Thursday, August 17, 2017

Your church's senior adult ministry is about to change

A few days ago I commented on the changes that will impact our churches in the next 10 years as the Builder Generation continues to disappear from our churches. That post generated a lot of comments on social media and was shared by many of my readers. As a result, I thought I would share another one of the changes that will impact our churches over the next 10 years, and it's also related to the declining number of folks from the Builder Generation.

We've talked for a long time about the overwhelming numbers of senior adults that make up our congregations. Many churches have focused a significant portion of their ministry towards their senior saints. This ministry is about to change, and some churches are already seeing those changes.

The Boomer Generation, of which I'm a part, has always held to our generational differences. This isn't going to change just because we are getting older. Many in my generation won't even accept the term senior adult. Many of us simply don't see ourselves that way.

For one thing, many of us do not do retirement well. Like me, many Boomers take early retirement, and then find something else to do. I retired from a factory job at the age of 47, but at the time of my retirement I was also a bivocational pastor and the owner/manager of a small business. All that retirement meant was that I had one less place to be each day.

In 2015 I retired again from a ministry position I had with our judicatory. But, a couple of years prior to that retirement I earned my auctioneer's license. Eight months after retirement I accepted the call to be the Transitional Pastor of a local church that was beginning the process of seeking a new pastor. So, now I'm doing that and conducting auctions and working for other auctioneers in the area.

Boomers tend to not do retirement well. We may enjoy fishing and golfing and spending time with family, but for many of us we also want to stay active and involved in doing things that we find worthwhile. I don't see a lot of Boomers interested in riding the church bus with their peers to Branson. We are more likely to be interested in taking a mission trip somewhere.

I was sharing that thought with another church leader recently, and he confirmed that they are already seeing that in their church. The Senior Adults in the church take the church bus someplace on a monthly basis for an enjoyable day of shopping or sightseeing. However, the Boomers in the church are seldom interested in taking these trips and few do.

In the next 10 years many churches will have to rethink their Senior Adult ministry and change it to reflect the realities of the way the Boomer Generation looks at itself and their interests.

This will also impact the men's and women's ministries in churches. We find many of the associational men's meetings are very poorly attended. The only thing that keeps them going are the men from the Builder Generation and some of the more senior members of the Boomer Generation. Younger Boomers and later generations do not find the traditional men's meeting interesting or compelling enough to attend. The same is true of many women's gatherings. One woman recently commented on the poor attendance at their state's mission conference. She was quick to point out that it was a good conference, but she was clearly disappointed at the attendance. Again, many younger women do not find such meetings a worthwhile use of their time.

Churches and denominations that are interested in growth need to take a serious look at how they can best engage the Boomer Generation as it replaces the Builder Generation as the senior saints in our churches.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The need is the call

Throughout my 36 year ministry I was bivocational. Even as an Area Minister in our Region I owned a small business that I managed on a part-time basis. Most of my books have addressed aspects of bivocational and small church ministry focusing on both the church and the pastors of such churches. I have traveled to many states leading conferences for various denominations that addressed some of the topics I covered in my books. I've made two trips to Canada doing the same thing. My DMin thesis focused on bivocational ministry. Bivocational ministers are my heroes, and I applaud their selfless dedication to God's call on their lives.

During my 14 years as an Area Minister we saw the need for bivocational ministers grow throughout our Region. Churches that had been served by fully-funded pastors found they could no longer afford such ministers and began seeking bivocational leadership. As I met with the leaders of various denominations I found they were seeing the same thing. The number of churches that needed bivocational pastors were growing, but the numbers of persons willing to serve those churches were not.

Nothing catches God by surprise. We should never think that God looks down upon his churches struggling to find pastoral leadership and be surprised. I'm convinced that God is calling persons to fill those positions. The question is are we listening to that call?

Several years ago I attended a conference led by a minister who told how Christians are always saying they don't know what God's call on their lives is. These persons claim they would respond to that call if they only knew what it was. He then challenged us with this statement, "The need is the call." When a person sees a ministry need he or she should assume that God is calling that person to respond to that need.

When he said that I remembered my call to pastor my church. I had accepted God's call on my life to the ministry, but at the same time I did not feel led to leave my factory job despite several people telling me I needed to do so. I spent several months preaching in various churches waiting for direction from God. Then I heard of a small, rural church in our area that was seeking a pastor. I sent them a resume, and a few months later was called to serve them as pastor. I remained at that church 20 years serving as a bivocational pastor.

This struggling church needed a pastor, I needed a place to serve, and God brought us together. I realize this story could have had a much different ending, but it didn't. I also realize that just because there is a church seeking a pastor it doesn't necessarily follow that you are that person. But, if you have been sensing that God is leading you to do more with your life, that possibly He is calling you to a ministry position, then you should prayerfully consider if this is a door He is opening for you.

There are so many good, small churches that are struggling to find pastoral leadership. They may not be glamorous places to serve, and you are not likely to be highlighted in any Christian publication, but they are filled with good people who love God and just want someone to provide pastoral leadership.

It may be that God hasn't called you to pastoral ministry but that He has called you to become more involved in ministry within your own church. If that's the case, look around for ministry needs and offer to help. My first ministry was within the church we attended and was teaching preschoolers about our denomination's mission work on Wednesday nights. This was a ministry normally led by the women of the church I attended at the time, but no one wanted to do it. I volunteered and did that for over one year before someone else took it over. The need is the call, and you are surrounded by ministry needs every day. Find the one you feel God is leading you to and begin to meet that need.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What happens when the Builder Generation is gone from your church?

This week I've talked to the church staff and our church council about some trends in the church that are going to have an impact on churches in the next 10 years. I plan on addressing this in a sermon in a few weeks. As our church continues to seek a pastor it also needs to understand the changing climate in which it will be doing ministry in a few years.

It's always challenging to predict the future, especially when it comes to churches and ministry. However, we can already see many changes occurring in our society and in our churches, and I believe there are many others coming in the near future. We can complain about them, we can try to resist them, but they are the realities in which we will be doing ministry. Rather than fight them or ignore them, it's best to proactively address them now.

One that is obvious but tends to be ignored in many churches is the declining number of people in our churches from the Builder Generation. This is the generation born prior to 1945 and is often referred to as The Greatest Generation. They overcame two world wars and a great depression to help this nation become the most powerful nation in the world. They built many of our institutions, including churches, and supported them with their finances and their time.

As we look at our congregations we see fewer and fewer of this generation present in our worship services. Many have passed away while others have moved into assisted living facilities. The health of some prevent them from attending church services or being active in the church as they once were. What happens when this generation disappears from our churches?

As stated above, the Builder Generation were generous financial supporters of the institutions they belonged to. In many churches this generation is responsible for a significant amount of the financial support that comes to the church. That support will be gone when the generation is gone.

One thing churches will need to consider (sooner rather than later) is how to make it easy for younger generations such as millennials to give to the church. These generations are used to automatic withdrawals to pay their bills. They are also used to using their debit cards when making purchases and buying and paying online for purchases over the Internet. Many of them do not write checks.

Is your church set up so the people who attend your church can give their tithes and offerings to the church online? Many churches are now offering that option because they know their younger attendees are comfortable giving in that manner, but I don't believe most churches are set up to receive financial gifts in that manner.

The Builder Generation also makes up much of the leadership of the church. They are the ones willing to serve on boards and committees. They are often the ones willing to teach in the church's education ministry. Younger generations are often less likely to volunteer for these positions. How will this impact the way your church is structured 10 years from now?

Finally, how will the absence of this generation impact the worship services of your church? Will your church continue to offer the same worship experience it has for the past 50 years or will it need to look at different ways of doing worship as new generations replace the Builder Generation?

These are not easy things to consider, but they are the realities facing every church. The time to begin talking about them is now. Don't wait until 2027 and suddenly realize something is different about your church, and somehow it seems to have gotten smaller. Now is the time to have the hard discussions about what your church will look like 10 years from now and you can prepare for that reality.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Prayer vigil

This past weekend our church held a prayer vigil from noon on Friday to noon Saturday. Our deacons took turns staying at the church so no one would be there alone when they went to pray. When I arrived a few minutes before my scheduled time there was soft music playing in the sanctuary where we prayed. Because I'm having some knee problems I sat in my usual spot in the sanctuary rather than kneeling at the altar to pray. I read a few verses in my Bible about prayer and began to pray. In what seemed to be a very short time I looked at my watch and realized it was time for the next person. I closed with praise and giving thanks and quietly left.

