Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Older adult ministry expert addresses Oklahoma Conference leaders


Bishop James Nunn and author Missy Buchanan. Photo submitted by Derrek Belase.

Over the next ten years, those 65 years and older will grow by the largest percentage of all age groups in the state of Oklahoma and it is one of only three groups which will grow.

More people. More younger people. More diverse people. Since 2008, the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church has worked with these core values. What might it mean if there was a connection between the growing population of seniors and the target group of those identified by the annual conference in the core values? Intergenerational ministry is one pathway for making that happen.

With a focus on spiritual formation across all age levels, noted author and aging expert Missy Buchanan addressed Bishop Nunn’s cabinet and a number of leaders from conference churches at Epworth Villa on Aug. 29.

Buchanan is the author of many books published by Upper Room, including “Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults, Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms,” “Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults,” “Aging Faithfully: 28 Days of Prayer” and “Joy Boosters: 120 Ways to Encourage Older Adults.” Her newest books are “From Dry Bones to Living Hope” and “Beach Calling: A Devotional Journal for the Middle Years and Beyond.”

“It’s only intergenerational if it’s relational,” she said.

Buchanan shared examples of opportunities to work with multiple age levels at the same time. Through a series of “what if” questions, she proposed:

  • people 60 years and older invited a young family or single person for brunch or lunch once a month;
  • members of older generations wrote notes to acolytes each week, thanking them for participating in worship;
  • youth asked older adults to speak at one of their events, asking questions such as, “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” and “How did you get through it?”
  • older adults read the books that middle-school and high-school students are required to read for school;
  • younger and older generations created artwork together to use for sermon illustrations or graphics for church communications.
“The key to aging faithfully is to joyfully adapt,” Buchanan said.

In addition to these ideas, churches can become more intentional about their ministry with older adults and helping them navigate the complexities of aging in this day and age. May is Older Americans Month and Grandparents Day is the second Sunday in September.

Rev. Kirt Moelling, senior pastor at Yukon-First, said intergenerational ministry is important for churches as they consider their entire Christian formation processes.

“Missy was very helpful and convicting,” Moelling said. “We have to be about helping build relationships and helping our older adults know that not only are they valued but they are essential to Christ’s Kingdom mission through our church.”


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