by Amy Hanson
Chances are you’ve heard some of these statistics, but try to take a fresh look and really let them soak in:
- Americans 65 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the population.
- In the past century, the number of people in the United States under the age of 65 has tripled; however, the number of people over 65 has increased by more than a factor of 12.
- Today, there are approximately 78 million baby boomers in the U.S.
- By the year 2030 there will be 72.1 million people in America over the age of 65.
Nearly every industry, from travel and leisure to health care, is working overtime to respond to these unprecedented numbers. But the church is lagging behind, and as a whole, little focus is being directed toward responding to this age wave crashing on our shores.
As I travel across the country, I speak with church leaders who are aware of the demographics but simply don’t know how to prepare. I hope the following suggestions will spur your thinking and encourage you to expand your view of older adult ministry.
Let go of the “one-size-fits-all” mentality. One of the most common challenges facing today’s traditional senior adult ministry is the inability to get the “young-olds” to participate. So often I have senior adult pastors or senior members in a congregation come up to me and say, “We have a great program on the third Thursday afternoon of each month, but we can’t get those who are in their 50s or 60s to attend. What should we do?”
In order to reach the large number of people who fall in the 50-plus range, we must recognize their uniqueness.
One of the most researched principles in the field of aging is that we become more diverse as we age. If you gather a room full of preschoolers you will find that developmentally, they are basically doing the same things. But as we get older, our differences increase.
By the age of 80, some people have never left the state in which they were born, while others have traveled all over the world. Some have doctorate degrees, and others didn’t finish high school. And probably one of the greatest differences among people is their health. Some are running in marathons while others are frail and living with disabilities.
This kind of diversity among people requires diverse ministries. Churches with fruitful 50-plus ministries have a variety of different ways to reach people, including motorcycle clubs, caring-for-aging-parent seminars, grandparenting events, and even special boomer events.
One church in Bothell, Washington, hosted a Baby Boomer Bash a few years ago to celebrate the first boomer turning 60. Beatles music, yellow and orange decor, pizza, and dancing were all part of the evening. The emphasis was on recognizing and affirming people at this particular stage of life. . . . Continue reading this article on Christian Standard – What Church Leaders Need to Know About Ministry to Aging Baby Boomers.
Amy Hanson is a speaker, teacher, writer and consultant who is passionate about helping older adults discover a life of Christ-centered meaning and purpose. She formerly led the active adult (50+) ministries at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Today, she unites her doctorate in gerontology with her ministry experience to educate and equip leaders, students, health care professionals and older adults on the unique opportunities of an aging America. Find out more about Amy’s ministry at amyhanson.org.