On January 1, 2006, at one second after midnight, an unusual event occurred. Kathy Casey became the first of the baby boomer generation to turn 60 years old. For the next 18 years, every 7.5 seconds another of the 79 million "boomers" will turn sixty years old. Over the next 8 years, those 55 to 64 years old will grow from 29 million to 40 million strong. The 85-plus age group is growing three times faster than any other age group.
There is no doubt that America is aging. The dramatic growth of those traditionally viewed as seniors will have important consequences for the church as it prepares for ministry in the twenty-first century. If the church is to be prepared for what Win and Charles Arn have called a "tsunami" or "age-wave" of senior adults, present-day ministry thinking will have to change dramatically.
Traditional outreach ministry has often concentrated its efforts in reaching children and youth as the "church of tomorrow."
However, a more accurate ministry concept for many churches to consider is, "How can the Church reach the largest segment of the population in order to bring in the largest amount of the available harvest?"
As Jesus demonstrated in the miraculous catch of a multitude of fish by the disciples, when they cast their net on the right side of the boat (John 21), the secret to catching fish is knowing and going where the most fish are. Jesus certainly knew where the fish were, and He told the disciples where to go to catch them. The analogy is simple: If the church wants to catch the most "fish," or souls, they need to go where the fish are! Where is the largest school of fish? In the spiritual realm, the senior adult population is the largest mission field in America today! Over 11,000 people turn 50 every day in America, and there are four times more senior adults than college students. Two-thirds of those in the world who have lived to be 65 are alive today. John 4:35, "Look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest," has been applied to the growing senior population. Not only do many seniors have "white" hair, but also they must be harvested while they are ripe for evangelism!
The question may be asked, "Why has the church not seen the age-wave of seniors coming?"
It has not been a deliberate neglect, for most local congregations love their senior adults. One explanation may be that traditional thinking views most seniors as not interested in spiritual things and almost impossible to reach with the gospel. However, the truth is that many seniors who have neglected spiritual things in earlier years are now realizing there may be more to life than just retirement.
While seniors cannot be reached using the same methods that are used to reach younger people, if approached on their level, they are open to spiritual matters.
New ministry methods must be developed to reach the new senior of today's world. The church has the responsibility to learn the issues, interests, and needs of the millions of senior adults. While not neglecting vital ministry to every age group, the church must not let the tsunami of senior adults catch it unprepared. The wise pastor and congregation will begin now praying, planning, and putting into place people who will learn the issues and interests of senior adults. Only then will we be ready to reap the great harvest of senior souls!