Apr 25 2018
We are in the first act of an historical drama that is destined to transform our culture, and reform churches in ways we have yet to imagine. Unlike any drama before it, the opening scene of this drama was hardly noticed, yet it has intensified year by year until now when it’s about to take a center stage position in our faith communities. I’m speaking, of course, about the fact that in the last 90 years our longevity has increased 30!
We are just now beginning to experience the consequences of this fantastic change; and many are frightening! We’re fearful that our financial systems, our medical health industry, and our fast-growing caregiving institutions are insufficient to adequately meet the challenge of the tidal wave of maturing adults about to wash through our culture. We question whether we can ‘take care of,’ or meet all the needs of this cohort of maturing adults so fast escalating in number. Yet, I believe this is the wrong question.
The right question, the question that can empower us instead of its opposite is, will we listen? Will we listen to the accumulated wisdom of our maturing adults in our community and in our churches, or will we continue in our naïve and illogical thinking that relegates maturing adults off the main stage or our culture? This is the central question we must address; it’s a challenging question, even a frightening question, because it provokes us out of a comfortable set of beliefs about: ourselves, about aging, and about maturation.
Our Churches are Aging
The number and percentage of maturing adults occupying church pews increases weekly. This phenomenon will continue for at least the next 25 to 30 years; indeed, the phenomenon is likely to remain a permanent fixture in the demographics of church communities. What will be our response to this phenomenon? Thus far our response has not been a response at all, rather it’s been an uninformed, haphazard, and anemic scatter of reactions.
The truth is we don’t know what to do, and so we have relegated what some have bravely called ‘maturing adult ministry’ to what I call ‘buses, bingo, and brownies.’ Perhaps we could add casino gambling to this list. Several years ago I was giving a two-day seminar on maturing adult ministry at a church hosting the event for a number of other churches. Just before our second day lunch break, I found myself inspired to assert, “And do you know that there are some churches where a bus trip to the local casino is considered a normal and natural part of maturing adult ministry?” Some of the audience actually gasped in abject incredulity at this assertion. After lunch I returned to the seminar to find that someone had placed a flyer on my lectern from the church hosting the conference. The flyer announced a maturing adult ministry trip in two days to; you guessed it, the local casino! As an added attraction all ‘trippers’ would play bingo on the bus ride to and from the casino.