Month: March 2007

Longtime Texas layman, pastors share lessons learned in senior adult ministry

Longtime Texas layman, pastors share lessons learned in senior adult ministry

Melissa Deming, TEXAN Correspondent

Change. It’s the dreaded thing many pastors hope to avoid in ministering to senior adults. How does a pastor balance the needs and preferences of senior church members with the call to reach the lost in a changing society?

Longtime Southern Baptist leaders and Texas pastors John Bisagno, Jimmy Draper, Casey Perry, George Harris, and Harold O’Chester lent their voices to this issue, sharing insight, regrets, and some lessons learned in ministering to senior adults in interviews with the TEXAN.

“My perspective as I’ve gotten older and have become a senior adult has changed,” said George Harris, a former SBTC president who pastored Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio for 28 years, before answering the call to lead First Baptist Church of Kerrville last year.

“I have more of a concern for senior adults now. When I was a young pastor, I didn’t know how to relate to the problems or needs of senior adults,” Harris explained. “There is great emphasis placed on youth and young adults, but the greatest resources in our churches, both in terms of money and talent, are in senior adults. They’ve had the experiences, and they have a great deal of wisdom.”

John Bisagno, pastor emeritus of Houston’s First Baptist Church, said he has learned to accommodate the feelings of seniors in his church. “Senior adults find a great security in the fact that some things are like they used to be in a fast-changing world. We need some emotional, spiritual ties to the past,” he said.

Looking back on his 30 years of service at the 22,000-member Houston congregation, Bisagno emphasized the need for balance in all areas of church life. “We must do what it takes to reach this generation while continuing to respect the older people and the way they like to do things,” he added.

Yet as a segment of the local church and a growing population demographic, senior adults are themselves changing, transitioning to retirement earlier, wealthier, and in better health than previous generations.

Over the course of a 50-year ministry at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Harold O’Chester has watched senior adults grow younger.

“When I started my ministry a person who was 60 years old was considered old and not living beyond 65,” said O’Chester, who currently serves as pastor emeritus. “But when I ended my ministry, I found that a person of 65 has 20-25 years of ministry ahead of them. They don’t consider themselves old, and they are in much better health and attitude. That is the biggest change that the pastor today has to take into consideration.”

After decades of service to the Southern Baptist Convention, Jimmy Draper said he has felt the change in age perception first-hand.

“I think the greatest perspective as I grow older is how young older people are,” said the former LifeWay Christian Resources president. “When my dad died he was 52. I laughed the whole year I was 52, because [I realized he] was a young man.”

Draper, who pastored eight churches including First Baptist Church of Euless for 16 years, said despite growing older he still feels God’s call to minister.

“Inside you feel the same. I still feel all the passion and energy and

Needs of seniors vary by congregation

Ministries to senior citizens within churches are as much about providing opportunities for interaction as they are about ensuring the spiritual and physical needs of aging members are met, said Glenda Sparks of Bayshore Baptist Church in LaPorte. Providing for the array of needs for retired adults within a congregation is as varied as the community the church serves.

Sparks knows not all senior citizens have the flexibility to “up and go” whenever they want?day tripping to Galveston, eating lunch with fellow church members, or distributing food to the area needy. But the Silver Saints of Bayshore Baptist Church is a ministry through which she encourages her peers to get “up and go” and stay connected to their church and in their community.

What gets the Silver Saints mobile is a fleet of buses provided by Harris County Precinct Two. Sparks makes sure the church ministry takes full advantage of the Senior Program offered by the precinct. That equates to at least 12 bus trips a year within a 149-mile radius of Houston. Trips coordinated by the church include jaunts to Brenham, College Station, area malls for shopping, special Christmas outings, or just a trip to Hermann Park to visit the zoo and have a picnic.

Many of the Silver Saints might not participate in the trips if there was no other means of transportation. The buses are provided in Harris County at no cost to senior groups with members 50 years and older.

At Chaparral Hills Baptist Church of Amarillo, members of the CCC?Chaparral Coffee Club?head to the church every Wednesday and Friday for a cup of coffee, a look at the daily paper, and catching up on the news on the plains of West Texas. Three times a year, the church treats the group to dinner on the town.

During Chaparral Hills’ annual Joy Club Christmas party, each member is given $5 and a trip to the mall. The challenge? Buy as many different items as you can with just $5 ? including tax.

