The Gerontology Center on the campus of Concordia University-Chicago IS an AH-HA Moment!
This became quite evident last month as 14 folks from around the country came together for a 2 day consultation around the concept of “developing a certification track to train faith-based people to serve as ‘Aging Specialists’ in their congregations and/or communities”. It was an AH-HA Moment because of the exciting possibilities discussed, the wealth of wisdom and experiences shared, and the excitement that grew as these faith-filled folks shared and celebrated the gift of aging and the possibilities for the Church to become much more intentional about serving and equipping this often forgotten and misunderstood segment of God’s saints and servants!
Thanks to Jim Miller, Lydia Manning, and John Holton for making it happen. Thanks to those who financially supported it. Thanks to the participants who shared their time and energies to dream and to ask “What if?” and “Why not?”
The AH-HA’s continued to flow easily with excitement and spiritual energy to develop a “one-of-a-kind” training ministry that would be tremendously significant in not only training and equipping older adults but also would be positioned to aggressively and faithfully change the mind-set of much of our church and society from viewing aging as a burden to bear instead of a blessing to celebrate!
Sure, there is so much more to do before this is a reality, but this Think Tank will hopefully stir up and launch other discussions and dreams and plans to emerge within both church and society. There are currently numerous courses, seminars, classes, and degrees that one can pursue in the area of gerontology services and support for and with older adults, but we have not yet found any that are intentionally faith-based and focused for congregational and other faith-based ministries.
Dream with your AH-HA glasses on for a moment and picture what could happen in your congregation if there is an “Aging Specialist” (professional church worker or member lay person) on the staff, who has been certified and called to be responsible for older adult ministries in order to serve and to equip people of all ages to know what it means to celebrate God’s gift of aging, – in the home, congregation, and community. Consider how this would dramatically emphasize the importance and necessity of people of all ages seeing more clearly that life is about putting people of all ages within ministry range of each other! Dream about the thrilling possibilities of worship, education, and human care ministries being experienced together by the 70 year olds and the 17 year olds! Watch and marvel how moms, grandparents and preschoolers would be rubbing ministry shoulders with each other as they witness and celebrate and serve together!
The reality is that it is not that these generational experiences are not happening currently in congregations; it is that we have not equipped nor been intentional enough to make them more meaningful, more frequent, and more of a priority as God’s people!
This “movement” will alter the mindset of how you and I look at and perceive the aging process. Ageism continues to run rampant in our church and society. Ageism is really “prejudice against our future selves!” We, the Church, need a wake-up call, a ‘climate change” on how we live , serve, and perceive older adults. Just today, I saw a Facebook posting from a “friend” that quipped, “The best part of getting older is ….nothing!” Now that’s the kind of mindset that needs to be changed and that needs to be challenged as we continue to celebrate God’s GIFT of aging!
I’d welcome your comments, responses, suggestions, and ideas. Perhaps we could do other think tanks throughout the country to experience similar discussions that this group of 14 experienced last month at the Gerontology Center at Concordia University-Chicago!
Thanks for “listening” and for continuing to be the AH-HA people we all are, because of the Lord of ALL ages!