Part 2: 10 reasons you should get ready for “the new seniors”

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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):

  1. Older adults are already Christians
  2. 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.

 

Book Review: Baby Boomers & Beyond

Last week I posted a blog article about Baby Boomers and their entry into the realm of senior adulthood.  This week I became aware of a wonderful author, Amy Hanson, and her book Baby Boomers & Beyond.  I ordered a copy of the book and read it this past weekend.  This book and others I’ve recently read have been sobering…and I believe that most of our churches and Sunday Schools are not ready for the coming shift in senior adult ministries that is upon us.

According to research presented in the book, did you know that:

1.  Americans age 65+ are the fastest growing segment of the population

2.  In the past century, the number of Americans over age 65 has increased twelve-fold (from 3.1M to 37.9M)

3.  By the year 2030 there will be 72M people in America over age 65

4.  An American turns 60 every 7 seconds

Corporate America is already responding to this world-wide aging trend by creating new products and services for older adults…how about your church?  Amy asks the reader to consider how the church budgets for its senior adult ministry…is it as important as the student and children’s ministries, or has our ministry to Boomers and those beyond paled in comparison to the efforts we expend to reach young adults, whom we think are the “future of the church.”  For the next 20-30 years, the New Old are going to be our future, with great potential to make a Kingdom impact through their leadership, finances, and passion for active living and meaningful ministry in the world.

Amy points out that our society discounts the value of the aged in favor of younger adults, and that if we aren’t careful, our churches can fall victim to thinking like the world does.  If we aren’t careful, the church will cause “the new old” to disengage with the church as they seek other avenues through which to make a difference in their communities.  How is your church allowing Boomers to create and direct new ministries they are interested in?  Realize that Boomers won’t resonate with potlucks, fall foliage trips, and game nights.  There’s nothing wrong with these classic ways churches have tried to address senior adults’ needs, but this won’t attract the Boomers and retain them in your church’s senior adult ministry.  In fact, churches should consider having several different ministries to senior adults.  What would those be?  You’ll have to pick up a copy of Amy’s book and find out!

Amy has divided her book into 3 major sections:  The New Old, the Boomer and Beyond World, and Implications for the Church.  A combination of research statistics and practical ideas make this a must-have book for your personal ministry library.  Don’t ignore this age-wave…learn to ride it and to help your church meet the spiritual, physical, emotional, and practical needs of seniors.

To order a copy of Amy’s book, click here to jump to it’s landing page on Amazon.com.

To follow Amy’s blog, follow the link in the right sidebar on my blog:  Blogs You Might Like

Is your Senior Adult Sunday School ready for the Coming Boomer Wave?

My friends at the SBTC (Southern Baptists of Texas Convention) have invited me to present at next month’s Senior Adult Ministry Forum on February 6-7.  I quickly reached for a resource written by a friend and colleague at LifeWay, Bill Craig.  Bill’s book, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, is about leading your church to have a meaningful ministry to Baby Boomers.

Were you aware that 11,000 people a day are turning age 55 for the next 14 years?  That’s 11,000 people a day for the next 14 years.  Wow!  Boomers are expected to live an average of more than 82 years.

The church must now consider how to move Boomers into a meaningful senior adult ministry, one into which they are going to go kicking and screaming.  Boomers don’t want to think of themselves as old, and they have little intentions of moving gracefully into your church’s senior adult ministry.  Haven’t you had difficulty getting them to move up already?  It’s just going to get worse…unless you think about your options and then take action.

In the RESPECT book, the author recommends that churches consider having 2 types of ministries…maintaining their current ministry to senior adults, and creating a second one designed by Boomers for Boomers (people age 55-70).  Bill even suggests the possibility of a third ministry to Empty Nest adults between the ages of 40-55.  Does this look like your church’s current ministry to these adults?

As you think about the aging adults in your church, consider these characteristics of people in the Boomer generation:

1.  Boomers are seeking a greater plan for their lives in which they can take part.

2.  Boomers are open to learning what the Bible says if they can see practical connections to what is going on in their lives.  Application is key.

3.  Boomers have always had an interest in spiritual things, not necessarily Christian things.  They will be open to honest conversations about the gospel if our message is backed up by our lives.

4.  Boomers resonate with quality preaching and teaching that engages them.  Music cannot be stodgy or amateurish.

5.  Boomers want to control their time.  They demand flexibility in their schedules, so consider allowing a team of teachers in a class to rotate through the teaching responsibility…preparation time will be reduced, Boomers will experience freedom, and lessons will be full of quality since there is more time in between teaching assignments for preparation.

6.  Boomers don’t want a bus trip to view fall foliage.  Boomers will respond to events that involve travel, ministry, and spiritual depth.  This is an active generation that doesn’t want to age and slow down, so as Bill says, “you’d better get your track shoes on.”

The book is full of more insights about building a new ministry to Boomers since they aren’t expected to make the transition to most of our church’s current senior adult ministries.  The book is a quick read with thought-provoking questions and insights.

To order a copy of the book from LifeWay, click here to jump to the book’s landing page at lifeway.com