“They scour the mall for specials,” Pastor Alan Burkhalter said, laughing at the resourcefulness of the senior adult population. Each of the purchases was then given to each other as gifts. “They can squeeze a nickel like nobody’s business.” One participant came back to the church with 20 items.

Providing the means of fellowship for senior adults in a church opens the door for ministering to unchurched peers. Silver Saints of LaPorte are encouraged to invite friends on their excursions and church fellowships. On more than one occasion, Sparks said people have joined the church because of the camaraderie of the Silver Saints.

Senior adults are often the workforce behind distribution points for Angel Food ministries, a nationwide program created to provide low-cost food staples. At Bayshore Baptist and many other SBTC churches, seniors work side-by-side with youth on distribution days, or simply being a smiling face to those who visit the church to take advantage of the program.

A volunteer force made up of teenagers and adults commit to particular days of service at First Baptist Church in Springtown as they help seniors with mowing, cleaning windows or other basic maintenance that can be difficult to aging members.

Members of the senior adult group from Springtown travel to a local nursing home every week to sing, drawing 16 participants on a recent week, member Nora Upshaw said. “My relationship with my church is strong,” she said, as strong as any time during the 70 years she’s been a Southern Baptist.

From singing in the choir to helping with preschoolers, senior adults continue to perform vital ministry in local churches. Fifty senior adults from Southcrest Baptist Church in Lubbock traveled to Euless recently to sing at the SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference.

A BOOMER TSUNAMI?

One-fourth of Texas’ population often escapes the notice of local churches. While much of the focus of church growth attends to the needs of the emerging generations on the horizon, leaders ought to prepare for the next wave of population growth, advise SBTC specialists looking at such trends.

In the next few years a demographic shift will occur that places a fourth of the population in the category of 60 years of age and older. “There are 6.7 million adults who are 60 and above?all those born by 1946,” explained SBTC senior adult retreat specialist Sam Craig.

“That means that over a fourth of the 22 million people in Texas are senior adults. And it will continue to grow,” he reminded. Following the AARP designation of senior adults as those age 55 and above expands this group to a third of the current population.

“There’s a bunch of those folks who are still lost,” Craig added. “It’s my generation of those who wore the flowered shirts and came out of the drug scene. They’re still hurting and still need to know Jesus. And many need to fall in love with the Lord again,” he said, calling on local churches to recognize the potential for evangelism and ministry in an often-ignored segment of society.

“Our Boomers are reaching retirement, but they still need to know Jesus and need to be discipled,” added Terri Stovall, assistant professor of administration at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As one of the first generations that did not “grow up in the church,” Stovall said the older Boomers were in their 20s during days that bring to mind Vietnam, Kent State and Woodstock.

“They are the generation that took the divorce rate up to 50 percent. To assume that they have all their spiritual needs met is a dangerous place to tread,” Stovall added.

Craig encourages churches to seize the opportunities to witness to that generation.

“A lot of those people are still disconnected from the church, but when they lose their careers, their circle of active friends from work, every one of them is going to be looking for something as they recognize their own mortality.”

He described the common reaction when the AARP card comes in the mail. “They’re going to be thinking, ‘My life is half over.’ That’s a tremendous opportunity for evangelism.”

According to Charles Arn, author of “White Unto Harvest: Evangelizing Today’s Senior Adults,” only 6.8 percent of those who become Christians and new church members are over age 50, and only 1.2 percent are over 60. Furthermore, two-thirds of churches with 1,000 or more members in the U.S. reported that one or no senior adults were added to their membership through “conversion growth” the previous year.

Arn calls for a shift in the allocation of outreach resources often focused on youth and younger adults while also recognizing the evangelism strategies practiced by churches today are more effective for people in the first half of their life.

Simply put, he calls for:

?approaching older adult evangelism as a process, not an event;

?placing the focus on receptive adults?recognizing that one’s receptiveness to spiritual change increases during many of the life changes that seniors experience; and

?building relationships between Christian and non-Christian senior adults.

Craig and fellow SBTC senior adult ministry specialist Dale Williams are calling on churches to gear up or revitalize ministry to senior adults.

“If you’re going to go fishing, go where the fish are and most of them are in the senior adult pool.

Southwestern Seminary and Dwight McKissic

I see this as an argument between two of my friends. I’d love to see them come to agree or at least live in peace with one another, but I’m not seeing any signs that it will happen.

Cornerstone Baptist Church and specifically Pastor McKissic have been friends to our convention. I thank God for the stand Dwight McKissic took for the traditional family during the 2005 referendum. He is a good preacher and has an innovative ministry there in Arlington. In many ways, I wish there were more pastors like him.

