Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Submerging Church?

I have enjoyed the book The Greying of the Flock by James Knapp. We used this in my class at George Fox Seminary and my students did presentations on it last week. The ones over 55 had some great insights about their futures, the future of aged Christians, and the futures of churches. I also had one of the staff say, "We have spent a lot of time targeting the 'Emerging church' (young people) but what about the 'Submerging church' (those older folks who have been in church for years)?

Knapp brings a great message for the church and church leaders. He points out that by 2010 Baby Boomers will be reaching retirement age. There will be a huge number of retired folks due to the Baby Boom in the early 1940s. Will the progressive generation of the 20th Century be willing to accept retirement? What will we do with this large body of Christians in our churches?Knapp suggests that in the past we have tried to minister to retired Christians and become caretakers. Yet, he writes, this has always been a powerful force for the kingdom that we have neglected in our ministries, outreach, and missions. Will we continue to neglect them or will we empower them to continue to lead and finish life as active servants of God?I guess this hits home for me.

First, I am at the end of the Baby Boom and will be "retirement age" in over 20 years. Second, I have been reading "The Emerging Church" and reading the research for planting churches. Third, I too have been asking "what about the 'submerging church'?" (those who may be neglected in future ministries). Fourth, I have seen senior saints hit retirement and instead of giving back to God with full time service (retirement is a blessing from God and one worthy of honor to God) they retire from church ministry. Finally, I have spent years blessed by senior saints who help in our abuse and ESL ministry, yet find that most churches try to minister to them rather than empower them to ministry.

I think Knapp's book should be read by all of us, not because we ought to feel guilty, but it helps us to be appreciative of how we need older brothers and sisters in the church to mentor, guide, and serve Jesus and us.

Ron Clark
Portland, OR


Fajita said...

Retirement does not mean inability, in most cases. There is often a good decade or two between retirement and the time when the physical or mental mechanics wear down. Providing this population with meaningful and even adventurous ministry opportunities is important. These folks have believed that they can do anything their whole lives, and even though they are coming to the realization that they can't, there is likely to remain a 'can do' spirit about them. Tapping into this is important.

Furthermore, for the more adventurous boomers, participating in an emerging church plant might really reinvigorate them. They might emerge while they submerge.

I recall once upon a time in my 20's when I was part of a missional and "risky" church, the value of the "grey heads" willing to be in our crazy presence was immeasuable. We looked to them for wisdom - and permission sometimes.

If there is willingness and understanding across generations, there is tremendous opportunities with this Greying of the Flock. What we need is good leadership that recognizes this development as an opportunity and not a problem.

KMiV said...

Amen Fajita!