In my last blog post I raised awareness about the coming wave of retirees that will take most of our churches by surprise. I presented 10 reasons why we should pay attention to the group known as “the new seniors” (Baby Boomers who are retiring by the thousands every day). This time, let’s consider why we should invest our time and budget dollars into reaching these people for Christ. If we assume that seniors by and large know Christ as Savior, we’d be fooling ourselves. Seniors may have white hair, but they are also white for harvest.
In a 2010 survey by Win Arn, it was reported that 22% of churches (all faiths) saw at least 3 or more professions of faith among senior adults during the year. 25% of churches saw at least 1-2 conversions among senior adults. The data demonstrates that although we might think that older adults have already accepted Christ as Savior, they remain open to hearing and accepting His offer of forgiveness.
There are three significant shifts in the group of adults we know as senior adults. According to George Barna’s State of the Church, Part 2 (2011), we know that:
- The proportion of the unchurched among this group climbed 8 points since 1991. 29% of people age 66+ are now unchurched. There are many seniors in our communities who need to be reached with the gospel.
- 76% of elders say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important to them (up 10% since 1991). This means that approximately 24% still need to be reached with the gospel, and that this group can be reached with the gospel.
- Elders who meet the “born again” criteria increased 11 points to a total of 49% (based on their beliefs, not self-identification). Although we might think that our church budgets should be targeted to reach younger adults, children, or teens with the gospel, we should not minimize the impact that evangelistic efforts can have on senior adults.
To embrace the challenge of reaching the new seniors, we must get past two significant myths about seniors and evangelism that are elaborated in detail in the book Boomers and Beyond (pp.146-149):
- Older adults are already Christians
- Older adults can’t (or won’t ) change and accept the gospel
In the book Boiling Point by Barna (p.242), senior adults were identified as one of 3 groups of people most receptive to hearing the gospel! Significant life changes among senior adults make them ripe low-hanging fruit for our evangelistic efforts. From the death of a spouse, changes in personal finances, declining health, or new living arrangements, these significant life-changing events often soften the hearts of seniors to the gospel.
Look at your church’s budget and programming. Does your money tend to be aimed at younger families, children, and teens? Have you left out a significant group of people (seniors) in your budget planning? How will you reach the seniors in your community with the gospel without the proper resources? Maybe it’s time to re-think our evangelistic efforts toward this group of people who are just as significant to God as any person younger than them. Don’t accidentally allow yourself or our church to bias programs or evangelistic efforts against seniors! They are waiting to be reached.