As pastor or a church staff member, you are seen as the expert on all things in life. From finances, health, family dynamics to church leadership, salvation, and all things spiritual in nature, you are expected to be able to answer questions. The obvious question, “is this realistic?” and the answer is “of course not.”
Many of the questions posed to you will be by members of your congregation in the demographic of “senior adult.” This population is currently a very active membership in many churches. Nationally, the number of people making up this cohort will rapidly increase in a relatively short time frame. The church, in some areas, is already ahead of demographic projections so it is imperative to begin thinking today how to move forward in a healthy fashion.
May I offer five actions to consider as you re-vision your church’s ministry with aging adults?
1. Identify current and future leadership
In your church, there are people in leadership who need to be a part of going forward. Some of these individuals have held a position of leadership for many years. While some are considered “backbones” of the church, some have great ideas and leadership potential but are not in an official leadership position. Gather these individuals together and begin charting a course forward.
2. Encourage others by Listening
Laity need to know they have been listened to – spend time listening to your leaders. When, as pastor, time is spent hearing their stories, their passions and their calling, you will garner amazing support. They will move from being potentially seen as your adversary to being a supporter and champion.
3. Involve adults aged 60 – 75
Ministering with today’s mature population means what we have always done in “senior adult ministry” will not cut it as in years past. Adults 60-75 may not want anything to do with the traditional methods of “senior adult ministry”. As demographics change, don’t involve fewer senior adults or move them to the sidelines in life. Involve more and bring those aged 60-75 into the conversation. It will prove beneficial.
4. Evaluate existing ministry honestly
It is easy to perpetuate what has always been done in the life of the church through programming (“this is what we do”). When you gather leaders and honestly evaluate ministry/programming, there will be certain items/ministry/programs where the consensus will be to “leave it behind.” There will also be opportunities to make a movement toward new and exciting areas of life impact. While evaluating, don’t fall into the trap of expecting little or less from congregants – expect more from them as they serve the body of Christ.
5. Look down the five-year road
As national demographics point to a numerical swell of people aged 60 plus in America, embrace those God has brought into your church who already possess an enormous depth of experience, spiritual awareness and desire to see their church grow and thrive. As pastor, spend time visioning what your congregation will look like in five years. Will you see more senior adults? What will be needed to facilitate ministry with senior adults? Will the years ahead be focused on evangelism, missions and discipleship? What needs to be done now? Begin taking the steps necessary to get ahead of needs and eliminate the necessity to be reactive to what appears to be a crisis.
There are unchanging truths. As a believer, God gives us spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:8-10) to be used in the body of Christ. These gifts do not go away or diminish over time – they are to be used. Secondly, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is there to give us an impetus for what is both foundational and directional. No matter the numerical size of your church, you are in a great place where the Lord is providing time to evaluate where you are today and prepare for tomorrow. The Lord has gifted you with people who are amazingly talented, equipped and at the end of the day want you as their pastor and the church they call home to succeed and grow.
Pierce Institute for Transforming Life Expectancies
Greg can be reached at email@example.com.