Rev. Dr. Richard Gentzler, Jr.

Being a leader in any area of ministry today is a daunting task. Rapid change and uncertainty are constantly before us. While COVID-19 brought challenges to the forefront, ministry struggles have been with us through the ages.

During times like these, it’s helpful to remember the primary mission of the local church as stated in The Book of Discipline: “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Local churches are encouraged to:

  • Reach out into the community and receive all people into the faith family
  • Encourage people in their relationship to God and invite them to a new or renewed commitment in Jesus Christ
  • Provide opportunities for all people to be nurtured and practice the disciplines of the Christian faith
  • Equip, send, and support people to live and act as faithful Christian disciples

The bullet points above generally define the Church’s primary tasks. Encouraging and empowering older adults to receive and embody these tasks is the congregation’s work — with the assistance of local church leaders in older adult ministry.

During change and uncertainty, there four components with key traits that must be part of a sustainable, strong leadership model in older adult ministry. They are:

  1. Authentic Behavior authenticity, humility, ethically grounded, seeking the common good, abiding faith, and being able to take on risk and experiment to thrive in today’s dynamic and changing environment
  2. Relational Behavior — team builder, person-centered ministry, empathy, commitment to pastoral/congregational care of persons of all ages and stages of life but especially for older adults, facilitation and negotiation leadership skills in the midst of rapid change, and honoring the dignity, aspirations and well-being of older adults
  3. Competency Behavior —curiosity and joy of learning about aging issues, older adult ministry and available ministry resources; creativity; passionate innovator; and a persistent urge to tap into God-given gifts
  4. Adaptive Behavior — strategic thinking, having a sense of a bigger purpose, and the ability to exhibit humility, flexibility, and change according to what the congregation and faith community require

The responsibilities of local church leadership in older adult ministry are to:

  • Assist the congregation in developing, implementing, and evaluating an intentional ministry by, with, and for older adults
  • Develop a team or committee to assist with the ministry
  • Develop a ministry that identifies the three phases of aging — active phase, passive phase, and final phase — and plan ministry opportunities accordingly
  • Identify, articulate, and advocate for the needs and abilities of older adults in the local church (e.g., survey the needs and abilities of older adults)
  • Keep the needs and abilities of older adults before the local church governing board, council, or committee
  • Inform older adults concerning district and conference events and other opportunities for leading and serving in the church and community
  • Identify local, regional, and denominational resources that would enhance both intentional older adult ministry in the local church and older adults’ well-being
  • Work closely with:
    • Pastor and other church staff
    • Lay leader
    • Church committees involving older adults, including United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men
    • Older adult Sunday school classes and study groups
    • District and conference leaders in ENCORE Ministry
  • Serve as liaison with organizations, people, and resources in and beyond the local church and community as each relates to older adults
  • Continue growing as a Christian disciple through regular participation in worship, Bible study, Holy Communion, and other means of grace

I invite you, as a leader in older adult ministry, to reflect on the key components for leadership and the responsibilities for local church leadership in older adult ministry. Disruptions and change can be difficult for church leaders to navigate. By leaning on others and encouraging them to do the same, older adult ministry leaders can feel safe being vulnerable with others and taking risks, thereby effectively promoting congregational vitality and the well-being of older adults.

Please remember, the ENCORE Ministry Committee is available to assist you with your ministry through consultation, training, and resources at no cost to your or your church. Please contact me at Richard.gentzler@tnumc.org or text 615-400-0539.