A New Vision of Parish Ministry

Dec 04 2019

A true crisis exists in the field of religion and aging. Almost no thorough or extensive research is being done to better understand how spiritual resources and religious life contribute to successful adult development, nor how it interacts with other variables in later life.
(James J. Seeber, Spiritual Maturity in the Later Years)
What we need now more than ever is to become more intentional in our work to, with, and for maturing adults. We can and must become more active, more assertive, and more focused on the fundamentals of ministering to those in their maturing years. A new vision of this ministry will include an advancing appreciation for this later time of life as having immense spiritual purpose: that this time of life is specially designed by God to bring people ever closer to both God and their true selves. Spiritual development never stops but intensifies as people move through the years. All of us can learn to truly see aging as a gift from God.
As I look into the future, I see this ministry growing steadily and surely. I see it taking its rightful place among other parish ministries; indeed, I see it becoming the fastest growing ministry in the Church over the next twenty years. I see armies of spiritually maturing adults rising up as a renewing force for good in our culture. I see them taking on deeper and broader roles in our Church and in our community. I see a deeper understanding of the aging process taking hold in the hearts and minds of spiritually maturing adults—an understanding that will lead to greatly expanded opportunities for helping others and acts of compassion.
Beyond service, I see spiritually maturing adults rising to take on mentor roles where they become true sages and wisdom figures and where they can point to new horizons by remembering both the successes and the mistakes of the past. Still further beyond wisdom, I see spiritually maturing adults emerging as leaders in prayer, in corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and in the practice of virtue. I see all of this and more.
For these things to happen, our maturing adult members need the support of their church perhaps in a different way than in previous life stages. They need the nurturance of care and compassion, the understanding of their real needs as they are now, the necessary help in discerning the call of God today, the encouragement to continue their spiritual pilgrim- age, and the direction to reach out to others in new ways. The church needs to be “fully with” its maturing children and not stand idly by as they drift away—perhaps not in body, but certainly in mind and soul—devoid of purpose or direction, living unsatisfying lives of diversion, personal uncertainty, and spiritual stagnation.
For all these reasons, we need a new vision for parish ministry with maturing adults, and we need to move beyond social activities alone to a new model of spiritual growth and personal development—one that adds vitality and vibrancy to the lives of older parishioners. The time has come to adopt this new model and to embrace the true meaning of aging and the senior years.
For a full description of, and instructions for establishing a truly effective Faith Formation program for maturing adults; check-out my book: Parish Ministry for Maturing Adults.
For a illuminating AV program on the book you can show in your parish/congregation, checkout out JOHNSON Institute Course 101: Faith Formation for Maturing Adults.
My hope is that you'll find these resources encouraging and inspiring. I hope they will motivate you to find and pursue your own unique ministry among spiritually maturing adults. I can think of very few human endeavors that offer more potential fulfillment and personal growth. It is my hope that you become captivated by this holy task and find personal trans formation every day of your life!
Stay light and be bright in Christ Jesus,
Richard P. Johnson, PhD

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