While everyone has focused on Millennials, many have ignored the dramatic change occurring on the other end of the generational spectrum. It’s estimated that by 2020, people 65 years and older will represent 20 percent of the population. In fact, in the next 25 years, it’s expected that this demographic will double in size.
This change is expected to have such a significant impact on the economy and healthcare that media outlets like Forbes and The Economist have dubbed it the “silver tsunami.” And while this title may come across as alarmist and ageist, it points to a reality that will have an enormous societal effect and change the church in the upcoming months and years.
How can the church prepare?
Churches will be on the front lines of this shift, and, to flourish, they’ll need to rethink their priorities and tactics. Here are a couple of suggestions that can help you prepare for a growing number of senior citizens in your congregations.
1. Focus on reaching older citizens
If you ask most churches about their ideal demographic, most will say college-aged folks and young families. When they’re making decisions about ministries, outreaches, and technology, that’s where their focus is.
It’s important to remember that Christ is not focused on one generation over another. As the pool of aging citizens grows, the church needs to widen its focus. This means asking:
- How can we reach senior citizens with the good news?
- How can we accommodate the needs of the aging?
- How can we provide more opportunities for older congregants to minister and grow?
For churches in communities with a larger aging population, it’s critical to consider strategic ways to reach and meet the needs of older people.
2. Provide opportunities for aging church members to serve
One reason for the growth in this demographic is that people are staying healthier longer. You’ve probably heard it said that 60 is the new 40, and on some level, there’s truth to that. There’s a vitality in this age group that should be celebrated.
Too often, opportunities like mission trips or outreaches are tailor-made for people between the ages of 18–45. When older people are invited to serve, it’s usually low-impact and behind-the-scenes tasks like serving food and cleaning up. Going forward, churches should consider ways to get seniors on the frontlines.
Providing opportunities for older church members to work with youth, share the gospel, and minister in foreign countries broadens your church appeal and deepens community. One of the best ways to involve seniors in ministry is through mentorship. Plenty of new and younger Christians could benefit from the wisdom and maturity of previous generations.
3. Make your technology accessible
There’s a common misconception that seniors and technology don’t mix. It’s not entirely true. A 2017 Pew Research study found that 42 percent of people aged 65+ used a smartphone. As Gen Xers age into this demographic, seniors will only become more tech savvy.
Typically when churches think about technology, there’s an assumption that seniors are a lost cause. The focus is on rolling changes out to younger members. While it’s true that your church probably has a small number of vocal Luddites, that number is shrinking every year. We’re seeing more and more seniors who are comfortable with technology.
Whether it’s giving software or your mobile app, it’s critical that you have a plan for onboarding your seniors. It’s no longer feasible to introduce technology with an assumption that seniors aren’t interested or are tech-averse. Coming alongside aging congregants to help them adopt your high-tech solutions communicates their value and turns them into advocates.
Serving our seniors
Industries like healthcare look at a growing number of seniors as a problem to solve, but for the church, it’s an occasion to serve and care. Making room in our congregations for every demographic helps to strengthen and deepen the church. We shouldn’t think of it as a silver tsunami, but as a silver opportunity.
When looking at how technology can be used to better serve every member of your congregant, especially your aging population, consider how your ministry makes tech purchases. Do you make tech buys with seniors in mind? Do you have a process in place for making smart purchases that will serve each congregant? For more information about making wise tech decisions, download our free ebook, The Church Technology Buyer’s Guide.