Aging Well: Refired not Retired!

 

When the Rev. Fred Trevino retired in 1998 as Senior Pastor of Paradise Valley UMC, the largest church in the Desert Southwest Conference, he envisioned himself leisurely driving his new lawn tractor across the three-acre lawn of his wife’s family homestead in Brenham, Texas. He dreamed of lazy afternoons spent relaxing under the expansive canopy of pecan trees. Soon he discovered that God had another idea.

 

Rev. Fred Trevino

Trevino was asked to accept an interim position as an associate pastor for First UMC of Brenham, a job which he laughingly describes as more full-time than its part-time description. Still in 2005, it was hard to say goodbye to his retirement home and his church family when Trevino and his wife Laverne decided to move to a Dallas suburb to be near their grandchildren. Once again Trevino was tapped for a part-time ministry position, this time as Associate Pastor of Senior Adult Ministry at First UMC of Richardson, Texas.

Though he had always had many older adults in his congregations, Trevino says he suddenly came face-to-face with a surprising truth. He was unprepared to effectively lead a senior adult ministry. Immediately he began to search for resources that would help him revitalize FUMC’s senior adult ministry, shaping it into something more than just a monthly luncheon.  Among authors and workshop leaders on topics of senior adult ministry, Trevino discovered Dr. Richard Gentzler, Executive Director of the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministry for the United Methodist Church. Soon Trevino acknowledged just how much he didn’t know about senior adult ministry.  

Trevino cautions other church leaders about assuming that they already know everything about building an effective older adult ministry. “It’s a mistake that we often make. All of us should be open to learning more about what it takes to build and nurture a strong senior ministry,” he says. Today under Trevino’s leadership, FUMC Richardson’s vibrant older adult ministry is held up as a shining example to churches everywhere, both large and small.  

“There’s an important question church leaders need to ask themselves before determining the future of senior adult ministry in their congregation,” Trevino says in a serious tone. “Do you want a program director or do you really want someone to help shape an authentic senior adult ministry? Although people may not realize it, there’s a very big difference.”

Trevino emphasizes that senior adult ministry is not about good entertainment. Neither should its focus be the same as a community senior center. Although fellowship is important to the wellbeing of older adults, senior adult ministry must ultimately be about helping people to continue to learn and grow in their faith and to serve others, especially as they transition through the various stages of aging. 

One thing that Trevino says helped in building a strong senior ministry was to invite the older adults to take ownership of the ministry. Not long after he came to FUMC Richardson, seniors were given a voice on the church council. They also formed a leadership group among the seniors whose task was to think long-term about how they could best contribute to the overall ministry of the church and to continue to grow as disciples of Christ.

“Senior adults at every life stage need to feel respected and appreciated. Making the whole church keenly aware of the value of senior adults is vital to building an effective older adult ministry,” he says.    

Trevino also notes the importance of working hand-in-hand with leaders of the pastoral care ministry to ensure that the needs of older adults who are homebound or in care centers are also met. “It takes intentional and regular communication between ministry leaders to know the current needs and situation of each older adult in the life of our congregation,” he emphasizes.

Under Trevino’s leadership, FUMC Richardson also began teaming up with community agencies, including nearby University of Texas at Dallas, to host seminars and learning opportunities involving issues of gerontology, dementia, caregiving and health.   

Trevino encourages younger generations to get involved, too. He challenges thirty and forty year-olds to find a senior adult at least twice their age, engage them as a mentor and sit and listen. “Be attentive as someone wanting to learn from another’s life experiences,” he says.

With his seventy-eighth birthday coming up in October, Trevino says he wears the number as a badge of bravery and wisdom. It isn’t long before his attention turns to planning an upcoming retreat with the senior adults of his church. I smile, knowing he’s not retired. As my friend and author Richard Morgan likes to say, “He’s just refired.”

 

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: missy@missybuchanan.com.

 

 

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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