workable solution. Grace Church of Humble ministers to several thousand folk on any given weekend. The average age is 29.6. Is this group there are 400 plus who are 60 & over. It is to this group that Naomi and I are volunteer directors. Our group is named OASIS (Older adults still in service) Our OASIS SS Class has outgrown the largest room in the vicility. Some things we are doing to reach those 60 and over are: Meet each Tuesday morning at 10am…. we call it “Nickel-a-Cup” Connect Group…where we have a mulitude of different areas that our seniors are involved in. We send daily “A Thought for TODAY” to 1600 plus folk. WE try to bombard our group with newsletters and other promotional activities to keep’em involved and thinking.

    We are as of this writing reading your book “Baby Boomers and Beyond”, suggested by CASA….in fact it is hard to lay down. Hopefully we will be able to adjust, streamline and better plan to get more of this age group interested and involved…please pray for us! Naomi and I send our LOVE.

    Guy & Naomi Worsham
    Humble, TX

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    April 9, 2012 8:21 pmPosted 12 years ago
    Rev Don Kirsch

    Guy and Naomi,
    What about worship and your over 60s? What do they want; what do they like/dislike? What are you offering them to appeal to their preferences (assuming those preferences are different)?
    Rev Don


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