From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church develops Comprehensive Plan for Older Adult Ministries

Date 13 Feb 2001 14:10:31

Feb. 13, 2001 News media contact: Linda Green·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE:  A photograph is available with this story.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - A United Methodist committee that focuses on
senior adults is creating a Comprehensive Plan for Older Adult Ministries,
which will emphasize spiritual development.

The United States has 35 million people age 65 or older, and that number is
expected to double by 2030, according to statistics used by the Office of
Older Adult Ministries at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. This
age group's percentage of growth is expected to be even greater in the
United Methodist Church.

To help churches recognize the contributions that older adults can make, the
United Methodist Church's 1996 General Conference approved creation of a
24-member Committee on Older Adults Ministries. The committee serves as a
forum for information sharing and cooperative planning, and supports
ministries by, with and for senior adults throughout the denomination and
society. It is administratively related to the Board of Discipleship, based
in Nashville.

The committee held an organizational meeting Feb. 9-10 as a new four-year
period of work begins. For the previous four years, the committee operated
without General Conference funding. However, last May, the church's
legislative assembly gave it financing and commissioned it to promote the
Comprehensive Plan for Older Adult Ministries. The plan, being developed by
the committee, will focus on spiritual growth, education, training, mission,
service and fellowship. 

The $391,500 budget for the 2001-2004 quadrennium provides salary for a
director and staff support, funding for promotional and interpretative
materials, grants for needs-based surveys, and grants to support the
development of new older adult ministries.

Also as part of the plan, the board's Discipleship Ministries Unit
established a Center on Aging and Older Ministries. It is led by the Rev.
Richard Gentzler, who has been director of the board's Office of Older Adult
Ministries for the past eight years.

The center is founded on the principle that ongoing faith development of
middle-aged and older adults is critical for the transformation of the
world, he said. The center's mission will be to provide resources and
training support to help equip the church's clergy and laity in ministries
of faith development with mid-life and older adults.

During the committee's meeting, members noted the contrast in how older
adults are viewed in the East and the West.  

"The Orient reveres the old, while the Occidental disparages it," Gentzler
said. In the East, the assumption seems to be that one is born without
knowledge or wisdom, both of which come by maturity and experience, he said.
"Wisdom is the garnered harvest of the years."

Committee members expressed concern that the voices of those who are older
might become silenced in society, due to ageism. Society prides itself on
youthfulness with strength, vigor and beauty, Gentzler said. "Once strength
and beauty are gone, you become useless." People today live in a disposable
society, where anything that appears to be old is discarded, he said.

After his remarks, the committee affirmed its mandate to ensure that mature
adults are not marginalized and to empower and equip them to live as
disciples. The committee seeks to be the forum where the "voices of wisdom
of older adults may be heard throughout our church."

During the business session, the committee elected Shirley Painter,
Kennewick, Wash., chairman; Julius A. Archibald Jr., Plattsburgh, N.Y., vice
chairman; and Hazel Bennett, Greenwood, S.C., recording secretary.

In other action, the committee:
·	Learned that conversations are under way to produce a nursing home
song and worship book filled with traditional United Methodist hymns.
·	Learned that Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington is offering a
certificate in older adult ministries.
·	Decided to address the perception among the elderly that only the
pastor can distribute communion. The Book of Discipline allows lay people to
serve the bread and wine after a pastor has consecrated the elements.
·	Decided to develop conversations with seminaries and the United
Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministries on classes to teach
pastors how to address problems of aging in congregations.
·	Heard about Prime Times, sponsored by the church's Board of Global
Ministries, which joins the elderly and the Volunteers In Mission program
for projects and fellowship.

The committee's next meeting will be Sept. 14-16.
# # #

United Methodist News Service
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