Southwestern Seminary is my alma mater. How rare a blessing it is to say that the school is better now than it was when I graduated back in the early 1980s. Southwestern is also an institution very close to the heart of Texas Southern Baptists.

We pray for and work for the best at Southwestern. The seminary has also been a great friend to the SBTC and we find ourselves in harmony with them in so many important ways. Again, I wish there were more schools out there like Southwestern.

I pray for reconciliation in this situation. I’d love to see Pastor McKissic continue as a trustee. I’d also love to see him work in harmony with the board in a way that apparently does not characterize his current relationship with them.

From a human standpoint this relationship has spun out of orbit. No one that I’m talking with expects peace between Dwight McKissic and his fellow board members. That’s why I’m praying God will do something none of us can currently imagine.

Maybe it’s partly selfish on my part. Texas does not get to host the Southern Baptist Convention very often. It won’t happen again for the foreseeable future. I’d hate to have the run up to the annual meeting in San Antonio focused on a recommendation, for the first time in our history, to remove a board member. Many other things will happen but this one item has potential to get all the attention, and it’s negative.

I’d not favor anyone brushing aside substantive disagreements, and this one seems substantive. I’m asking for a miracle. I’m trusting God to decide what that means because I don’t have the imagination for it.

Push through the age barrier

Bethel Heights Baptist Church was small, like many Southern Baptist churches today. We didn’t have enough people to have ministries to discrete groups, except for age-graded Sunday School and Training Union. It seemed more like a big extended family than a well-organized institution.

At Bethel Heights, my grandmother taught my group in Vacation Bible School the week I was saved. My mother was in the house when I made my profession public because we didn’t have children’s worship. My Royal Ambassadors leaders were the fathers and grandfathers of the boys?ancient by our reckoning. The church looked like a lot of the rural and small-town churches I’ve seen around the country.

Ministry at my little church was family-like, though not just because a third of the congregation was named “Ledbetter.” My teenaged aunts sang in the choir with senior adults. Older boys and youth helped their dads take up the offering. It was cross-generational ministry because the make up of the congregation was that way.

The trend for the past 20 years is away from these small churches and toward institutional churches with diverse ministries. These narrowly focused ministries are a big draw for families. The idea of events and teaching specifically for kids, youth, single adults, collegians, young marrieds, single-again people, men, women, working women, moms of preschoolers, and senior adults (to name just several) sounds good, and has borne some good fruit.

The closing or diminishing of a hundred small churches into one mega-church has enabled a hundred new ministries, each beloved by someone. It’s also enabled the near eradication of that feeling of family in our congregations. It’s become very difficult for us to get to know those in another age or stage of life. I think we’ve lost something good.

Think about that big family event you have each year, maybe at Christmas. In that setting the kids get to know Grandpa and nutty Aunt Thelma.

They listen, perhaps involuntarily, to stories about the family farm or WWII or putting the principal’s old car on the roof of the country school. The older folks listen to the younger ones haltingly play the piano or tell of some sports triumph or making the honor roll.

The kids tell the stories they’ve heard to their friends, the old folks brag about nephews and granddaughters to their own buddies. The generations subtly, naturally develop some respect for one another. It’s family.

Where do those respectful relationships develop at your church? No church is too big to encourage this sense of family. No church is too hip to need it. Here are some ideas.

Think twice about segregating your church by age.

The ability to have children’s church, youth worship, age-graded choirs and so on is not always a mandate to do so. The fact that the church down the street does it or that visiting families ask about it also lacks moral authority. Put church unity on the list of things you consider before providing something new.

Consider mixed age or family mission projects.

Some churches do this and the response of families I’ve talked with is enthusiastic. Parents love to see their own children growing in ministry and kids gain a lot from watching their parents give and serve in a new context. Working alongside one another is also a great way to get to know someone you’ve previously only seen across the auditorium.

Serving together allows you to know someone’s story, his skills, his character. It allows us to look beyond the merely external things that put us off in casual acquaintance.

Do a little tokenism.

 

Woman denied tenure sues seminary

FORT WORTH?Sheri Klouda, a former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor who taught Hebrew in the theology school until she learnedthat she would be denied tenure, has filed a lawsuit against the school and its president, Paige Patterson.

Klouda, whose case was publicized two months ago by several Baptist Internet bloggers who have been publically critical of Patterson, alleged gender discrimination, breach of contract, defamation and fraud in the suit filed last Friday in United States District Court in Fort Worth.

