Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors
I’m 75. How did I get this old?
Although I’m obviously on the gray turnpike, most days I don’t feel like an old soul.
As we age, researchers say we’re likely to feel younger than our years. Some attribute that to age denial. Others credit medical advances which have made us the healthiest generation of older adults in history. If we think that age is somewhat subjective, believing “you’re only as old as you feel” can influence choices made during the third chapter of life.
In the past couple years, ALOA has been very intentional about changing the perception of older adult ministry. Historically, there’s been a hazy fondness for congregations that serve older adults. However, many of those congregations have experienced shrinkage; some have closed. That’s not surprising; a nostalgic lens neglects to recognize the tremendous gifts, talents and abilities of people with decades of valuable experience.
Older adults have expertise that covers broad fields. Their willingness to “pitch in as able” can power numerous ministry areas. Years of serving on various church committees, leading initiatives, and working behind the scenes has created a deep reservoir of committed Christians who have spent lifetimes carrying out the Great Commission. And through the years, they, too have been blessed, for they experienced that “givers receive.”
ALOA believes older adults can serve effectively by, with and for others. An inclusive view of ministry is critically needed today. This outlook is necessary not merely for congregations to survive, but for ministry to thrive.
Nostalgia promises the social connections and emotional safety of simpler times. That’s an appealing promise during these years of continued uncertainty.
But have you noticed? The world is accelerating at supersonic speed. The church-at-large is being left behind.
ALOA recognizes that older adults don’t have all the answers. Actually, we embrace the fact that learning is a lifelong process. However, we challenge you and your congregation to maximize ministry: embrace the best of the past while layering in the strengths of older adults.
Through the words of the psalmist, God promises to bless those who “are planted in the house of the Lord.” For “they shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing.” (Psalm 92:14, NKJV)
Check out this video to the older adult demographic present in our congregations.