AGING & Increasing Insecurity: Why Older Adults Don’t Welcome Change

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/25/15.

(Note: “They’re looking for someplace where they can have some degree security.”)

The student replied that she was fed up with the older generation “not wanting to change.” She stated “They never want the church to change anything, even if it means closing the doors of the church.”

I responded that I was not sure I could completely agree with her conclusions.

Insecurity: The Reason Older Congregants in My Client Churches Resist Change.

I explained thus is because I conduct focus groups of older people at every church I consult, literally hundreds of churches. One result is that I’ve found it’s not that they don’t want to change, but it’s that they have increased insecurity in their life. Let me explain by citing here my response to her.  I stated the following:

Older congregants have increasing insecurity in;

  • their health,
  • their friendships (because friends are moving away),
  • and their finances (as they struggle with mounting bills as they live on s fixed income.)

Security:  Looking for Security and Familiarity in Their Church

Therefore in my client churches they’re looking for someplace where they can have some degree of security. Someplace with things can remain the same. Someplace where their friends can gather and reminisce and enjoy the old old and good days.

This often is in what we call the third space. The first space is our family. The second space is where we work. And the third space is where we hang out with friends. For younger generations this could be a Starbucks or Café.  But for me the older generation this is often their church. (See my articles on Odenberg’s theory of “third space.”)

Thus seniors are afraid of losing the community they enjoy and that gathers in the third space. And that third space is usually the worship service as well as the time they meet before and after.

Let Them Have Their Worship Service (along with its styles, traditions, etc.)

I found in my case-study research that churches grow faster when they let the old traditional service alone. Let them have their third space and worship community… in the style they like .

But, add something new too!

But, add  something new at a different time or different place to reach other generations and/or cultures.

Just remember, the older members are seeking security and I believe God has provided the church to provide that security. And it is often at church where they  feel secure in the predictability of the worship service,  it’s liturgy and structure.

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