We are living in a world of unprecedented change. We are breaking all types of aging records and hopefully working hard at undoing the stereotypes that accompany “ageism”. The church must respond to the needs of their aging populations. I am privileged to teach at Licensing School, Course of Study and a Certification in Older Adult Ministry in the Upper NY Conference. In virtually every Faith Formation teaching/learning situation the majority of my students report that their congregations are comprised of people who have lived many summers. In the first two settings, I include a segment on “Why Older Adult Ministry? Why Now?” By giving pastors a glimpse of the statistical information, it has been eye opening for them to see beyond their local ministry. Most often pastors report to being at a loss for methods dealing in ministry by/for/to their ever growing senior population. They are feeling overworked and unqualified to deal with this new world of aging.
These folks sitting in their pews are people who have served the church for many years in various capacities of servant leadership; they are people who are facing the unknown and uncertain end of life issues; they are recently retired or facing retirement and not sure how they will live out their lives (beyond the golf course); they want/need to know how they can make a difference; they are people who are facing the many issues that come about as they age.
The church is in an enviable position of answering many of these needs. We can offer what the secular world cannot. We can and must offer spiritual guidance, finding meaningful ways for folks to serve within and beyond the walls of the church. We can train folks to help the church offer respite times for caregivers. As disciples we can and must discover ways to help folks live their lives in meaningful and productive ways.
I will be presenting this fall of 2016 a course on the why’s and how’s of Older Adult Ministry to Lay Servants in my Conference. This opens a new venue for people beyond pastors who need this information. It will provide helpful strategies to work with boomers (the first wave of boomers began turning 70 on January 1, 2016 at the rate of one every 7 seconds) and those who have surpassed that age threshold.
We are walking into the unknown world of aging, Spirit led and feeling our way as we go. We, as servant leaders, have an opportunity to spread the message that God’s grace is for all people of all ages. Amen and Amen.
Barbara Bruce is an educator who is passionate about teaching/learning strategies that enhance and encourage aging well. She serves as the NEJ representative to, and co-chair of, our Discipleship Ministries Committee on Aging and Older Adult Ministry. Barbara serves on the Upper NY Conference committee on OAM. She teaches locally and nationally at seminars and retreats on this critical ministry and very timely topic. Her website is www.agingwellfacilitator.com.