Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Learning Communities

I was reading Reggie McNeal's book, Practicing Greatness this week. He writes about the value of learning communities. I want to excerpt out some of what he says:

"Increasing numbers of lifelong learner-leaders have either created or joined intentional learning networks. These networks are organic and fluid, based in shared affinities such as a worldview-ministry paradigm and a similar ministry assignment (church leader, staff member, and so on). Some ministry associations provide a learning network for their members as part of the value-added features of membership. Some denominations facilitate the emergence of these networks (learning communities or learning clusters) by providing resources, recruiting facilitators, and convening the networks... "

"Several reasons account for the rise of learning networks. First, smart leaders realize the short shelf life of whatever formal preparation they had for their role. They are aware that a new world poses new leadership challenges across the board, from shifting pardigms to enhancing skills to developing resources to nurturing personal development. Leaders can no longer adequately build knowledge alone; there is simply too much to learn. Privatized learning not only fails in its ability to deliver adequate content; its process is also fundamentally flawed. Collegial learning allows leaders to check their own biases and prejudices, to question their assumptions, to figure out what they don't see that keeps them from learning..."

"The rise of learning networks acknowledges the recent trend of leaders who enter spiritual leadership roles from other careers. These leaders are less likely than their prededcessors to put their call on hold for years to go through academic course work and credentialing before engaging in active leadership. These leaders, coming from business nad educational backgrounds, are often highly competent and usually highly motivated people who feel a sense of urgency to shift their life work, so they are anxious to be deployed and engaged as rapidly as possible. These leaders bring a boatload of skill and experience to the table. They just want to get with other leader-practitioners to shorten their learning curve and to accelerate their development so they can take on and succeedd in their current assignment." (Practicing Greatness, pp. 66-68

"Learning communities debrief the life and ministry experience of the participants. They challenge each other's biases and decisions. They create knowledge together by articulating an expanded awareness of what is going on in their lives, their ministries, and the world around them."

"There are several approaches to convening these communities. Some meet in the face-to-face sessions of two to three hours once a month, some more and some less frequently. Some communities augment their face time with Internet communication. Some peer-mentoring groups study books together; some retreat together or attend conferences together; others invite resource people to visit their group...No matter the type of learning stimulus, the major learning curriculum is the same: the participants own the leadership of the learning."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Getting It

It has been an eye-opening experience for me this past year to research this area of older adult ministry in America. The demographics of an aging population shout at you from every direction, and yet our culture and the church is somewhat slow to respond and adjust to the new realities of the Age Wave. But there are an increasing number of churches and leaders that "get it" with the demographic.

I received an email from Wendell Nelson who serves as the Executive Pastor of Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He writes, "I am building a team to help me develop a strategy to help people in latter mid-life and those considering retiremement to discern the dream God has placed in their heart that they might leverage their life experience (failures & successes), acquired skills, spiritual gifts, strengths and talents to make their most strategic investment in the kingdom of God in the future. Are you still forming leadership communities around this focus? We have about 1,000 well educated, gifted adults who will be thinking seriously about retirement in the next 7 years, and we want to not only have a well developed strategy, but implement it to leverage this resource God has blessed us with."

Wendell is one who gets it with these high capacity older adults, and he has done his homework on the demographics of his church and his culture. How many large churches have a similar reality brewing among their older adults? Dave McClamma, the Pastor to Older Adults at Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Florida told me recently that the "new old" in our culture are saying to the church, "Use me or lose me." His point is that the retirement aged people are a very active and mobile group of people that aren't just going to sit in the Lazy Boy and watch television and play golf. They want to make a difference and they will find a way to do it either through the church or outside the church.

Wendell Nelson is seeking a way to channel and harness the contribution of the older adult into the expansion of the Kingdom. If the church doesn't create more vibrant ways of engaging the best efforts of this new older adult, they will find less significant ways to invest their time, talents and energies. Wendell is onto something significant here. It will be fun to see how it plays out these next several years at Christ Community.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Power Years--Ken Dychtwald

Ken Dychtwald is well known as the living expert on the Baby Boomer in the United States. He is a boomer himself, and as a gerontologist he has studied the Boomers for more than 30 years. The thing I like most about him is the fact that he is so positive about the limitless potential of the Boomer. The Power Years--A Users Guide to the Rest of Your Life was published in 2005 by Ken Dychtwald and Daniel J. Kadlec. I think it is a must read for anybody who is seeking to engage the Baby Boomers in active church ministry and kingdom building. In the first chapter of the book, the authors make the case for why the remaining years of life for the "new old" are truly the Power Years. They list 7 reasons:

1. We'll Be Living Longer and Healthier

"We will live longer and grow old later in life than any previous generation. Incredibly, two-thirds of all those who have made it to age sixty-five in the history of mankind are today walking the earth. We are not just living longer, we are also in better health and enjoy greater youthfulness and vitality. There are more 50-and sixty-year-olds running marathons, buying harleys, starting new careers, going to rock concerts, and getting facelifts than ever before. Our increasing longevity and good health, coupled with our natural desire to remain youthful, are the greatest forces behind the power years...The upshot is that great numbers of people--not just exceptions--are able to work and play as they like far longer than anyone might have expected."

