Senior Ministry in the 21st Century

Written by L. James Harvey on . Posted in Family

 seniorLast month I made the case that our churches have routinely neglected their ministry to seniors and need to do a far better job in the future. I indicated I would suggest some approaches to doing that this month – so here goes.

Modern science has discovered a great deal about how to live long productive lives and it exactly confirms what the Bible has taught us all along. Psalm 92:14 says, "The righteous shall bear fruit in old age and they will stay fresh and green." Modern science says stay active mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually and you will live a longer and happier life. So the Bible and modern science are in significant agreement.

Some years ago the Mac Arthur Foundation commissioned a study about aging. The results were published in a book entitled Successful Aging by John Rowe MD and Robert Kahn PhD. They found that those who stayed active mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually lived longer and more successfully. Their research led to the development of a specific program to help seniors do this called Masterpiece Living. The program encourages seniors to develop specific individualized plans to grow in each of these four areas every year. The research shows seniors benefit a great deal from the program.

Masterpiece Living is a franchised program primarily for retirement communities at present. The Holland Home owns the franchise for our area and they have implemented the program with success at their Breton Manor and Ray Brook facilities.

If churches are serious about meeting the needs of their seniors, they ought to look at the research on aging and what the Bible says about longevity. Society says seniors should retire and live life at leisure. The Bible and the research says stay active. Live a righteous life, stay alive mentally (learn and use your mind), physically (exercise regularly), socially (stay involved with others), spiritually (regular Bible study and daily devotions), and serve others (planned volunteer activity). If a church is serious about senior ministry it will develop a program that encourages their seniors to do all of these things on a regular basis. The seniors and the church will be doubly blessed if they can do it.

The research on aging indicates, contrary to what we have believed, that we control about 70% of the factors leading to longevity and only about 30% relate to our genes and genealogy. In short, we control more than we thought. Seniors have the choices to make. They can retire, live life at leisure, become couch potatoes, and die sooner than necessary or stay active, involved, healthier, happier, and live a "righteous life" which according to Psalm 92 means we will bear fruit in old age and stay fresh and green. Secular society seems to be taking the wrong path leading many seniors to increasing levels of obesity, binge drinking, and suicide. As Christians we can do better, and our churches should be developing ministries to seniors to insure that we are all challenged to follow the Biblical guide to a successful, active, and productive life in our "Encore Years." These years can be the best or the worst of our lives. It's largely up to us.

A group in the Grand Rapids area is working on a senior ministry program based on the essentials in the Masterpiece Living program, which could be a template for implementation in individual churches. You can read more about the above in my book Run Thru the Tape, available at or it can be ordered at any bookstore. I hope to report on continued development in this rapidly developing area here in the future.


How you know you are getting old

Just when you thought you had it all you forgot where you put it.

Author Information
L. James Harvey
L. James Harvey was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He graduated from Hope College with honors and has a Ph.D. degree in Counseling from Michigan State University. He has been a high school coach and teacher, a college director, dean, vice president, and president.

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