More than 70 older-adult representatives from 21 churches throughout the state attended “Aging and Ministry in the 21st Century,” a conference featuring Rev. Dr. Richard Gentzler.
The event was Sept. 6, at Madison St. Matthew’s UMC.
The seminar provided information on how to start an older-adult ministry within the church and how to grow existing senior ministries. Gentzler, the director of the Center on Aging and Older-Adult Ministries for the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church, is a highly sought-after speaker on older-adult ministry and has written several books on the subject, including his most recent, Aging and Ministry in the 21st Century: An Inquiry Approach.
“The conference was a huge success,” said Nora Roberts, St. Matthew’s director of senior-adult ministries. “We had a great turnout, and Dr. Gentzler was exactly what we had hoped for.”
During the conference, Gentzler discussed some of the challenges facing many older adults, which often prevent them from attending church. He offered suggestions on how to help the church become more physically accessible for older adults, as well as how to plan intentional ministries for this growing group.
Gentzler said you must identify the spiritual needs of older adults within your church and make sure they stay involved in its ministries. “When older adults see little interest directed at them by the church, they gradually lose their sense of having value and worth, which dampens and diminishes their faith development,” he said.
Gentzler also cited population trends, which reflect the need for emphasizing older-adult ministries. Among the statistics he gave: “The population of persons ages 65 and over increased from 3 million in 1900 to 35 million in 2000 and will reach 72 million by 2030,” and “older adults will soon outnumber both children and youth.”
The Rev. Pat Thompson of Christ Long Beach and Ramsay Memorial traveled from the Gulf Coast to attend the conference. “Many times, churches tend to put the focus on children’s and youth ministries and inadvertently leave out older adults,” he said. “Having Dr. Gentzler speak at this conference was important for our state to help church leaders realize the vital significance of older-adult ministries.”
For more information on how to start an older-adult ministry at your church, visit www.aging-umc.org, or to purchase a DVD copy of the conference, contact Nora Roberts at 601-856-9581 or email@example.com.