A Mission-shaped Church for Older People?

How often do you hear the phrase “emerging church” mentioned in the same sentence as “older people”? Not often.

We’ve been thinking about emerging church for the children, teenagers, young adults and young families and understandably so because as they are increasingly absent from our churches. But is church attendance of the older people age group really as healthy as we might think? Is it keeping up with the massive population growth of older people in general?

The mounting challenge for the wider church is to respond to the diversity of people now described as “older”. We need to think beyond “one size fits all” in terms of church for:

  • The younger old (mid-fifties to mid-sixties)
  • The third age (mid-sixties to mid-seventies)
  • The active frail (mid-seventies to mid-eighties)
  • The inactive frail (mid-eighties upwards)

Today’s younger-old were the movers and shakers of the 1960s and unlike the generations before them have kept rocking. They tend to be active, independent, adventurous and non-passive receptors of change. A question we often ask is: what would Mick Jagger want to belong to?

For those at the older end of the senior spectrum, we should not assume they are passive receivers but people with gifts, wisdom and skills to share with others. They are our most precious resource in reaching out to older people outside our churches. Once again, different ways of being church will need to be thought through as the average Sunday morning service can be very problematic. Despite a desire on everyone’s part to be inclusive, elderly people can still feel as marginalised as young people.

There are many keen thinkers, salaried posts, books, blogs, websites and other resources to support mission and the growth of emerging churches for younger generations. But these issues need to be thought through for older people too.

A Mission-shaped Church for Older People?, jointly published by Church Army and the Leveson Centre for the Study of Ageing, Spirituality and Social Policy, makes a valuable response to this issue. It contains training sessions to raise awareness of the needs and value of older people, practical suggestions for effective mission to this age group and reflects on a number of case studies that have led to the establishing of new churches.

Written by Michael Collyer, Claire Dalpra, Alison Johnson and James Woodward, the publication costs only £10.00 including postage and packing. Orders enclosing a cheque payable to The Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson should be sent to the address below. Alternatively copies can be ordered on line using a credit card on the Leveson Centre website: