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‘Boom’ in 21st-century seniors to create greater ministry needs

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–A growing and changing senior adult population is prompting senior adult ministers and senior adult choir directors to project needs for the coming century.
“Senior adult ministry in the 21st century is a speculative area,” Bill Bacon, minister of music at First Baptist Church, Clinton, Miss., admitted to participants in the Church Music Leadership Conference July 11-17 at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
Baby boomers will become senior adults early in the next millennium and, paired with increasingly longer life spans, the challenges for senior adult ministry will multiply.
Bacon said the 31.6 million persons in the United States over age 65 in 1990 is projected to increase to 35 million in the year 2000. By 2030, 66 million persons will be over age 65. The over-age-55 population is expected to reach 59 million in 2000 and soar to 101 million in 2030.
Senior adulthood is not a one-size-fits-all stage of life. Persons born before World War II are considered traditional. They have strong religious, moral and family values. Their lives have been characterized by hierarchy management, social order and patriotism.
Baby boomers, those born after World II — especially those born after 1950 — are considered post-traditional. They are highly individualistic. They are urban professionals who believe in participatory management. They expect equality. They have experimented with morality and seek self-expression and fun. Between the traditional and the post-traditional are the transitional, persons who were born between the late years of World War II and 1950. They are financially well-off, educated and have a traditional lifestyle. However, they seek the freedom of the post-traditional lifestyle.
Traditional senior adult musicians, Bacon observed, “love and care for each other. They find security in organization and routine, enjoy fellowship and like making new acquaintances and doing new things. They are less likely to volunteer to take on tasks, but are willing and competent when called upon.”
Bacon said he believes the post-traditional senior adult will expect more quality and excellence in music or whatever they do. They will need to be needed. They will be less tolerant of limited skills and they will want a challenge.
The 21st-century senior adult may want individual voice lessons or a class in hymn leading, Bacon said.
“They are going to want to learn more; they will want to grow musically as well as spiritually,” he predicted. “They are going to look for ways they can be better.”
Senior adult choir directors will need to be more careful in the future about the music they choose, he added.
“Don’t just pick songs about growing old or heaven,” Bacon suggested. “Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve heard senior adult choirs who didn’t sing anything else.”
Ministry to and by senior adults in the 21st century, he said, may lead seniors to lead Bible studies, classes for new Christians or new church members, conduct Bible drills, teach in Vacation Bible School or teach music sight-reading classes for younger persons, as well as their peers.
They may engage in evangelism through prison ministry, Backyard Bible Clubs, construction trips, choir tours or mission trips. They may lead out in visitation to hospitals, nursing homes and the homebound.
Some may be involved in providing clothing, food and shelter to persons in need, volunteering in crisis pregnancy centers or for hospice organizations.
Even those who are not physically able to engage in some activities may keep involved through prayer ministries of their church.
Senior adults, because they will be a high percentage of the population by 2030, may do the bulk of telephone and home visits to church prospects and, in doing so, can promote the church’s music ministry.
He said opportunities of service at the church may include volunteering for tasks in the church office, working in the media center, providing shuttle service, ushering or helping with bus maintenance.
Active seniors can serve as chaperones for youth and children, and they can assist in making costumes for church productions.
Bacon urged his peers to consider opportunities for the future to use senior adults “anyway you can in a worship service, through testimonies, children’s sermons, singing and serving as greeters.”
Senior adults of the 21st century will want their independence, to be part of an active group, to help others, to engage in personal growth and to have a sense of self-worth, he said.
“Respect the uniqueness of each individual,” he concluded. “Sustain quality and flexibility in your program.”
Church Music Leadership Conference was sponsored by the music ministries department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Charles Willis