Catch the Age Wave: a reflection

Catch the Age Wave is a book about how the church should seize the opportunity of deploying the church’s seniors to reach a rapidly aging population. The church’s seniors are defined by the authors Win Arn and Charles Arn as those in the late 50’s and 60’s – the “soon to be retired” or “the recently retired.” My purpose was to survey what has been written about how churches pastored their seniors. Here are my brief reflections.

The Arns feel that there we should view seniors today differently from how they were viewed in the past. They are not weak and sickly. Today’s seniors are healthier than their counterparts a decade ago. They do not yet need a great deal of volunteers to take care of them. In fact they are potentially a great source of volunteers for the church. They can be great care-givers. Their retirement motive is not necessarily to play or rock the chair. They want to work, learn, grow and serve and play too. Evidently churches in Singapore need to revise their views of the seniors, and give more attention, more resources to deploy seniors and reach the unsaved seniors. I cannot but agree that we need new eyes. Ageism, that bias against the old, has no place in the church that boasts of Abraham as the father of their faith.

However, I was dissatisfied with the way spiritual development was dealt with superficially in the book. The tasks that seniors have to tackle and the spirituality of this stage of life were not spelled out nor examined. There was no mention of the very stark reality of the challenges of ministry to the seniors – especially the older old. Nothing was said of the infirm, the shut-ins, the poor, the sick and dying and their needs. The focus was heavily focused on the hope, the positive, the opportunities and ideas for ministry. It was imbalanced but their purpose was different from what I was searching for.

Their methodology was based on the “homogeneity principle” of church growth. This is the idea that the more people are of the same race, status, language and age group the higher the likelihood that such a homogeneous group would grow.  I thought that such a mental model would deter church leaders from seeing the church as ideally multi-generational and meant to be so because holistic, deeper and richer learning of the faith takes place more effectively in such a social context.

Arn, W., Arn, C. 1993. Catch the Age Wave. Grand Rapids Michigan: Baker Book House.

2 thoughts on “Catch the Age Wave: a reflection”

  1. Been reflecting on this post and would like pose the following thoughts and discussion.….

    “Most churches” attempt to bring “constancy and stability” to their members as humans generally are “change adverse.”

    Believe the “Christian” religion has been inadequate in proving viable answers to 3 big questions that impact our behavior and ability to have an abundant life currently…
    a) Origin of the cosmos……it took Xtians (catholics) a long time to move from geocentric (earth as center) view to heliocentric (sun as center) and now to a multidimensional space time cosmos with more dark than visible matter. Galileo in (c1640) was subjected to an inquisition and sentenced to house arrest (lesser mortals were executed) – our current knowledge is based on his accurate observations.
    b) Origin of Man….Darwin had to struggle with the church when he postulate the “origin of species” or theory of evolution.
    c) “Death” – is the ultimate gift of life. Remembered someone on this blog rebuking me but could not convince me he had/will vanish death because of his faith.

    Believe any form of bigotry (esp based on religious beliefs) is especially repulsive to me – when a mega church leader makes it public from the pulpit, it is especially heinous. Our religious beliefs will play a dominant role in our cognitive perspective and therefore create our “life experience,” for better or worse.

    The Arns’ insight has caused many churches (Anglican) to develop suitable programs – see http://www.nelsonanglican.org.nz/documents/resources/CatchingtheAgeWave-SeniorsReport-EricSears.pdf
    Discriminatory ageism remains a problem in society as well – check the leaders we elect, they are getting younger as one ages. Our charities are also geared towards the “young ones” – the potential benefit is much more than giving to old folks.

    Have visited many aged facilities from the destitute to the high net-worths’ ultra luxurious retirement communities(Medical up to code red, gourmet cafeteria, full laundry and cleanup service, limousine concierge) – perpetual cruises and longterm hotel(from hotel 81 to Ritz Carlton), found that boredom and loneliness were paramount.

    BTW, personally do not have a universal panacea but your posting has stimulated some new reflections. Hopefully this will stimulate a meaningful exchange.

    1. “Discriminatory ageism remains a problem in society as well” – and the church is a reflection of this too to some extent. The church focuses on the young because they have a lifetime ahead of them. God forbid but here goes: the return on their investment is higher. It takes a paradigm shift to say, The church does not have much time left to prepare the old before they enter eternity, lets invest in their lives.

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