“Do to this being an active legal case, we will not be commenting at this time,” Southwestern Seminary spokesman Jon Zellers told the TEXAN on Friday.

Klouda now serves as assistant professor of Old Testament at Taylor University in Upland, Ind.

Houston FBC staff taking on weight loss

HOUSTON?The staff of Houston’s First Baptist Church is taking on America’s weight problem one person at a time.

Approximately 45 women and eight to 10 men on staff at the church have voluntarily entered the church’s health and weight-loss program “t1:Street w:st=”on”>First Place.”

Founded in 1981 by FBC church members who wanted to lose weight and live healthier lives, the program has helped more than 500,000 people in about 12,000 churches in the United States and worldwide.

“We’ve been working on getting First Place started with the staff for a while,” said Diane Bagby, executive assistant to Executive Pastor David Self.

She said the staff’s participation in First Place is part of a staff wellness program the church wants to promote.

“Because I work with the staff and was already a First Place leader, I wanted to do a group during business hours because many of our staff members don’t want to come back in the evening to participate in a meeting.”

Bagby, who is also a personal trainer and has worked in wellness intervention in the corporate world, said the staff First Place group is very diverse in age and in needs.

“In many other groups there is a strong emphasis on weight loss,” Bagby said. “We have some staff members who have struggled with eating disorders and others who are not overweight but who are trying to learn eating habits and God’s way for wellness.”

She said it is amazing to her how many people don’t understand what it means to eat healthily.

“Some are just trying to learn to eat the right foods in the right amounts,” Bagby said.

As of week five in the First Place program, the staff members had lost more than 89 pounds, Bagby said.

“Some gain, while others lose. This number includes results for those who are not necessarily trying to lose weight.”

Bagby said the leaders of the First Place groups sometimes offer incentives for not only losing weight but also keeping the nine commitments of the plan such as eating fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water and saying the week’s memory verse. She said she believes it’s amazing how much a sticker with the amount of pounds each person lost will motivate someone.

Bagby said the participants are very pleased with the program so far.

“They are enjoying the fellowship and the lunches.”

Bagby said staff members tell Self, the executive pastor, all the time how much the program is blessing them.

“Our biggest loser so far said she never really knew what it meant before to see her body as God’s temple.”

Survey: Including senior adults in process of changes at church crucial

“I never feel ignored. I love my church family and what God is doing through us,” said Reba Byrd of Porter, a member of Second Baptist Church in Houston.

For the most part, Byrd’s attitude is typical of the senior adults participating in a survey conducted at a recent SBTC event. Most expressed appreciation for the ministries designed for their age group.

“I’m 73, but always open to change if it’s for good. I love the praise and worship music, the band and orchestra,” Byrd added.

One Southern Baptist from East Texas said, “My relationship to my church is strong and I’m more involved than ever. I have more opportunities to minister than I have time.”

After 40 years as a Southern Baptist she said she finds her relationship to the pastor stronger than during her younger years.

Among the suggestions made in the survey of senior adults were fairly simple changes?crafting ministry in a way that reaches that particular age group and in some cases finding a compromise that works for all.

Several addressed the need for a Bible study format that builds on the foundation that most senior adults already have instead of video-driven studies on themes designed for young women just starting to walk with Christ.

Barbara McKinney of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving found younger women gravitated toward video-driven studies often aimed at busy lifestyles and new Christians while older women preferred using a more traditional approach?sometimes working directly from a Scripture text.

“How can I make this work?” she asked rhetorically. When she offered a study based on a book of the Bible, she said she was pleasantly surprised that two, very young women excitedly praised the class.

“We need more Bible studies to give you options to converse, talk about the Scripture, study a few weeks on what you’re trying to learn and have some dialogue between generations,” McKinney explained. “They loved some of the stories about what it used to be like,” she said, recalling life illustrations the older women were able to share in applying Scripture.

Similarly, she said, “Our pastor is realizing age grading is not that good in the long haul.” Through age-integrated “life groups” that meet on Sunday nights to study the Bible, McKinney said church members are taking the best of the past and looking toward the future.

She credited the type of curriculum as key to successfully blending generations in meaningful study and relationships. The groups are using “Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health,” published by NavPress, which includes probing content from author Donald S. Whitney, a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor.

