The other day I read an article named, “Death Tsunami Threatens Church” (article) which states that the only way for the church to survive the impending numbers of people dying is to transform itself as rapidly as it can.
While the statistical premise is correct, the article is written with a dose of implication that every church, regardless of where its located, who it serves and what is strengths are needs immediately to re-envision and transform itself in order to reach the younger, not dying, demographic.
While I appreciate the statistical reality of a ‘dying tsunami’ and I agree transformation is needed among most church communities, I wish the article reached further and offered more insight into the impending tsunami.
After all, the author states one of the truest statements … We are getting hit by a tsunami and its death toll will be high.
Soon, if it is not already occurring within your congregation, every week it seems, another member dies. Grief, if not already present will be a common experience among all your members and the number of funerals clergy will deliver will numerically outpace all other rituals for the year combined.
But this is not the only tsunami.
The other one goes with this one and has already started hitting us. It is the ‘aging tsunami’. Yes. For the next 10-15 years EVERY DAY another 10,000 people throughout United States turn 65 years old.
Given this, I wish the article had offered another, additional perspective. One that is not offered as routinely as this one generally given. I believe we need to encourage churches to embrace the demographic, the aging demographic. So much of the time we hear about transforming to reach the millennials and un-churched we loose sight of or not realize the opportunity sitting right in front of us – reaching and serving the elderly.
What could it look like to seek the aging population? What would it mean to build upon their needs, offer programming and resources that most particularly address their immediate and coming life situations and changes?
6 reasons this growing segment is worth targeting
1) This segment of the population is growing faster than other age segments
2) This segment has a higher, built-in familiarity with propensity to engage the church
3) This segment has present and emerging needs that church communities are suited to address
4) This segment has a legacy understanding of tithing and giving (including planned) to organizations
5) This segment is not dead yet and are eager, talented and able to volunteer and participate
6) This segment have particular needs and expectations that need meaningful spiritual attention that include:
a) aging in place, b) grief work, c) good death planning, d) navigation of resources and community service offerings, e) provides inter-generational opportunities.
So often we read what amounts to “out with the old, in with the new” without realizing the advantage already in place. Where not everybody wants to be a church for the aging, fine but for those who are seeking a growing target market with built-in needs suited for faith communities – perhaps you need look no further than the community already around you.
Possible considerations, questions to find answers…as you explore.
1. What percent of your current congregation’s member-base is 55 years and older today?
2. What percent of your current market area’s population is 55 years and older? Is this growing?
3. Of the building going on in your market area; are there a number of new assisted living, independent living, senior housing communities going in? What needs are those developers developing for?
4. Are you connected to your communities’ Senior Centers? Meals-On-Wheels? Perhaps their needs are changing or growing?
5. What connections is your community making within your market area around palliative care and hospice programs, resources and services? Does your church offer grief workshops?
6. Of the community churches in your area, do any of them have a Senior’s Ministry? What does their offering include?
As the needs of this population segment is vast there exists plenty of room and opportunity to deliver value and compassionate care. Too often articles today point to transforming to reach the un-churched and millennials. As many younger families find themselves saddled with caring for their elderly parents (because more people live longer than previously); perhaps the way to truly reach them is to help them help their parents.
Just something to think about. At least I know I do.