Starting a Senior Adult Ministry

January 19, 2017

We need to be aware that the older adult group is growing.  By the same token we need to realize another statistic.

By 2010, 40% of the average North American Congregation will be over 50.

Therefore,not only does the church have to plan ministry for older adults(65-74), maturing adults (75+), but also for middle adults (50-64) for their numbers are growing.

As a result, the church must develop ministry ideas and ministry opportunities for three church groups.

We also need to strengthen inter generational relationships among children, youth, busters, boomers and builders.

Builders must realize that significant living is necessary in the second half of life.  God is giving us more years and energy to serve while the church needs to develop communication tools to reach each targeted audience.

How do we get started correctly in Older Adult ministry?

Here are some principles that apply to all 50+ groups.

  • Find, select, train leadership.
  • Begin an Older Adult, not Senior Adult, Ministry.
  • Develop a purpose statement.
  • Build a Senior conscience.
  • Get the facts involving your target group such as;
  • Number of people over 50
  • Home bound
  • Number of males and females
  • Needs and interests

Now we are going to enter a new paradigm for ministry.

The “Middle Adult” group do not perceive themselves as seniors and anything that remotely resembles an activity will repel them.

One indication is that they drive; they do not take the bus.  A new approach is needed.

In addition, most present senior groups are saturated due to the fact that after a few years together a group stays to itself and inadvertently keeps others out.

They only replace people not add people for the most part.  A new approach is needed.

Briefly, let us look at some characteristics of “Middle Adults”.

  • Middle Adults are at their peak of influence and possess great energy.  Sometimes, though they are leaders in communities, they are overlooked in church.
  • Their children are growing up and leaving home (empty nest).
  • They are looking toward retirement.
  • They are spending increasing energy in leisure time activities.
  • They are adjusting to aging parents.

During the next 18 years, someone in the U.S. will turn 50 every eight seconds.

  • That is because from 1946-1964, 76 million middle adults were born.  Yes, the middle adults are exploding on the scene.

The present senior group will not hold the key for outreach to the boomer.

In my estimation, there are some key connecting points that those of us who are up there (age 75) can discover that will help us with this population.

  • Connect with boomers in the church and community by participating in their activities periodically.
  • Discover boomer characteristics.
  • Give attention to expressed needs, interests, and concerns.
  • Reach non-churched boomers by building friendship
  • Enlist boomers to help you.
  • Begin to educate all generations about aging issues without using the word “senior”.
  • Provide internet resources for issue solving.

The Boomers that I have interviewed in several churches have several values that may set them apart from other groups.

The four main values that surface in most congregations among boomers are:

  • Boomers value family driven ministry (children involved).
  • Boomers value freedom (retired but free to travel).
  • Boomer value Biblical preaching (raised on absolutes).
  • Boomers value respect when church decisions are made.

Much of the boomers group are part of the sandwich generation.

Now we direct our attention to the “Older” or as we are referred to, the “Elder” generation.

  • Life is a marathon not a sprint, and in our journey we have had experiences that required faith and endurance.

We have overcome depression, global war, technological change, and social upheaval.  Yet, we are still here and we still have something to contribute.

Celebrating with “Older” adults can be a joy providing the church utilizes their experience and skills.

Consider some activities and some ministries for “Older” adults. 

Here are some things that can provide joy and learning in the lives of”Older” adults.

  • Older Adult revival – can be during the day if it involves a large number of people.
  • Older Adult Bible conference.
  • Older Adult VBS.
  • Older Adult retreat.
  • Older Adult monthly theme luncheons.
  • Older Adult historical site trips.
  • Older Adult week or month.

The next Older adult ministries are “service”.  Which would bring experience and energy for significant living in the lives of many older adults.

Many ministries are local ministries in the church and community.  This would be older adults ministering to other older adults.

  • Visiting other older adults that are home bound or in assisted living facilities.
  • Lunch partner with a home bound person weekly.
  • Substitute caregiver that relieves a caregiver an hour or two each week.
  • School helpers in or outside the classroom.
  • Audiotape of Sunday’s worship service; deliver and listen.
  • VBS in a nursing home.