“There’s a lot of growth taking place,” McKinney said, describing small groups where 70-year-olds are meeting with college-aged members. Through those relationships, young adults are learning from the example of older, more mature, believers?a process McKinney said is scriptural, pointing to Titus 2.

Continued outreach to homebound members and other senior adults in the community may seem like a standard ingredient in the average Southern Baptist church, but several survey respondents spoke of the need to maintain ties to members who are physically limited and unable to regularly attend church services.

Some senior

Halftimers: Pastors tapping new resource in Boomers

SAN ANTONIO?A new social phenomenon is offering up a generation of potential leaders in the local church, but most pastors don’t know about it. Comprising one-third of the nation’s population, Baby Boomers are reaching mid-life and some desire to spend retirement influencing their communities for Christ.

To aid pastors in identifying and training these seasoned marketplace leaders for ministry, LifeWay Christian Resources has partnered with the Leadership Network to create a series of ministry resources called “Success to Significance.”

“People now have two lives?life one and life two,” said Lloyd Reeb, retired real estate executive, during a Success to Significance workshop luncheon held at Oakhills Church in San Antonio Feb. 1.

With Baby Boomers retiring earlier and the average lifespan lengthening, Reeb said churches need to teach marketplace leaders how to live a life of significance for God’s kingdom.

“We are over-prepared for life one and under-prepared for life two. There is no university for the second half of life,” he said.

With the twin goals of mobilizing retired business leaders and training local pastors to utilize these church members as ministry developers, Reeb teamed up with Bill Wellons, founding pastor of Fellowship Church in Little Rock, Ark., to write “Unlimited Partnership: Igniting a Marketplace Leader’s Journey to Significance.”

“Every day 8,000 people turn 60 years old,” said Wellons, citing a recent census report. “That means all of those people are going from life one and facing life two and they are absolutely not clear on how to manage those 20 or 30 bonus years.”

Using the term made popular by author Bob Buford, Reeb and Wellons refer to those who have reached mid-life or retirement as “halftimers,” noting that most have garnered career success but still desire to make an eternal impact in God’s kingdom.

“There’s an incredible phenomenon happening in our culture that is unprecedented that provides equally profound opportunities as pastors and ministry leaders,” Reeb said. “What’s new is that a growing number of people have reached a point in life where they have a choice how they spend the rest of their life?mid-life.”

Seasoned leadership skills and a strong Christian walk qualify them to be the church’s most valuable untapped resource.

“This is the healthiest, wealthiest, best-educated generation to reach mid-life,” Reeb said. “One day they look up from their desk and realize they want their life to count for something more. Yet, they are ? wondering how could God use me as a real estate agent, attorney, teacher, or dentist?

“This is really a brand new phenomenon that didn’t exist before. So we as ministers must figure out how to move with this wave of people [and] tap into it,” Reeb said.

Speaking from experience, Reeb found himself searching for greater personal significance after building a successful real estate career. In 1992, Reeb decided to offer his services honed in competitive corporate America to 40 national ministries.

“I said, ‘Here is my education and background. How can you use me?'” Reeb recounted. “I got the most pathetic responses back. I got lots of letters, no phone calls except one, and the closest I got was a carpentry offer from one of our mission boards. There was no market for me. No ideas of my skill sets and how to use those skills. That is why we need this dialogue today.”

After discovering an unfilled niche in the ministry market, Reeb said he also noticed a need for workers in his home church, Mecklenburg Community Church near Charlotte, N.C.

McKissic issues apology


Related Articles

McKissic responds to SWBTS trustee Chairman Van McClain4:33 pm, March 5)
Chairman responds to McKissic’s statement4:20 pm, March 6)
Southwestern officers to consider conduct of Arlington trustee3:57 pm, March 7)

On Wednesday, Dwight McKissic sent an apology to SWBTS board Chairman Van McClain that was posted at www.praisegodbarebones.blogspot.com, a site hosted by Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville.

The letter reads:

“It was not my intent to bring grief to you,” “It was simply to point out the inequities and injustices I am experiencing by being asked to come to trial without specific charges and to have my trusteeship put on the line with no policy or law violations being cited as specifically being applied to an action or inaction on my part.

“That is certainly reminiscent of a hanging without due process. That is what I meant by ‘lynching.’ I was not personally referring to you as a racist. I was simply saying the process again reminds me of a kangaroo court or lynching.”

“Please forgive my offensive remarks and hopefully this explanation will suffice along with the attached article. Again, I want to be clear, it’s the process that reminds me of a lynching, not the personalities involved. I trust that you will forgive me.