Alert
Close

Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

Contests and
Sweeps

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win!
See official rules. 

Happiness
poll

most popular
articles

Viewed

Commented

Churches Minister to Boomers

Some houses of worship meet older adults' personal as well as spiritual needs

Every Tuesday and Saturday, Jim Sitzman feels good while getting greasy for a great cause. And so do several others who lend him a hand.

See also: The keys to spiritual growth.

"We're all servants of the Lord," says Sitzman, who leads the car ministry at Ginghamsburg Church, a United Methodist congregation in Tipp City, Ohio. Volunteers repair donated cars and give them to people in need.

Sitzman, 61, a retired Delphi Automotive repairman, started the car ministry in 1995 while working full time. As for his helpers, "none of them did mechanics for a living." But they're eager to learn, and that's what counts.

Boomers like Sitzman have plenty of wisdom, skills and experience. "Today, boomers want to do more — and can do more," says Amy Hanson, a gerontologist in Omaha, Neb., and author of Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults Over 50.

By harnessing soul seekers' capabilities, some houses of worship are winning over the 50-plus crowd. They guide boomers in growing spiritually around Easter and other religious observances, while assisting with life issues — from joblessness to aging parents. In essence, churches are venturing outside of traditional sermons and potluck dinners to embrace and engage older adults.

Churches minister to boomers

Houses of worship are winning over the 50-plus crowd. — David Walter Banks/LUCEO

Channeling faith into action

Church attendance has been edging upward as more boomers enter their 60s — when religious service involvement begins to increase, the Gallup Organization suggests. Of the more than 800,000 Americans surveyed between February 2008 and May 2010, 43.1 percent reported weekly or almost weekly church attendance — up slightly from 42.8 percent in 2009 and 42.1 percent in 2008. Among those ages 50 to 64 surveyed, 43 percent said they frequently attend a religious service.

To foster a welcoming environment, "churches have to accept boomers for who they are and invite boomers into the decision-making process. In some ways, they have to really accommodate personal needs," says the Rev. Richard H. Gentzler Jr., 61, director of the Nashville-based Center on Aging & Older Adult Ministries at the General Board of Discipleship, an agency of the United Methodist Church.

Encouraging boomers to shape their own ministries bodes well for a generation inclined toward innovation. They like to explore options for aiding the less fortunate — and then channel faith into action, says the Rev. Chris Holck, 54, director of Encore, a boomers' outreach ministry at the Evangelical Free Church of America's headquarters in Minneapolis. "Encore seeks to inspire and deploy people in their second half of life so that they invest the talents they have been given."

Holck believes that volunteering in the "encore chapter" can bring the most spiritual fulfillment. "Just like in a good concert that we don't want to end, in life we want more," he says. "We want an encore, and we hope the best is saved for last."

Next: Forging their own way. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Line offers 5% off on select cruises, plus other special offers.

Tanger Outlets

Members receive a free Tanger Coupon Book including up to 20% discount offers.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Members can convert their assets into guaranteed income for life with AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today

Featured
Groups

5 Weeks to a New Life

How do you resolve differences in a relationship — without fighting? Share your tips in our online community and be eligible to win prizes. Discuss

The Reinvention Group

The Reinvention Group

Ask questions, find support and share information about changing gears in your 50+ years. Discuss

coffeeshop

The Coffee Shop

Kick back and enjoy lighthearted conversation among Online Community locals. Discuss