Last week I had to leave the cold gray Indiana rain to attend a two day conference on Senior Adults in sunny L.A. (I'm sure you feel really bad for me!)
I've been doing a lot of generational study lately. My Masters class right now is on building a multi-generational church, and as the Director responsible for Seniors in our denomination, I am always looking for new knowledge and ideas.
I've bulleted some of the highlights from some of the sessions for those of you who are also on the constant look out for ideas:
- Don’t group all of your ‘seniors’ in one 50+ pile. They may have 40 years of life left, and 40 years is too broad a span to place everyone in.
- Boomer-specific ministry is the cutting edge.
- Don’t even use the word ‘seniors’, it carries too many negative connotations
- There are 2 states where everyone is a minority, New Mexico and Hawaii. By 2050 it will be every state
- “If you are 40+ you are an immigrant in today’s culture. If you are -40 you are a national.” Len Sweet
- If you are trying to have a ministry that appeals to everyone you will end up with a ministry that appeals to no one. (the speaker was taking a swing at blended worship)
- People want options, provide as many as possible
- One church refers to their boomers, builders, and seniors as the “Go Go’s, the Slow Go’s and the No Go’s”
- Getting people involved in ministry is about growing people in Christ, not filling slots
- Dr. James L. Knapp, Professor of Sociology at Oklahoma State University gave a seminar on “Understanding the Generations”. Knapp says you need at least three living generations; one to connect with history, one to be relevant, and one to look forward. He used a continuum to show each church how they can evaluate their current generational effectiveness. “It’s important to be connected to your heritage but not controlled by it”.
- Many speakers touched on “blending the generations”. This came across as an emerging study that no one was really sure how to approach. The speakers noted its necessity and then apologized for not having enough data yet to effectively communicate a strategy for it.
- Charles (Chip) Arn also gave an excellent presentation on, “Issues and Challenges for Bonding the Generations”. Arn suggests that inter-generational bonding should not be our priority but rather the product of our priority. He quoted McGavran, “There is only one essential thing the church must do…and that is the priority of Jesus (Luke 19:10) to seek and save the lost.” That said, Arn agreed that inter-generational bonding can happen through common age, marital status, family status, interests, concerns, and ethnicity. ***Here is a key thought from Arn that was also supported by many other speakers: Ministry-based Outreach is the most successful way to connect people, to reach people, to get people involved, and to reflect the heart of Jesus.