Reaching After-Workers

There is not a church in Britain that is specifically seeking to reach the retired and active generation.

That’s the conviction of Church Army captain Chris Harrington – whose Grove booklet Reaching the Saga Generation is a must read.

When churches reach out to older people they tend to focus on those born before the last world war. In particular, those living in residential care or nursing homes.

Meanwhile the quest to seek more young people has led to other generations being overlooked. And that includes the defined demographic of the ‘retired and active’.

  • What can be done?

    This has led Chris Harrington and others to ask ‘why it is not possible to run a congregation for them, as a missional activity?’ Maybe not every week. But at least sometimes. Or, at least, to run small groups and events that can embrace un-churched actively retired people.

    After all, churches generally tailor their social and evangelistic events, services and groups to fit particular contexts and ages. So why not treat the retired and active generation in the same way?

    Pointers to remember when reaching out to those retired and active

    • Deemphasise membership – boomers attend for the experience and don’t join
    • Do not expect blind institutional loyalty
    • Accommodate their desire for experiences
    • Emphasis ‘how to’ messages
    • Recognise the need for equality in leadership, authority and responsibility
    • Accept and celebrate the contribution of singles
    • Respond to the relatively high level of dysfunctionality and emotional pain
    • Give prominence to innovation, diversity and options
    • Encourage discussion and not dogma

    Adapted from Reaching the Saga Generation, Chris Harrington, (Grove Books)

  • What is happening?

    It was the Church of England’s report Mission Shaped Church (2004) that encouraged fresh expressions of church for the vast numbers who are either un-churched or de-churched. Now, Chris Harrington and others are exploring what that could mean for what he calls Saga Church.

    This recognises the cultural distinctives of this generation which Chris defines as –

    • Being the first teenagers and having lived through the free-thinking era of the new pop-culture
    • Not trusting governments, multinationals, institutions or authority figures
    • Disliking being patronized, dictated to or condescended to
    • Demanding honesty, consistency, reliability, quality, value for money and good service.

    His book has helpful examples of what such an event might be like. It also stresses that there are other ways – and possibly better ways – than a church service to engage with un-churched afterworkers. These include –

    • A ‘seeker service’ a la Willow Creek – with everything focused on the needs and interests of the visitor
    • A film and faith group – using a current film as a spring board for conversation
    • A book club – based on secular novels with spiritual themes
    • Rambling groups, retreats and pilgrimages – with moments for reflection

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife