Local congregations need to synchronize their ministries with the new reality of an aging population.
How can we please God in our relationships with the elderly? In past issues, CHRISTIANITY TODAY has examined retirement homes and the problems faced by adult children. A future issue will look at aging through the eyes of the elderly themselves.
But what is the place of the local church? How may its leaders and members love the elderly, and in turn be loved by them? Sociologist David Moberg picks his way between the extremes of indifference and smother love.
The “graving of the population,” evident today in all industrialized nations, is unprecedented in human history. Although a few people survived into their sixties and beyond in past centuries, the vast majority since the Noachian flood have died at earlier ages, and life expectancy at birth was seldom if ever beyond 30 years. Today it is in the upper seventies for women and approaching 70 for men.
One person in nine in the U.S. is past the age of 65, but the proportion is closer to one in four in some communities. Many church congregations consist almost entirely of people past 50. Even churches in suburbs dominated by young and middle-aged adults have a growing number of mature and retired people, and face special problems associated with the needs of leaders’ and members’ parents. The leaders of every congregation are increasingly caught up in need for ministries with the aging.
Even though the current gerontic explosion is unprecedented in the annals of history, Christians receive guidance from biblical descriptions, principles, and commands that pertain directly to every society. We hardly need a reminder that, despite the lengthening of the human lifespan, ...1
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