By Pastor Brad Hales
Intergenerational ministry, using your gifts to further the kingdom, and learning the basics of starting a senior ministry in the local church were just a few of the topics covered at the NALC’s first Senior Adult Ministry Conference Oct. 17-18 at Reformation Lutheran Church in Culpeper, Va.
Participants learned the importance of ministering to and evangelizing older adults.
North America is aging at a rapid rate. Ten thousand people each day are turning 65 years of age, and this will continue for the next 30 years. By the year 2060, over 90 million people in the U.S. will be 60 or better. Many of our congregations are already experiencing the “age wave,” as our pews are dotted by gray hair rather than the laughs and cries of children.
Some may see this as a negative. But for the church, this is a tremendous opportunity. As the aging population grows, how can the local congregation make disciples of older members and intentionally evangelize this growing segment of the population?
During the event, Pastor Brad Hales, leader of the NALC Senior Ministry Network, spoke about the five S’s of Senior Adult Ministry: Spiritual, Study, Service, Social and Self.
Under Spiritual, the local congregation can help older adults grow in discipleship through Bible study, worship, and prayer.
Study may include having a “Lunch and Learning” program where community speakers can share about different aspects of government, business, social services and other issues that affect seniors. Even as we age, mature adults have a great capacity for learning.
In Service, the church can encourage older adults to use their gifts and give of their time to make the community better in a variety of ways, whether it’s a party, an outing, card playing, or just having a meal.
Social activities help to bring mature adults together in socialization and building relationships. They combat loneliness and isolationism.
For Self, maybe the local congregation could provide exercise programs, counseling, information on Medicare, assisted living/nursing home care, and other pertinent facts that will help our seniors to live and thrive. A great thing that our parishes can do is to help older adults to “age in place” — to be able to stay in their homes by using church and community resources.
Gary Pecuch, a youth and family ministry consultant to the NALC, presented on intergenerational ministry. Using the concept of “Faith Webbing,” he spoke about how older adults can be spiritual mentors to the children and youth in a congregation. He told story after story of how many young people have found “spiritual grandparents” in their churches.
Pastor Wendy Berthelsen, president of Call, Inc. shared the importance of mature adults identifying and using their gifts and talents for ministry. When seniors put these gifts into action, the mission of growing God’s Kingdom will happen.
Our churches are aging at a rapid rate. We can either look at this as a hindrance or an opportunity. Hopefully, we will see aging as a “gift from God,” and help mature adults to grow in their discipleship journeys, and evangelize those who do not yet know the living Jesus.