2. The Cyclic Lifeplan Will Replace the Outmoded Linear Model

"The landmark New Retirement Survey that Ken directed in 2004 with Merrill Lynch was based on interviews with more than three thousand boomers. The study found that only 17 percent of them said they intended to stop working for pay forever in their next stage of life. A whopping 42 percent reported that they hoped to cycle in and out of work and leisure for extended periods throughout life; 16 percent expected to continue working part-time; 13 percent were planning on starting their own business; and 6 percent fully intended to keep working full-time right through their retirement years. Incredibly, of the 76 percent who intended to continue working in some fashion, more than half were hoping to do so in a completely new career or line of work!"

"Further, when asked why so many wanted to stay involved with work, the overwhelming response was not money. Instead, two of three said the main reason was to stay mentally active. Members of our highly educated and productive generation simply don't want to live a life of intellectual stagnation and mental irrelevance."

3. We'll Have a Big--and Growing Pool of Role Models

Late achievement, while multiplying in frequence, isn't altogether new. Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was almost eighty. Groucho Marx launched a new career as a television show host at sixty-five. George Bernard Shaw was at work on a new play when he died at ninety-four. Galileo published his masterpiece Dialogue Concerning the Twop New Scoiences at seventy-four. Noah Webster was seventy when he published An American Dictionary of the English Language. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York at ninety[one. Mahatma Gandhi was seventy[two when he complete successful negotiations with Britain for India's independence..."

"In their day, these remarkable men and women may have been condidered highly unusual. But thest Ageless Explorers have carved new trails ahead of us and represent the first wave of maturity pioneers. We baby boomers will be next, and we'll turn this thorny trail into a superhighway. "

4. We'll Be Wiser about What Matters

"Having climbed much of the mountain, you now have a pretty good view of life. As we accumulate and make sense of life's lessons, most of us have come to appreciate that the joy that money alone brings is fleeting, and that true happiness revolves around love, relationaships, and our sense of fulfillment at work and at play. Most of us reach this basic understanding in our middle years--sometimes precipitated by the death of a parent, our kids leaving home, or the failure of a career or marriage. But for the most part, by the time we're fifty and still young enough to shape our later years, we understand that money, while it's important is not what underlies happiness..."

"Tom Hagan of Covington, Ohio, sold his pharmacy business at age fifty-six. But he didn't retire. He remains employed in the industry; he simply gave up the headaches and rewards of ownership. 'The secret to life is being fulfilled,' Hagan says. 'It has nothing to do with money. I have friends who are worth $50 million who are miserable. They hate their wives; they hate their children. I love my life. I'm still working, and I plan to work until I die. I love my new job. It keeps my mind active. I couldn't imagine sitting around and watching TV every day.'"

5. We'll Have New Freedoms

"The kids are gone or soon will be. College and house are paid for--well, mostly paid for... In addition to braces and summer camp and all the things you put in your house are largely paid for; you don't need a lot more stuff. With many of your biggest parenting-related financial obligations coming to an end, you'll be endowed with greater freedom to do the things you've always wanted. Meanwhile, your busy schedule is beginning to let up, providing you with a windfall of free time that will let you take on new challenges or pursue hidden passions and long-supressed dreams."

"And because the economy will want to simuntaneously prevent a brain drain and declining consumption by keeping all of us earning and spending longer, it will become easier to stay at work or start a new career. The vacuum of workers maturing means that older adults will be in demand and more able to choose our own schedules, and still remain valuable. With the rise of flextime and part-time schedules and contract and project jobs and job sharing, there are millions of exciting paths for us to explore in the work world--throughout the world. With online universities, we can retrain at home or pursue a life as a writer or artist or some other dream."

6. We'll Still Have Clout in the Marketplace

"Our huge numbers and often free-spending ways have ensured throughout our lifetime that anyone with something to sell would be inclined to tailor it to our wants and needs. Our demographic and financial wells of influence won't run dry as we mature. We will live longer and healthier and remain active consumers... While we are just 30 percent of the population, we control more than 70 percent of all the wealth and account for more than 50 percent of consumer spending. As we mature and collectively inherit an estimated $20 trillion, we will be as cherished as ever in the marketplace."

"Advertisers will need to break free of their addiction to youth. Many wrongly believe that all adults have already chosen the brands they will stick with for life, while young people have yet to choose their cola, sneaker, cell phone, or whatever. This flawed view will stop paying off; marketers will increasingly come to realize that at fifty or sixty we not only have money to spend but also are eager to ditch our old lipstick for the latest colors. As we age, we will remain interested in new adventures and experiences, and we will spend freely to reach our full potential in the power years."

7. We'll Be Open to Change

"Personal growth and self-improvement are the new order, and as this mind-set blossoms, it will open the doors to fulfillment and achievement that might otherwise have been stifled. The world of continuing education may best illustrate the appetites of a generation that loves to learn and grow. Already a thriving adult-education industry has begun to flourish, including magazines, books, audio, video, Internet learning programs, and adult-education seminars, workshops, and courses."

