By Martha Lundgren, Senior Ministries Chairperson
Worldwide people over 60 will outnumber children by 2040. Over 60s make up the fastest growing age group. And their numbers will increase from 600 million to over 2 billion people by 2050. In the US, over 65s outnumbered teenagers 2:1 in 2013. And this year, Baby Boomers started turning 70.
In 2013 my own church, St. Mark’s in Tucson had 116 members over age 80, 171 over age 70, and 66% of all our members were over the age of 50.
The statistics I mentioned suggest a sobering picture. How in heaven’s name are we to provide for ourselves as we age, not to mention care for our oldest family members, neighbors, and church members? In a two-month period while I served on SPRC, our pastors and congregational caregivers attended to seven dying church members and their families. Even with a large staff, our pastors and caring ministries coordinator were exhausted and worried that someone in need at a critical time would fall through the cracks.
On the other hand, I’m intrigued and invigorated by the opportunities for ministry by, with, and for older members. Americans, in general, enjoy good health and prosperity longer than previous generations. The change the world Baby Boomers aren’t leaning back in their easy chairs – they are traveling across the country, parking their RVs with other NOMADS, and getting out their tools to rebuild homes destroyed by wildfire in Bastrop, TX, refurbish a church in Kearny, AZ, or conduct Sidewalk Sunday School at TMM Family Services in Tucson. St. Mark’s United Methodist Women volunteer at St. Luke’s Home, and our Handy Hands ministry team do small projects for families of all ages that they don’t have the time, money, skill, or energy to do themselves.
And for every person over the age of 50, or 60, or 70, or 80 in our congregations, how many more don’t belong to any church, aren’t intimately aware of God’s love for them, or haven’t heard the message that God’s grace is freely given for them with no reservations? Talk about a mission field right in our own neighborhoods!
Late last year the Desert Southwest Conference Senior Ministry Team formed as an outreach ministry. We will provide tools for ministry by with and for older adults. We’ll share best practices developed within our conference. And we’ll draw from the best of Baby Boomer and senior ministries from across the connection.
In just a few days, we’re sending every UM clergy in our conference First UMC Gilbert’s Aging Grace-fully program and St. Mark’s (Tucson) Plan for Congregational and Pastoral Caregiving. Every month we’ll post an informational or reflective article under the Senior Ministry Matters banner. And you’ll see us at the Annual Conference Ministry Fair. And we’re just getting started.
Intrigued? Have a ministry idea to share? Need some encouragement? Give me a call at 520-834-6015 or email me.
The Desert Southwest Conference recently formed a Senior Ministries team that seeks to address issues that affect seniors, share reflections about aging, as well as celebrate successful models of ministry that churches may want to implement in their local setting. Articles throughout the coming year will be published as a resource for our churches. This is the first in that series.
- United Methodist Church Comprehensive Plan for Older Adult Ministries, 2013
- St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Tucson, AZ, 2013