How the Church Can Minister To Single Senior Adults
By Dennis Franck
Reaching and ministering to and with people in the local church in America today is more complex than it was in the 60s and 70s. This is true from at least three perspectives; the diversity of people’s spiritual backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, and marital backgrounds.
It is from the perspective of the marital background that I would like you to think with me. One of the realities the church now faces is the fact there are more and more senior adults than there were 30 or 40 years ago, and included in this growing group, is the senior single adult.
Who Is A Senior Single Adult?
The AARP says that a senior adult is age 55+. (Have you received your card yet?) Not many adults that age I have worked with in the church seems to agree. In fact, neither does George Barna, the researcher many church leaders look to for information on statistics and trends as they affect the church. Barna qualifies the top three age groupings of people this way:1
- Seniors —Born 1926 and earlier
- Builders —Born 1927–1945
- Boomers — Born 1946–1964
In my experience, I would tend to agree. Adults that are only 60 or 65 do not usually want to come into the seniors group. They say, “Those people are older than I am.” (Some are, some aren’t.) Additionally, senior single adults fall into one of the following categories:
- Never Married
Why Target Senior Single Adults?
1. There are more senior single adultsin the church than before. Here are a few reasons:
- Men and women are living longer than before
- Divorce is more common at older ages than before
- There is a tendency for women to not remarry the older they become single again
- Some senior men and women have chosen not to marry at all
2. Senior single adults (as well as senior married adults) have much to offerthe church today. Many of them have lived for God much, if not most of their lives and have a rich heritage of experiences to draw from. The situations they have come through have produced wisdom, knowledge, insight and understanding that can only come from trusting God through the ups and downs of life!
Many of them bring talents and abilitiesthat have been developed and used over a lifetime of service. These saints do not need to just stuff bulletins, clean floors, or sort mailings, although they usually are willing to do so. Their greater talents and abilities many times go unused. These people are in the latter part of their life and desperately want to make their life count for God.
3. One other asset that should be mentioned is their time flexibility.It is usually greater than younger adults due to retirement. We cannot/should not overlook senior single adults when looking for volunteers in ministry opportunities.
Ways To Minister To And With Senior Single Adults
There are many ways to minister to and with senior single adults today. I want to emphasize the word with, since many senior single adults desire to be used by God to fulfill purposeful opportunities. Some churches have chosen to begin ministry groups for senior adults which have regular meeting times, classes, activities and even training opportunities. These groups are comprised of both married and single adults and have people involved in ministry opportunities in the group itself.
Other churches, usually larger ones, have seized the opportunity of beginning specialized groupsfor senior adults who happen to be single by chance, change, or choice, whether it is theirs or someone else’s choice. These groups include:
Regular, ongoing meetings including music, teaching designed for their specific needs, discussion, refreshments and fellowship.
A grief recovery/growth group for the widowed. This group could meet for a limited period of time, or be an ongoing study/support group for people recently widowed to enter at any time and leave at any time.
A divorce recovery group which usually contain some senior single-again adults. These groups meet for 6 to 12 weeks with teaching and discussion targeted to the specific needs of those going through a divorce. Some churches also organize a follow up support group.
Of course, besides specific groups for the senior single adult, don’t forget the many opportunities for ministry both in and out of church. Many times senior single adults are not thought of as quickly as married senior adults, due to the church’s emphasis on marriage and family. Family nights and mottos such as “The Family Church” do little to encourage or include the single adult who by this age is usually single-again due to the death of a spouse of the death of a marriage. These people are the church too, and need and deserveto be involved in the ministries of ushering, teaching, event planning, choir, maintenance, serving on boards and committees of all types etc.
1. George Barna, Strategic Adult Ministry Journal, Issue 138, page 4.