There is a real temptation to jump up on a soapbox right now about all that is lacking in the area of ministry to and with seniors. It’s not a priority in the church, plain and simple. There is little in the way of resources or training or community, any of that.
It’s a real problem, but rather than dwell on the problem, let’s start the solution. Let’s start the conversations, let’s share ideas, let’s share our challenges, and let’s find solutions.
That’s why I started this site. I wrote more about my journey here, but the bottom line is that there’s a void right now when it comes to information for people who care about the older adults in the church. My prayer is we can help fill this void.
This is really about starting a conversation. I want to hear from you what is working, so that I can share that with the rest of the community. I also want to hear from you what you need or are lacking, so that together as a community we can identify solutions and resources to fill those needs.
The mission of this site is to encourage and equip.
Encouragement comes in two forms. One, the church as a whole needs to be encouraged to step up her game when it comes to responding to the aging of her membership. The other is that those who are active in this area of ministry need encouragement. In this area of ministry, one can feel like they are on an island and very much alone, kind of like Elijah in I Kings 19. Maybe the best way to encourage is to create a community of others who are in the same boat. Honestly, it’s probably not as much about creating the community, because I think the community is out there already, but maybe it’s more about finding them and introducing them to one another?
As I write this, there isn’t nearly as much to help people in older adult ministry as there is other areas of ministry. Ministry schools aren’t training people for it. Books and resources for older adult ministry are few and far between. I believe that this is a lot like what I just said about the community, that there is more out there than we realize, and maybe it’s more about finding it. I do not approach equipping as an expert who has the answers, but more as the one who seeks out what is working for people, and what resources others have discovered, and then sharing that information with the rest of the community.
Meeting the goals of encouraging and equipping in older adult ministry will rely on the following four step ‘blueprint.’
This is the ‘finding the community’ part. It’s about reaching out to churches and church leaders, trying to find as many people like yourselves who are active or interested in ministry to and with older adults. This is the start of growing the community.
Through connecting with you, it’s now possible to learn from you. What are you doing that is working? What are your unique ideas and ministries. Where can we learn from you? What are your challenges? Where can you learn from the rest of the community? What do you need to be able to minister more effectively?
Equipping part 1: Through learning, some of those hidden or lesser known resources pop up. We can learn from your successes, ideas, and best practices. All of these can be shared with the community through blog posts, resource pages on the site, and through email newsletters.
Equipping part 2: The other part of learning is identifying common needs and challenges where resources have not yet been identified. At this point, we can know what kind of resources can be developed either through Paradigm Squared or in collaboration with others. These could come in the form of curriculum for education or small groups, ministry ideas, or training programs.
The key to all of this is in the discovery and growth of the community of church leaders and volunteers who are invested in this area of ministry. It will start with finding you, and learning from you, initially through surveys or questionnaires. There will be followups, questions, interviews. Comments and feedback will be heavily encouraged.
By way of introduction, I started this page talking from my perspective. But this is where the conversation needs to change from “I” to “we.” I want to see this become something we grow together, where the community can take on a life of its own. Communication right now is through the blog, through surveys, and through email. Eventually it would be nice where this can be a place where the community can come together. Depending on how the Lord leads and how the community develops, perhaps we can see it move to a more interactive community with forums and discussions on this site or on social media, or possibly grow into in person meetings such as conferences. These are just ideas, but it’s the type of thing where I believe it’s better to let develop than to try to plan.
What’s in a Name?
Paradigm2, or Paradigm Squared, comes from what I call the PARADIGM paradigm. I suppose the geek in me comes out a bit when I see the “paradigm” twice and think of “squared.” PARaDIGM is an acronym for Provide Age Resources and Develop Inter Generational Ministries.
A common ministry paradigm with older adults is built around age-based social groups. We want to be mindful not to isolate our older members or get caught up in age apartheid in the church while failing to meet many of the needs that come with growing older. The PARaDIGM concept developed while thinking through why age based group ministry seems to be declining even while our churches continue to age. Instead of relying on group attendance numbers, the concept is to focus instead on meeting real age-related needs while engaging oler adults more in ministry through an inter-generational approach . I write a bit more about the paradigm here.
About Me (Ron Walter, editor)
I graduated with a Bachelors in Pastoral Ministries from Nebraska Christian College, and served a number of years as minister at churches in Iowa and Kansas that were comprised primarily of older adults. I worked several years with my dad and brothers in a family telecom business. I returned to school to pursue my Masters degree from Denver Seminary before transferring to complete my Masters of Science in Gerontology from Concordia University, Nebraska. I live in Denver with my wife, Janiece, our two ratty and bad (but still loved) black labs, and the last of our ten kids (five of hers, five of mine – yes, we can run circles around the Brady Bunch) that remain in the nest. I operate Paradigm Squared Ministry Concepts as a tent-making endeavor for now. You can learn more about the journey to Paradigm Squared here.