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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Go with what you have

Swap youth director for senior director

The common lament of many mainline churches is: How can we get more young members? As current parishioners grow older, congregational survival depends on an influx of new, younger members. So what’s the answer?

The most typical responses are: 1) hire a youth director and 2) start a contemporary service. Little research conclusively guarantees either of these will grow a congregation. Hiring a youth director will stretch — almost to the breaking point — an already tight budget. Starting a contemporary service risks the ire of many older members who like things “the way they are.”

So what do we do? Rather than start a ministry for people you don’t have (youth), let’s look at how you can more fully serve the senior members you have. Older members can minister and can be ministered to. What’s special about a senior ministry?

• Seniors offer free time and lots of talent for ministry: Pastoral care, visitation, teaching, mentoring, using their hands to create and simply offering a “been there, done that” perspective is helpful to those in any transition.


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