Monday, November 24, 2008

A Mission Shaped Church for Older People

This latest edition to the Mission-Shaped series, published by the Leveson Centre (£10, £9 for pdf), has found at least 2 fans; Mark Russell, and this blog. Here's a summary, originally produced for our '3rd Age Task Group', a group of folk in our church looking at mission and ministry with the over-60's

The 81 page A4 booklet has 2 main sections, following a scene-setting introduction:
a) raising awareness in churches of issues around mission to the over-55’s, including a training manual for a modular course on mission to over-55’s
b) a collection of ideas, resources and discussion starters for mission to over-55s.

It looks like a superb starter kit for anyone looking into ministry with the elderly.

Of the 3m who regularly attend church, a third are over 65, up from just 18% 30 years ago. This will increase as the baby boomer generation moves into retirement. There are 200,000 more older people in church than under-18s.

Church attendance is stronger with elderly than the rest of the population, and they are a growing proportion of the population. The elderly must start to become a mission field, with finance, training of specialists etc. They are also our largest asset in terms of people and resources. Old people are the best missionaries to their peer group, and have gifts, wisdom and skills to share with others.

3 cohort groups are identified:
pre-senior (55-64) – working, independent
senior (65-80) - retired, independent
older frail (80+) dependent.

There is no one way of doing church or evangelism will fit all 3. Many of the younger old have never had meaningful contact with the church. Mick Jagger is in his 60's, and the stereotype of the kind of music, culture etc. that over-60's will enjoy just doesn't work.

Part 1: Raising Awareness
This includes an introductory presentation for a PCC or Deanery synod, and a modular training course for folk working with older people.

The course has 3 modules, each of 4-5 sessions.

  1. ageing and attitudes,
  2. engaging with older people,
  3. practical evangelism

The sessions have a mixture of Bible study, presentations, discussions and practical tasks. At the end of the course participants should have a good idea of what they can do in mission to the elderly and how to go about it. Very good materials, they shouldn’t need much tweaking, or too much preparation for those delivering them.

Part 2 Practical application
This is a set of resources on a whole range of relevant areas. Some are very practical, full of ideas and ‘how to’ sections. Others are more informative (e.g. on living with loss, visiting).

  1. Welcome pack for newcomers to an area
  2. special service to celebrate age
  3. care home services
  4. holiday at home
  5. visiting and befriending
  6. living with loss and change
  7. dementia
  8. mixed economy of church
  9. church policy on ageing.

Finally, there is a very good 3 page bibliography including websites. It is split in to sections relating to the topics covered in the main book (e.g. dementia, loss, holiday at home etc.)

The conclusion asks what resources do we need to do all this effectively; for example paid workers with the elderly. It also explores what kind of churches we need to be, and what mission journey we need to go through to engage with the challenge.

Excellent, compact, practical and well thought out.

Another review here. James Woodward seems to have been at the same conference on mission and the elderly as Mark Russell, and is worth a look, not least for a lovely picture of Sheffield city centre and its fountains.

For other resources on older people, the Sheffield Centre is superb - research, regular newsletters with lots of helpful short articles, and several other links via their web page.

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