Tapestry Conference identifies new paradigm for older adult ministries



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Tapestry Conference identifies new paradigm for older adult ministries

Feb. 15, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0249}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

LEESBURG — Participants at the recent "Tapestry Conference" wove together many messages about older adult ministry and came to a common conclusion — older adults are a valuable part of all churches.
 
"This is a huge group (that) has something to offer in the church in the way of resources," said Nancy Metz, incoming chairwoman of the Florida Conference's Older Adult Ministry Task Team and coordinator of older adult ministry at her church, Hope United Methodist Church in Cape Coral. Metz is also pursuing a gerontology degree from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
 
Metz was among the 160-plus people who attended the conference, held Feb. 1-3 at New Covenant United Methodist Church in Leesburg. She said she was impressed with the information presented, as well as the organization of the conference. The keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. Richard Gentzler Jr., director of Older Adult and Middle Adult Ministries at the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries, General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church.
 
"He is a wonderful human being and has a wealth of information about older adults," Metz said. "People who already have a heart for older adult ministry felt empowered."
 
One new piece of information Metz said she learned was that within the so-called older adult population there are about four separate age groups broken up by 10-year age ranges. "We're still all different, and we all want to serve God," she said.
 
The Rev. Lois Barnum, co-pastor at New Covenant United Methodist Church, agrees much can be learned from Gentzler. She said he taught participants to "never talk about age chronologically," because aging is actually a function of physical activity and health rather than just a number.
 
Barnum said the conference focused on the newer paradigm for older adult ministry — "how do we help older adults be in ministry with others."
 
She cites Sun City United Methodist Church, primarily a church attended by older adults, as a prime example of progressive older adult ministry. She said the church recently completed a study of Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life" with 50 small groups.
 
"To have 50 small groups that are looking for purpose in their lives, versus just 'cruising' — this is a very productive age in the life of people," Barnum said.
 
Derrick Goldstein, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Bartow, said he attended the conference because his congregation comprises primarily older adults.
 
"I'm trying to be in meaningful ministry with people who are (old enough to be) my grandparents," Goldstein said. "I wanted to be better equipped with the people here at Asbury."
 
He decided to invite his entire congregation to the conference.
 
"I wanted to help them realize their potential," Goldstein said. "There was still much they could accomplish in the name of the Lord."
 
He said he's pleased to report that 14 people accepted the invitation, representing a large percentage of his Sunday worship attendance of 60 or so people, and he's noticed a renewed excitement and passion for ministry among those who attended. One of his members told him she believes attending the conference will reap benefits for years to come.
 
Goldstein also said the conference changed his mind about older adult ministry.
 
"It's not necessarily about who you serve, but who does the serving — that is, that older adults have the capacity and ability to minister to anyone," Goldstein said.
 
Alzeila Cullen of Belleview United Methodist Church said some of the statistics presented at the conference enlightened her.
 
She said she was surprised to hear that 62 percent of the membership in the United Methodist Church was 50 years and older. Meanwhile, she learned that nearly half of all people age 65 and older describe the present time as the best in their lives.
 
She said Gentzler pointed out that we are living in a disposable age where older people may feel they don't have anything to offer. She said the conference emphasized to her the importance of developing programs that help older adults continue to grow in their faith.
 
Barnum said she was pleased to learn conference participants came from 50 different churches throughout the conference. "We had good representation from every district," she said, referring to the new districts that will be in place beginning in July.
 
Barnum noted the wide representation was important to ensuring the wealth of information can be shared with others who weren't able to attend the conference. "Our next intention is to put together a teaching module that we could send to people in every part of the state," she said.

Barnum points to the Web site for the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries at http://www.aging-umc.org as a good resource on ministry to older adults.

Metz said the conference helped add about six people to the Older Adult Ministry Task Team and generated dialogue about the possibility of holding a national older adult ministry conference in Florida in 2007.
 
"To me, that's huge," she said. "It's an awesome job, and we will need the new people who came on board."
 
For more information about the task team contact Metz at 239-945-6707.

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This article relates to Discipleship and Outreach.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.




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