The joy of sitting in the pew with a vibrant senior Christian can be infectious.
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.
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This is how many people “go to church.”
One of the largest challenges facing church today is how to approach the whole concept of what is becoming known in the industry as cyberministy, reaching out to parishioners through websites, blogs, social media outlets, Twitter and the like. It is an area that has at first been met with resistance among church leaders, but the fact of the matter is that most people in this technological age receive information mostly through cyberspace. The days of paper church newsletters are going the way of the do-do, unfortunately, and whether we like it or not, something has to be established within churches to reach out to members electronically.
This can take many forms, of course. Most churches today have at the very least a website people can access to obtain information about worship times and event schedules and to find the contact information of staff members and church workers. This sort of setup is mainly used to serve the needs to already active members and is in some ways simply replacing the hard copy church newsletter.
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Church staffers are meeting at the coffee shop to read the Word of God more and more.
Recently in Outreach magazine, William Vanderbloemen, co-author of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works, identified five current trends in church staffing that I found interesting and from which we as those who serve the church can learn. Here are my thoughts on each:
- Out with the specialist, in with the leaders. No longer do churches need someone who is highly specialized in one area. What is more in demand is someone who can effectively lead a group and motivate people to action.
- The succession conversation is vital. There is much more discussion within churches about the direction in which ministry is going and who will be taking over the role of pastor to guide the church in that particular direction. There is a more hands-on approach within congregations as to who will be called for pastoring the next generation of believers.
- Experts on millennials are in high demand. As much as I don’t want to admit it, we as a church must understand more fully what drives the millennial generation of believers. We cannot “do church” the same old way anymore. We need input in church planning from those who have a handle on reaching out to Christian millennials in meaningful ways to them.
- Personal touch is paramount. There needs to be a sense that the church staff cares about each member individually. People need to be treated like family and not like numbers on an attendance sheet. Members recognize the difference and will run out the door if they are not welcomed warmly.
- Impersonal services are being outsourced. Like in many businesses these days, such things as accounting and maintenance are being outsourced so that the church staff can be more involved in the life of the congregation and not stuck behind a desk combing through paperwork. The church is about reaching out to people with Christ, and that is done most effectively face-to-face and in person, with church workers in homes and hallways and parks and coffee shops, wherever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name.
As I ponder these trends as a product developer of church resources, I realize even more clearly that our materials need to be practical to get people active, they need to be forward-thinking, they need to meet the needs of the growing population, they must have a personal touch and they must provide a sense of care from the faith community. I eagerly await what the Spirit sends my way as I brainstorm new avenues to spreading the Gospel message in the church through the written word in this ever-changing time.