Senior Adult Ministry Addresses the Need of New Services for the Older Population

( [email protected] ) Jan 06, 2004 08:46 AM EST

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. — A ministry for senior adults is seeking new ways to serve the older adults as the population of senior adults is growing rapidly in America.

The Christian Association of Senior Adults is a senior adult ministry that provides major resource to churches and groups that minister to adults over 50.

On Feb. 28 CASA will host its annual “Life Celebration” at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, where the members who have devoted 50 or more years for Christ will be recognized for their faithfulness.

This year at the event, Lloyd Ogilvie, Jack Hayford, Ray and Anne Ortlund and Hermano Pablo will be honored for their years of ministry and service for Christ.

CASA got its start in 1983 when three Southern California churches, Emmanuel Faith, Escondido; Calvary Church, Santa Ana and First Evangelical Free, Fullerton came together to provide fellowship and inspiration for their senior adults. Since then, the non-denominational organization has spread to 36 states and as well as Canada, Australia and Brazil.

In 1993 Ed Neteland was appointed as the CASA’s first executive director. With limited budget of $2000, Neteland led CASA to become an internationally recognized organization that has developed three different publications and a number of leadership resources.

According to Christian Examiner, Legacy Living is a quarterly publication directed to the “boomer” population with the challenge to pursue a life of purpose and significance, the Energizer is a quarterly for the older “builder” generation (65-plus) that provides topics for reflection and application, and the CASA Intergenerational Leadership publication is a quarterly resource for pastors and lay leaders of adult (50-plus) ministries that provide practical ideas and discussion of current issues.

In addition to the yearly Life Celebration event CASA organizes an annual two-day Leadership Conference in November and an Adult 50-plus ministry conference in October that has been sold out in recent years.

“We provide practical tools to help those people in the trenches,” Neteland said as he talked about the growth of his ministry.

“We’re going into an ‘age wave’ of change,” Neteland said, “In CASA we are doing niche marketing to focus on the boomer and the builder.”

Some churches find themselves unprepared to meet the challenge of a growing population of older adults.

“Seminaries are lucky if they have one course directed toward this area of ministry,” Neteland said. “Life isn’t over because you’re 70 or 80.”

Neteland also insisted of the precious things that the younger generation can learn from those who have more life experience with God.

“When you get older you realize that the most lasting things you have are relationships,” he said.

Charles Arn, executive director of the Institute for American Church Growth, who has been studying the church’s demographic landscape for decades mentioned the term “senior citizen” has become politically incorrect.

“There is increasingly a new generation of middle adults 50 to 70 who don’t think of themselves as senior adults,” Arn said. “Today’s senior adults are a far cry from our grandparents.”

Arn said it is important for churches to construct a new model for ministry to this age group.

“CASA provides the opportunity for leaders in older adult ministries to network with each other,” said Arn, author of “White unto Harvest: Evangelizing Today’s Senior Adults.”

“There is a new old out there,” said John Coulombe, pastor to senior adults at the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton. “We’re ministering today to the generation of Youth for Christ. Now we’re ‘Older for Christ.’”