Using the aging congregation as a catalyst for growth – Culpeper Star-Exponent

Using the aging congregation as a catalyst for growth – Culpeper Star-Exponent

Though religious participation has been trending down steadily for some time, the influence of COVID-19 on church congregations has accelerated this decline, according to Faith Communities Today, a multi-faith group of religious researchers and faith leaders.

Not only that, but “The average age of congregational members and their religious leaders is rising considerably,” the group’s website states.

“Based on our 2015 survey, religious attenders over 65 years of age make up nearly 30% of an average congregation,” the group continued. “This aging dynamic can be seen in the age grouping of attenders, especially as compared to the US population as a whole. Likewise, the average age of clergy is increasing, as is the average age of the congregations and their building structures.”

Culpeper Reformation Lutheran Church Pastor Brad Hales recognizes these facts and has taken action to address them, by writing a book, ”Reviving the Aging Church: A Practical Guide,” available to purchase for $10 by Sola Publishing.

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“The premise is to actually use aging as a catalyst to renew church membership,” Hales said in a recent interview. “The old model of focusing on young people and young families is just not enough.”

Hales said 10,000 people per day are turning 65 years old every eight seconds.

“Soon, there will be more older adults in the country than young children,” he said. “If we’re concerned about how this ‘age wave’ will affect Social Security, Medicare, marketing, entertainment and the overall culture, consider what it will do when it comes to sharing Christ.”

The pastor, who has led the Lutheran congregation in Culpeper for more than 16 years, said engaging seniors can enrich a congregation in a number of ways.

“Grandparents bring grandchildren to church,” he said. “Retirees have vast amounts of experience, wisom and vigor. The backbone of volunteerism in Culpeper is over age 65.”

Hales serves on the board of Culpeper’s Aging Together nonprofit organization, as well as on the county Human Services Board. He and his wife, Lisa, have been married 28 years and have three grown daughters.

His book is divided into eight sections: The Truth and Nothing But the Truth; Aging in Scripture; It Begins and Ends with Discipleship; Need and Response; Focusing on the Important Stuff; The Middle Age Maze; The Renewal Roadmap; and Direction.

“Using the very thing to enhance the congregation that many perceive to be the reason for its decline may seem unorthodox,” Hales writes in the book’s conclusion. “But this is the paradigm that the Holy Spirit is literally providing many of our parishes to re-ignite passion for Jesus.”

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