Our deacons asked that we hold the prayer vigil during this time of pastoral transition. The pastor search team is currently doing initial interviews of a few candidates and plan to narrow their focus in a couple of weeks. This is a critical time in the life of any church, and our deacons rightly decided to call for a time of dedicated prayer for the process, our search team, and the candidates as well as for the church as it continues in its transition.

Jesus said that His house would be called a house of prayer, but the reality is that many believers talk more about prayer than actually pray. The church today has a lot of good things going for it such as technology, the latest in biblical knowledge, fine facilities with modern conveniences, but many churches lack power. As a result, the church today struggles to reach people for the Kingdom of God and to have much of an influence on the world around us.

Every great movement of God began as people prayed. In a recent sermon I traced the number of spiritual awakenings around the world that began from simple prayer meetings. In some cases, these prayer gatherings were conducted initially by children. As God's people began to seek God, He poured out His Spirit and power upon the church and great things happened.

As the Transitional Pastor of this wonderful church I certainly want to see it go through this transition and come out a stronger church. This prayer vigil is an important step in help making that happen. Whether your church decides to hold a 24-hour prayer vigil or find other ways to have your people pray, I do encourage you to lead your church in continual prayer. Such prayer can unleash God's power within your congregation.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Busy hands are happy hands part 2

A few days ago I discussed why it was so difficult for me to retire. The simple reason is that I enjoy doing what I do so much. The focus yesterday was on my work as a pastor. Today, I'll focus on my work as an auctioneer.

I got my auctioneer's license four years ago at the age of 65. Some wondered why I would do that at that age. One reason is that I enjoy auctions. I typically will go to several auctions every week, and I thought it would be fun to be licensed as an auctioneer.

The other reason is that it is another way in which I can minister to people. Who is it who needs the services of an auctioneer?

  1. There are some people who make their lives picking and buying items to sell at auction. This is how they support their families.
  2. Some people find they need money to pay bills or other expenses and need to sell things to raise that money. Rather than list their items on Craigslist or E-Bay or have a yard sale, they call an auctioneer to sell their items.
  3. There are people who need to downsize or move into assisted living. They have too much to move, and they find out their children are not interested in owning the items their parents have spent a lifetime accumulating. Probably one-half of the auctions I do are for people in this category.
  4. When family members pass away the family is often left with the responsibility of disposing of the estate. Often, they do not even know what their loved ones had. Auctions are the simplest way to dispose of that property, especially if the family members live some distance away.
Each of these are an opportunity to minister to people. Any time I am called upon to discuss having an auction for someone I tell them I am a minister. I cannot tell you how many times I've had the opportunity to pray with people who are dealing with pain in their lives while I am there discussing their auction. Many of these people feel overwhelmed by the need to dispose of the items and are relieved when I tell them I can solve that problem for them.

Every believer in Jesus Christ is a minister. You don't have to stand behind a pulpit every Sunday to be a minister. Each of us are called upon to serve people where they are. You can minister to someone as a sales associate. You can minister to someone as a nurse, an attorney, a clerk in a gas station, or whatever your occupation might be. In fact, some of the best ministry that happens occurs as two people meet in everyday settings.

As I wrote in yesterday's post, retirement should be about doing what you enjoy doing. I love ministry. I love the auction business. I enjoy staying busy and making a difference in people's lives. I thank God every day for the health and the ability to stay busy and serve others.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Busy hands are happy hands

I haven't posted much in recent weeks. The simple reason is I have been busy. As my regular readers know, I am currently serving as the Transitional Pastor of Madison FBC in Madison, IN and I have an auction business. My days are pretty full.

