Thursday, March 29, 2007

re-emerging generation

Phil Stevens, evangelism and church growth director of the wesleyan church has a good article about ministering to those 55 and over.

Church planting has often been seen as a means to engage a new generation— new churches
which are planted to connect with an emerging generationthat the existing church may not be leveraged to effectively reach. But might there be a forgotten generation? A generation, it is assumed the existing church is reaching? I will call this the “re-emerging” generation. It is the 55-and-over crowd, a crowd that has been with us, but is re-emerging and re-inventing itself. The challenge is that many churches tend to address the “Senior Adult” as they have previous older generations. This will be inadequate as we move deeper into the 21st Century. This re-emerging generation thinks of aging differently: “None of them think they’re old or are ever going to be old” (USA Today, 3.9.07). This re-emerginggeneration is wealthier, more active, and more health conscious than previous generations. “Pulte Homes has started adding river rafting,
recreational flying and even sky diving to the activities at its Del Webb-brand retirement
communities” (USA Today, 3.9.07). They are working past the “typical” retirement age.
This trend is catching the eye of homebuilders and other market-driven organizations. It needs to catch the attention of the church as well. Here are some observations regarding this re emerging generation as it applies to the church.
1. Ministry to this generation will need to be more “youthoriented” than traditional senior
adult ministries: Midweek lunch potlucks with a lecture on HMO’s will not cut it. This group wants action and adventure. They want to be challenged. They are living longer and want to squeeze life for all it’s worth.
2. They want to be engaged: They still have thoughts, insights, wisdom and abilities which they want to be used. They want to be participants in leadership. They may be busy, but will make time for that which adds value to their lives.
3. They have a new set of challenges: They, unlike previous generations, worry about outliving their retirement. It is not out of the ordinary that those in their fifties will live into their nineties. Churches that address stretching retirement dollars will be hitting felt needs.
4. They are staying put. Retirees are no longer flocking to Florida or Arizona. “Only 5% of people over 55 move in any given year, and of those, half stay in the same county and three-fourths in the same state…” (USA Today, 3.9.07). The re-emerging generation ministry field surrounds most churches.
5. Churches may want to consider planting a church in active retirement communities. 55- and-over communities are cropping up everywhere. It is estimated that “Homebuilders will start construction on 145,000 homes in 55-plus communities this year…” (USA Today, 3.9.07). These communities are typically selfcontained. Many have golf courses, activity centers, and
athletic facilities—why not a church?
6. This re-emerging generation demands quality. They have had it for most of their lives, and they won’t sacrifice it now. The church simply cannot offer second-rate ministry for those 55-plus. It must be done well. It must be done with excellence. Are you missing this reemerging
generation in your church? What might you do to re-tool to connect with them better? Where might you plant a church that will be geared toward these vibrant and vital people?

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