Our population is ageing, fast.
It's a hidden time bomb that no-one in the church is talking about.
In the last 60 years, the number of people aged over 65 has doubled, and the number of people over the age of 85 has tripled.
Kofi Annan, former president of the United Nations, described it as “a revolution that extends well beyond demographics, with major economic, social, cultural, psychological and spiritual implications”.
An Ageing Population
The proportion of older people in the UK is forecast to dramatically increase over the next two decades.
Those aged 85 and over, are the fastest growing age group in the UK. It’s predicted that 20% people currently in the UK will live to see their centenary (DWP, 2011).
Those over 85 are more likely to experience frailty, ill health and dependence, with 75% of over 85’s suffering from limiting long-standing illnesses.
Whilst the numbers of those in the third age (65-74) is predicted to stay relatively static over the next 12 years, those in the fourth age (75-84) is forecast to grow by 25%, and those aged over 85 by 50%.
Due to the drop in the numbers of young people attending, the church is ageing more acutely than society (Brierley, 2015).
That's a massive change.
In past generations, it has been the church that has led the way on social reform. Think of Cadbury and William Wilberforce who were well ahead of their time.
The church model we now live with was established decades ago. Our outreach programs are often designed for a population that comprised mainly of families with young children or teenagers.
With a changing population, our church models have failed to change and grow with them.
Many churches have youth and children’s workers, but few have anyone assigned to older people, let alone a strategy for mission and discipleship of their older community.
A cursory glance at church movements and websites, shows a glaring hole in any provision for those age 65 and over.
We believe that, as it has through history, the church should be taking the lead on the issue of a changing world around us. It should be the church who seeks to bridge the growing generational divide.
The ageism that is so prevalent in society can so easily spill over in to the church. Yet, the church should be leading the way in expressing the worth, dignity and value of the older generations to us as a society.
Jesus told His followers that the world would know us by the love that we have for one another.
The hallmark of the church should be diversity in unity. 'For there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' (Gal 3:28)
There’s a saying that “The young people are the church of tomorrow”. The church needs to stop seeing older people as the church of yesterday and instead show the world that we are all the church of today.
It's time for the church to change the way we view and value older people, both in our churches and our communities.
The church has the chance to be a trailblazer, reaching out to and serving the growing population of older people.
We have the chance to develop and establish ministries and programmes for the retired and the elderly.
We stand on the brink of massive social change. The church has an incredible opportunity to shine the light of the gospel as role models of intergenerational connectedness, enriching the lives of young and old alike.
Will you be part of this revolution?
Where Can I Get Started?