American Christianity has long been a graying religion. American Mainline Protestantism serves as an example of a group with a median age that significantly exceeds the median age in America. Given this data, one might assume that local congregations tend to employ more specialized ministers and program staff focused on mature/senior adults than on teens/youth. In reality, however, far more people serve in youth ministry roles.
Tony Campolo, professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University and the author of three dozen books, recently wrote a rather controversial blog post suggesting that in many congregations a minister focused on the elderly may add more value than a minister focused on youth. Whether or not the significant size of the elderly population in a given church warrants a reconsideration of the existing staffing model, Campolo believes that more can and should be done to minister to the elderly.
In the last three congregations I have served, well over 80% of the congregation is retired or of retirement age (geography is a key contributor to this statistic since all of these parishes have been in Southwest Florida). None of these congregations employed anyone tasked exclusively with ministering to the elderly. Two of the three, however, employed (and still employ) staff focused on children and/or youth.
- What has your experience been with regard to the staff and resources allocated in your congregation for youth and for the elderly?
- Do you feel that more should be done for the elderly in your congregation? If so, what?