“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.