Aging Well: Churches shouldn’t run from the topic of aging

The photo in the newsletter caught my attention. It was an image of a yellow sticky note with handwritten words, “Do today: Plan for God to use me in old age!” My mind began to spin. Most people don’t like thinking about aging, much less planning for ways to be used by God in a season that will likely include physical decline.

Missy Buchanan

The note made me think about a recent event at my own church. A group of middle-age adults asked me to speak to their Sunday school class about aging and faith. The invitation came after they realized that the majority of their class’ prayer requests had to do with aging parents. From a parent’s health decline to sibling disagreements about eldercare, their prayer list reminded them that they were now in an unfamiliar season of life.

One man confessed that he had planned on staying at home that day because he didn’t want to talk about growing old. His wife finally coaxed him into coming. Later he offered sincere thanks to me for helping him confront a hard subject. I couldn’t help but notice his misty eyes.

This man is not alone. In fact, I have discovered that many middle-age adults say that aging is just too depressing to discuss. Often the first time they get serious about discussing it is when they find themselves face-to-face with the challenges of their own aging parents. It is in confronting their parents’ mortality that mid-lifers are led to face their own.

As the church we need to put that sticky note in the smack-dab middle of our forehead. We must make it a priority to get people across the life span to start talking about aging in spiritual terms. How else can we dispel the myths and help them to see aging as part of God’s plan? Here are three simple suggestions to help your congregation at least start “the talk” about aging.

Talk about aging from the pulpit. A few months ago, a 30-something minister asked to meet me for coffee. He was planning a future sermon series on aging faithfully and wanted my input. I was so impressed by his willingness to explore the topic that I gave him a set of my books for older adults. In return I asked him to encourage other ministers to talk with their congregations about aging, too. Ministers have a wonderful platform from which to help people of all ages view aging from a biblical perspective. A sermon series on aging can also prompt congregants to think about new ways in which they can serve others, even as they deal with physical decline.

Host wellness, exercise and nutrition classes. In today’s culture, people are very interested in health and wellness. Hosting weekday classes in exercise and nutrition at the church is a great lead-in to more significant discussions about aging and death. Congregations of every size should offer opportunities like walking groups and heart-healthy cooking classes. When people have a way to optimize their physical health in a safe environment, they are more likely to start talking about aging issues.

Encourage Sunday schools and small groups to have a series on aging. Use established small groups as a platform for talking about growing older. Ask Sunday school groups to focus a series of lessons on aging and faith during the next year. For mid-lifers, the emphasis might be on aging parents. For older groups, lessons might underscore the importance of shaping a spiritual legacy or guarding against the sinful nature of pride and bitterness that is often associated with aging. Check out the resources at

May is Older Americans Month, the perfect time to put good intentions into action!

Ms. Buchanan, a member of FUMC Rockwall, Texas, is the author of several books, including the new Joy Boosters: 120 Ways to Encourage Older Adults. Reach her at:


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Missy Buchanan, UMR Columnist

Missy Buchanan is a sought-after speaker on topics of older adult ministry and spiritual creativity, she brings passion and humor to many events for churches, organizations, and women’s groups. She has appeared on Good Morning America with co-host Robin Roberts and is the author of books including Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults, Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms, and Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults. She has written for many publications including Presbyterians Today, Mature Years, Christian Association Serving Adults Ministries, Entrepreneur, and The Dallas Morning News.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Getting old is not for sissies–a statement often times repeated–and that is true. But, it is not the end of the world. Sometimes, old folks would just like to be included in some of the regular activities of a church–not everything that is cultured and created and designed only to focus on how years are stacking up. We old koots can be 1. grumpy 2. a source of great info 3. lots of fun 4. puzzled by new technology 5. don't like to be shoved up into the attic 6.??? Me? I am singing the high part in a barbershop… Read more »

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