Someone recently asked if I wasn't retired. I think it was my wife! Actually, I've retired twice from two different organizations. I just don't do retirement well. A few weeks ago I bought a couple of books on retirement, but I haven't had time to read them! Later this month I'll be 69 years old, but I enjoy staying busy, and I love doing what I'm doing. Isn't retirement supposed to be about doing what you want to?

Pastoral ministry has been a blessing to me. I served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church for 20 years before going into judicatory ministry. As a bivocational pastor I was busy, but it was such a rewarding time in my life. After retiring from my judicatory role I've had the opportunity to spend almost a year as the Transitional Pastor in my present church, and it has also been a very rewarding experience.

I love preparing and delivering sermons that have the potential to change lives. It's not the sermon that changes people's lives; it's the foundation upon which the sermons are developed: the Word of God. When we stand before the people God has entrusted to us and proclaim His Word people's lives can be changed forever. As they say down south, if that doesn't light a fire under you your wood is wet.

I love the way ministry touches people's lives. To see families healed, to see addicts set free from their addictions, to see people who had no hope find hope in Christ is a joy. In my present place of ministry I've been blessed to watch people within the church find creative ways to minister to hurting people who needed someone to come alongside them.

I love to be with people who gather together to worship God. Our current church has two worship services: a traditional service and a contemporary service. Both have excellent worship leaders. Both are very different in their approach, and both provide an outstanding worship experience. Week after week I look forward to being a part of both services.

I love being a part of a denomination that is so diverse and yet committed to ministry. Perhaps this will surprise some because denominations get so much negative press these days, but it's true. I don't always agree with everything our denomination does, but I appreciate the support I've always received. I appreciate the faithful work of our missionaries around the world. Having served 14 years in judicatory ministry and getting to know many of our regional ministers around the country, I appreciate their faithful service to the pastors and churches that comprise their regions.

Yes, ministry can be tough at times, but it is the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Why would I want to retire and never again serve in such rewarding work?

In tomorrow's post I'll talk about why I enjoy working as an auctioneer.

Monday, July 31, 2017

When leadership is lacking

Everything rises and falls on leadership. I've written that in many articles in this blog. I'm certainly not the first to say it. John Maxwell wrote about it in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition), and others have written about it as well.

No organization can rise any higher than its leadership. It's true of churches, businesses, families, and governments. I've seen churches about ready to close their doors, but when a new pastor arrived the church suddenly regained life and became a vibrant place of ministry once again. The difference was in the leadership abilities of the new pastor.

I know of one business that operated for over forty years. It was a strong, profitable business until a new owner began to run it. Within a few years it was forced to close its doors.

Donald Trump surprised many Americans when he was elected President of the United States. He ran on a platform that resonated with many voters. Seven months into his presidency the White House is in shambles with several of his top officials resigning and others seemingly confused about what will happen next. Nothing has been done on many of his top campaigns promises including repealing Obamacare and building a wall between the US and Mexico.

For seven years the Republican party resisted virtually everything President Obama proposed. They fought against Obamacare and promised to repeal it as quickly as possible. Today, they control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate and have not been able to do anything with Obamacare.

Please understand something...I am not saying that Obamacare should be repealed. I'm not saying a wall should be built. This isn't a statement about the desirability of either action. It's a statement about the lack of leadership in the Republican party including those serving in the White House. They are proving to be a party who can only oppose what others want to do but are unable to lead when they have the opportunity.

America needs leadership, and I don't see anything resembling leadership from either party. Leadership requires that opposing parties find ways to work together for the common good of all people. I said it over a year ago, and I'll say it again...there are very few people who deserve to be re-elected to office. Until Americans stop sending the same self-serving individuals to Washington nothing will change.

Our churches need leadership as well. We need men and women who care more about the Kingdom of God than they do about their own preferences and comfort. We need individuals who have God's heart for lost and hurting people and are willing to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. We need pastors who will preach the Word of God with boldness and authority. We need pastors and lay leaders who have captured God's vision for what their churches could do and will take whatever steps necessary to accomplish that.

Those who are in positions of leadership, whether in the church or government, need to lead. If they are unable or unwilling to do that then they need to step aside and let those who can lead do so.