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.