Considering Senior Adult Ministries

I read a blog post by Thom Rainer (president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources). The title is "From My Perspective: Five major trends for churches in America."  You can read all five trends HERE. But the third one is the one that I've continued to think about. Here it is:

3. Senior adult ministries in churches will experience steep declines. As the large Baby Boomer generation moves into their older years, they will resist any suggestion that they are senior adults, no matter how senior they may be. Unfortunately, many churches are slow to adapt to new realities. If they do senior adult ministry the way they've always done it, it will be headed for failure.

We've seen this to be true at Northridge. Those in the 60's are not liekly to join our Senior Adult class. So – how do we "adapt to new realities" when it comes to senior adult ministry? I have some thoughts, but not many. What do you think? Any suggestions?


  1. Just my point of view perhaps but I think it need not be age related ministry for us baby boomers. Many of us are not the typical Senior adults that we have know as we have aged. I know I have many times said, I don’t want to be a part of such ans such – they are old – and my dear husband has reminded me – they are our age and my young friends say you don’t act like them, I don’t blame you. This doesn’t really give you an concrete ideas – just some thoughts.

  2. Our group changed the name to Ambassadors because they thought that may be the issue. It isnt…  I also dont think it is a herding issue – although it IS somewhat true that those of that age feel older when they join the group.

  3. I agree with Thom Rainer’s statement, “they will resist any suggestion that they are senior adults, no matter how senior they may be.” I might be 56, but I only want to be considered a Senior if I’ll get a discount! One of the things that I miss about attending Northridge regularly is the variety of Christian Ed./”Sunday School class” options. I could attend any topic and feel comfortable (regardless of the age of the others in the room). Another thing that I miss tremendously is our Small Group. Don and I were probably the oldest in our small group, but we could discuss topics that we felt were relevant. When I’m in town now, I attend the Ambassador’s class with my Mom and I love it; I love singing the old hymns with her, but I’m not sure that I’d want to attend that class *every* Sunday if I could attend regularly. But as Don and I approach 60 and consider Senior Adult class options with others of a similar age, I think such a class would take on a “personality” of the attendees. We’d probably take a poll as to the book/topic that we’d like to study, as would seem relevant to our stage in life. We’re not ready for the rocking chairs yet, but we still want/need to grow in our spiritual walk. I’d love to study some of the John Piper books that David has recommended, and I always benefit from a close study of one of the books of the Bible. So it seems good to offer various topic options. I think that Christ-followers of like mind (and similar age group) will gravitate toward similar topics and enjoy studying together.

    Another thought is about retirement; my parents and in-laws retired at 55, but retirement is nowhere in sight for us. Maybe that’s why we resist any suggestion that we’re senior adults. We’re still working and plan to for many more years. A Senior Adult class/ministry would probably look different for retired folks. We may not play basketball or volleyball anymore, but we still want to grow in Christ with friends of similar interests.

  4. I relate very well to this statement -they will resist any suggestion that they are senior adults-. And one of the mid-20’s single girls at church tells me I’m the ‘youngest old person she know.’ Had a session on this topic at America’s Keswick just last week — how to keep a ministry relevant, etc.

  5. Being 57 and experiencing some organizations calling us Seniors at 50, does not go over well. We are getting older yes, but the mindset and physical activity is much more advanced than those in their 60’s, 70’s etc. As the years come upon us, our bodies have a way of slowing us down and mentally we play charades a lot more to find the word we are looking for. You have your 60 to 65 age group that are still working, or are now experiencing what was suppose to be the golden years called retirement. Driving is not a problem when the weather is good, driving becomes a problem when it snows and now is compounded with the high cost of gas. The bodies that could stay awake until 11:00 PM are now having naps at 7:00 PM before bedtime at 9:00 PM. Is the music too jazzy? Are there the old hymns plugged in there a few times? How are the decibels from your speaker system? Some churches are so loud that the hearing impaired do not even need a interpreter to sign. (I know I am one those hearing impaired “seniors”.)

    Some at home, some at work, friends and parents are dying. Driving details, missing family members that are now out on their own and that have very little time to visit, and then there are those who are raising their grandchildren so that their children can work to pay off those 65,000 dollar college loans, and mortgage, and taxes and….so where does that leave us? It leaves you with Saturday mornings, or early Sunday mornings or after church time brackets. A continental breakfast is inviting, along with a luncheon after church. After serving the decaf coffee, and bellies are content a bible study and making plans for an outside activity can take place. Using a simple but not insulting workbook, video, & book can be discussed and worked on. A young pastor to guide them is always a plus. Younger faces are nice to have around, and will also accommodate questions etc in regards to the material they are reading. Meeting the same time, same place, and once a month for this is very much accommodating to the memory An activity such as a movie, or play or a one day bus trip can be planned once a month for the fellowship, and could be on the opposite day of the bible study. For example: If bible study is on Sunday afternoon, the first of the month, the activity could be planned for a Saturday or Friday night the third week of the month. The group could also have a “progressive” fellowship,bible study in their homes and again there may be members of the church that would like to open their homes for senior activity.

    There are those who will want to attend but have no transportation to get there. The younger people in the church could volunteer to help with the driving. With a large enough group of volunteers, they can help drive, set up tables and chairs, serve at the breakfast or luncheon, clean up etc. This will give the Seniors more time to be together, and will teach the younger ones the importance of our aging generation and honoring them. It will also help the Seniors realized that there are good young people out in the world, it is just the bad ones that get all the attention. Being surrounded by young people also has a tendency to help the aging society still feel young and keeps them abreast on the new things that are going on in the younger society.

    Guest speakers are a plus. Such as planning your will, understanding medicaid and medicare, hospice, funeral planning, healthy and nutrition meal planning, what are , ipods, computer ware, how to do banking on computer, oh the list of endless topics for our world is getting overwhelmed with NY State laws and technology. Estate planning, living wills, HIPPA, …..the difference between Nursing homes, living at home, I could go on and on…

    One of the other reason why the mature are not more actively involved is that many have gone to warmer states by Christmas time. Which is a decline in numbers, but it is only a temporary decline. This age level also likes to see their Pastors involved with them from time to time other than hospital visits and funerals.

    I wish I could give you a magical formula on what will work but I cannot, nor can you for it is up them to make it work, be accommodating as much as possible to one another needs, that the Chiefs do not out number the Indians. Yet we must remember that numbers are not really important. If there are 200, 20 or 2 involved the important thing is the quality of the group, and the love of Lord.

  6. That’s a hard one. Maybe if you made it seem like a privilege to be in that age group with lots of special attention, perks, fellowship, fun. . Our classroom is not the best room either…..too “stilted” and old fashioned and too small to accommodate any more. We would love to have young and energetic blood join with us.

  7. Wow. These are some awesome comments to read. I’m learning so much! I would have never thought of some of this or even considered the changes in fellowship among older church-goers as the baby boomers move into that demographic…

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