It is a striking statistic that 94% of Christians have never brought another person to faith in Christ. It is also revealing that 13% of the members conduct 90% of the church’s ministry. Only 1.2% of new Christian converts are over age 60.
Based on these disturbing facts, key obstacles limiting ministry involvement, and lack of priority targeting of older adults, according to Charles Arn, noted Church research authority, consultant, author and instructor.
Age 65-Plus is the fastest growing population segment for the next 30 years. They have discretionary time, including a third age 30-year longevity bonus, to pursue their “sweet spots.” (A sweet spot is one's God-given passion, motivator, stimulus, heartbeat, and gift.)
Intentional second-half evangelism will be one of the greatest areas for church growth for the next three decades, based on trend analysis. “The large Boomer generation will become more receptive to the gospel.… We are seeing indications that the Boomers may actually become more interested in spiritual matters in general and Christianity specifically. The Baby Boomers have tried it all and found no joy. They may likely turn to the hope of the gospel,” according to LifeWay Christian Resources.
Pastor Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Church (1999), explains, “The Bible determines our message, but our target determines when, where, and how we communicate.”
Charles Arn, in his book White unto Harvest (2003), lists several researched reasons why second halfers are both worthy and receptive to evangelism:
Closer to eternity
Receptive (touch points, life changes, and sweet spots)
More discretionary time
Give more money to their church
Touch points include:
Love and caring
Feeling of loneliness
Need to contribute
Concern for health
Need for compassion an acceptance
Fear of death
Desire for wisdom from the Bible
Adult age life event change includes some 40 stress scale items. Charles Arn is convinced that approximately half of the 325,000 churches in America—including most churches of 75 or less—should seriously consider starting a new service in the next 24 months. From his experience and research, 80% will succeed (if it is done right), and the result will be a net increase in worship attendance.
Here is a brief summary of why churches do well to consider starting a new style worship service:
New services reach the unchurched better than established services. Long-established services fall into a “liturgical routine” that is comfortable to long-attending members. Starting a new style service refocuses a church on a target audience that is not presently attending.
New services minister to more people. Unfortunately, churches that offer one service … at one time of day … on one day of the week … is offering one choice to the people in their community: take it or leave it. The more choices a church offers, the more people will say “yes” to one of them.
New services reach new kinds of people. “Blended services” that try to accommodate the variety of interests, needs, and tastes of people usually reduce total attendance rather than increase it. Clear choices are better than muddled ones.
New services help a church break out of its lifecycle. Most churches over 40 years old are on the flat or declining side of their lifecycle. The secret to new growth in an old church is to start a new lifecycle. A new service is one of the most predictable ways to do so.
New services allow for change while retaining the familiar. If you want to start a “worship war” in your church, just change the music style in your present service next Sunday morning! In contrast, starting a new service, while retaining the old, will be much easier … and more successful.
New services activate inactive members. A new style service often results in 20% of formerly inactive members coming back to church … assuming you make an intentional effort to invite them.
New services help denominations grow. The two most effective ways to grow a denomination are: (1) starting new churches, and (2) existing churches starting new services. If half of the Wesleyan churches determined to begin a new style worship service in the next 2-5 years, we would see a rejuvenated denomination—guaranteed!
Another approach is community outreach. Christ Together of Lake County, Illinois was born in 2000. Their approach centers on connecting churches to a broader church network that provides them with the practical resources, accessible relationships, and unique opportunities they need to have a large and lasting spiritual impact in their community.
The Go! Project is an initiative among churches in Gurnee, Illinois to saturate the community by neighborhood with the Gospel in order to give every man, woman, and child many opportunities to respond to God. The focus is on solely Gurnee because this initiative is their “Jerusalem” (Acts 1:8), their city.
In her book Baby Boomers and Beyond (2010), Amy Hanson identifies one of the biggest periods of evangelistic opportunity: six months after retirement. Amy goes on to provide a simple, proven approach for the church to communicate the desire to walk with people as they navigate the early stages of retirement.
Here’s one example: “First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California, attempts to do this by talking one on one with people who are approaching retirement or have just retired. The senior adult pastor gives them his blessing to take six months to relax, travel, and do whatever they want. In other words, he tells them it is okay to enjoy the honeymoon or relaxation phase of retirement. After the six months have passed, he again meets with the retirees to talk about their many opportunities for service that exist for them in their retirement years.” (From First Evangelical Free Church, www.evfreefullerton.com, 2801 Brea Blvd, Fullerton, CA 91835 714-529-5544, John Coulombe, pastor.)
A fresh, energizing approach to adult ministry is the concept of Encore or the encore generation. “Encore” means continuing to grow, connect, and contribute well. Other positive meanings include:
Giving back something that has been given to you (an encore expression of gift giving: you received help from the Lord, your family, society; in response you want to give back)
Continuing ones greatly appreciated performance in response to a standing ovation
A second shot at life, half-time and beyond
Age or aging has absolutely nothing to do with “encore.” According to Chris Holck, in his “EFCA Encore Final Report,” “The common denominator to qualify is ‘more discretionary time.’ Other signals of ‘middlescence’ include a sense of creeping (maybe charging) obsolescence in career, a nest that is empty, grand parenting, a lack of stamina, more thoughts about retirement, and finishing well. Just the fact that one begins thinking about the finish line (or death, to be blunter) indicates some crossing over a mid-point in life. Thus passage does not have an age entry but rather a ‘more discretionary time’ entry-level criteria. Encore is more a lifestyle and less a program. You don’t start participating when you turn 50 or even 62; you start when you have more discretionary time.” If you have discretionary time or any of the other signals of “middlescence,” it is hoped you will personally volunteer for your sweet spot.
For further detail consult my book, Longevity Response-Ability.