The statistics cannot be denied. The 65 and older category is growing exponentially with people living longer than they used to and the huge Baby Boomer generation entering this age bracket.
The Church is responding in many ways with full-time staff members working with people in this age group in more and more congregations, more activities for seniors on parish calendars, and devotion books and other pamphlets available in the “tract racks” in the back of churches (Creative Communications’ very own Hope-Full Living Daily Devotions For Christian Seniors among them, see www.hopefulldevotions.com for more details).
But what churches need to realize more than what they are doing when it comes to seniors is how they are doing it. We need to look at our senior members as vital and valuable resources. So many older adult are ready to help with whatever needs to be done. Use their background, use their knowledge, use their expertise to help other members in need or to fix something in the church, whatever it may be.
Look for ways you can match up skills with the needs of the community as much as possible. Most senior adults don’t look at their retirement as a time to sip mint juleps and eat bon bons all day. They want to be doing something. Many analysts are calling it re”fire”meant instead of retirement and many are looking at this time as an opportunity for an “encore” career. The Church can assist them with that!
Another way that the Church can be a blessing to older adults is by giving them a chance to interact with other generations. They can share their experiences raising children with new parents whom they sit next to in worship so that young moms and dads don’t feel so alone in their efforts.
Older adults can also serve as mentors to teenagers and other young adults who are searching for the right career path for themselves. The wisdom and experience of older adults who have been there and know what is involved can give the next generation direction and purpose.
At the very least, the Church must be a place of welcome for older adults, a place of love and acceptance, a place of opportunity and growth. We are all God’s children, no matter how old we are. It is my prayer that churches remind older adults of this reality every time they step through the front door.