ILC—Anaheim 2011 CONFERENCE GLEANINGS
They will bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh… (Psalm 92:14)
The J.O.Y. Council of our church sent me, together with Roger and Marlene Bowman and Lisa Watamura, to The CASA Network International Leadership Conference in Orange County last November. I want to thank them for giving me that informative and inspiring opportunity. The conference theme was Influencing the Generations – Refresh your mission. Reconsider your tactics. Renew your purpose. This puts it all in a nutshell – the reason for attending was to refresh and renew what the J.O.Y. Council could bring back to our church family.
Ward Tanneberg, President/Executive Director, CASA Network called us to be IN to listening to God’s call on each of our lives, IN to sharing the love of Christ with our peers, and IN to making disciples. Ward encouraged us to LEAD while we have strength, TEACH while we have influence, CREATE while we have wisdom, STIR the glowing embers of our peers, and LEAVE a light on for the next generations.
His opening remarks challenged us to begin the conference by asking God to let us each:
- Be touched by ONE INCREDIBLE MOMENT
- See ONE WORTH-IT-ALL THING
- Hear ONE POWERFUL IDEA
My ONE INCREDIBLE MOMENT was from a devotional message given by H.B. London regarding the story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus. She did what she could, with what she had and where she was. It was an act of worship. H.B. concluded by asking, “what could we do – with what we have – where we are” that can be used for Jesus to give God the glory. This was an inspiration to me to worship God in this way.
My ONE WORTH-IT-ALL THING was the theme of the conference, namely Influencing the Generations by relationships and not by an intergenerational activity or program. One way of doing this was presented in the Start the Conversation workshop by showing ways to create meaningful conversations through new listening skills, knowing how to ask powerful questions, and sharing life together. Powerful questions are those that reveal information for the benefit of the person answering the questions (not the asker). Workshop participants asked one another questions that stimulated clarity, discovery, insight, and action – not correction. We would like to bring this workshop to our church for all to benefit.
My ONE POWERFUL IDEA was that there are phases of retirement to help identify strengths and weaknesses in meeting the needs of our senior’s ministry:
- (Go-Go) Active Phase – Engaged in life (e.g. volunteer, travel, leisure activities),
- (Slow-Go) Passive Phase – Energy and health begin to ebb,
- (No-Go) – Final Phase – Health problems that may restrict mobility, etc.
A chart would be necessary to categorize our J.O.Y. participants to design activities and outreach ministries according to this assessment.
Dr. Richard Gentzler, Jr., Director of the United Methodist Church Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries, spoke on Faithful Aging: From Success to Significance. He stated that faithful aging means to move from being “self-centered to God-centered,” to recognizing that being older is a gift, and that aging is a part of God’s design. We should have a positive attitude about being old since growing older allows you to shift perspective towards God’s way of seeing things. Part of the role of the church is to enhance dignity and worth of every person as a child of God, provide support groups for grief and loneliness, address the multiple losses of aging and help the elderly find fresh meaning and purpose in life.
Dr. Chuck Stecker, President of A Chosen Generation, gave the analogy of “Passing the Baton,” a modern day term based on a relay race where the runner passes the baton to the next runner and the first runner must get out of the race. Dr. Stecker said that our nation and our churches have fallen into the unfortunate situation of losing far too many of our “seniors” who have a significant amount of time and experience to offer to younger generations. This is happening because we have fallen prey to someone wrongfully telling seniors to “pass the baton.” He further states “If you have bought into the lie and passed the baton, take it back! God will tell you when you are done.”
Missy Buchanan, author, columnist, and speaker gave ideas on how the church leaders can help older adults transition through the many changes that come with long life. She said aging is both a state of mind and a state of body, and it should be acknowledged that not everyone can be Betty White! We should try seeing the world as they see it. Imagine the frustration of impaired vision, poor hearing, diminished strength and arthritis. The church can help older adults find purpose in each life transition by showing them how they can still be involved in ministry. She asks us to be creative in helping older adults see how they can still serve others, no matter what their situation.
Rod Toews, Pastor to Plus Ministry Peninsula Covenant Church and a CASA Network Board member gave a summary of his sabbatical for a survey of adult ministries around the country. In surveyed churches, 38% of the adults were 50+ in age. Eighty-four percent felt that the pastoral leadership demonstrated support for their ministry by the lead pastor teaching seminars, greeting and recognizing 50+ people, attending and staying through events or classes and also by inviting input from 50+ people.
Dr. Laura Carstensen, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity spoke on “Long Life in the 21st Century.” She said that, “The Center brings together the best minds in academia, business and government to target the most important challenges and solutions for older populations. Projects are designed to provide information to policymakers and business leaders, and bring them together with the research community. Their aim is to develop workable solutions to urgent issues confronting American as our population ages.”
Gleanings for the Hungry, a mercy ministry of Youth With A Mission, located near Fresno, CA, presented an interesting opportunity for outreach and getting involved. Its mission is to help feed the hungry of the world physically and spiritually. They produce dried fruit and dehydrated soup mix and distribute worldwide, using about 3,000 volunteers annually and many “senior” groups to assist them in food production. This mission may work best for younger people’s involvement.
There is so much more we experienced at this conference. We hope to be able to bring all we learned to the J.O.Y. ministry as we re-evaluate the needs and phases of our group and recapture a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives.
To quote Ward Tanneberg “Each person has a unique conversation with God. We are the language of God to reflect Jesus. God is not finished with us yet.”
Pat Korieth is a volunteer with The CASA Network, connecting with authors for the Writers Panel and providing editing skills. We’re grateful for her time and her insights.