"About forty million adults participate in one or more educational activities each year. As the need to continuously upgrade skills becomes a requirement, lifelong learning will become commonplace. In response, colleges and universities have begun to aggressively pursue adult students. USA Today recounted: 'admission officers and financial-aid directors from campuses across the USA echo the message: Older students are as desirable--often more so--as the traditional 18-24 college crowd. And they're just as eligible for grants and loans as their younger brethren.' Adults, they say are better motivated, usually have educational goals in focus, and have experiences to share with younger students."

I think Dychtwald and Kadlec make a pretty compelling argument for why the remaining years for the boomer aged American are accurately characterized by them as the power years. But at the same time, I wonder who is getting this message out to these very people? A friend of mine recently met with a man who was just laid off from a large company that he helped start with two others some 20 years ago. The man is 60 years old, and his company has pretty much told him that his value to the organization is no longer great enough to warrant him staying on the payroll. He expressed to my friend that even though his work culture is telling him that he is no longer valuable, he has never felt like he had more to give in terms of wisdom, expertise, and even energy.

I wonder how many millions of boomers are feeling a similar kind of dissonance. While the culture is trying to tell them they are finished, they don't at all want to feel like they are. And in fact they aren't. Could it be that this is a prime opportunity for the church to rise up and bring this information out of the closet and thereby affirm to these oncoming millions of mature adults that perhaps the best years of real life and significant contribution are still ahead of them?

Questions to ponder:

How should this information influence the way our churches seek to connect with the Baby Boomers?

What are some of the differences you notice between the boomer and the builder in their perspectives on aging?

What kinds of things might need to change in the way you do ministry with older adults in order to engage the boomer more effectively?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

'Me Generation' becomes 'We Generation'

I read an article in the August 4th USA Today with the above title. It is written by Daniel J. Kadlec, who co-authored The Power Years: A User's Guide to the Rest Of Your Life. In my opinion, this book is the best source of information available on the "new old" in America. For people seeking to reach and engage the Baby Boomer, this book is a must read.

Kadlec in the USA Today story profiles the "new old" in this nation. "Many prosperous Americans are choosing to give while they live so thay can control how their money is spent or enjoy watching it do some good. As boomers seek to give something back and stay at work longer, they will begin to blend the two by developing personally rewarding businesses designed to serve the greater good. Like Robert Chambers, 62, who retired to start a non-profit that makes low-interest car loans to the working poor in New Hampshire, and Martha Rollins, 63, who has a furniture company staffed by former convicts in Virginia."

"The challenge is not, as many have argued, how to pay for an aging society. It's how to harness the skills of a vast, willing and able new crop of maturing Americans who want to stay in the game longer, give something back and help cure society's ills. If we can do that, our aging society may pay for itself--and then some."

This is a golden opportunity for the church in America that "gets it" with what we in Leadership Network are calling the Encore Generation. But will the church find new ways to "harness the skills" of this massive cohort of mature adults, and find significant ways to "keep them in the game" and impact the Kingdom of God?

Here is another tidbit I saw this morning on the Leadership Journal website:

Fewer Kids Among Us: Children under age 18 made up 26% of the U.S. population in the year 2000. By 2020, that number will decline to 24%. By contrast, at the end of the baby boom in 1964, kids made up 36% of the population. With fewer kids and longer lives, expect greater need for senior adult ministry.

Did you catch that? "Expect greater need for senior adult ministry." People who really get the current demographic in the U.S. are coming to the same conclusions with respect to church ministry. We need to give more focused attention to the Older Adult population in our churches and in our communities.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Plugging the Brain Drain

This past week I read a good article in Hemispheres Magazine by Catherine Fredman with this title, Plugging the Brain Drain. You can read the article by going to http://www.hemispheresmagazine.com/aug06/executivesecrets.html. Like many others who are writing about the "new retiree", she affirms the value of the older worker in view shortage of laborers among the Gen-Xers. "There are only 46 million Gen-Xers to replace the 76 million Boomers. Though that gap can be filled to some extent by productivity gains, labor-saving technologies, immigration, and offshoring, the issue isn't so much a labor shortage as a talent shortage. 'The problem won't just be a lack of bodies,' writes demographer Ken Dychtwald, a co-author with Tamara J. Erickson and Robert Morison of the recently published Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent. 'Skills, knowledge, experience, and relationships walk out the door every time somebody retires--and they take time and money to replace.'"

One of the things I pick up from reading this article is that more and more people are changing the way they are looking at the older Americans. Fredman makes several references to YourEncore, a company that was created by executives at Proctor & Gamble for the purpose of finding temporary part-time work for retired professionals. YourEncore hires are evaluated after each project, and they rate about a 4.8 on a 5-point scale. Many companies have operated with the assumption that they need to push the older workers out in favor of young, more energetic workers who are quicker to learn and innovative on the job. As reasonable as this sounds in theory, it simply has not proven to be true. Fredman writes, "A 2003 Towers Perrin study of 35,000 workers in the U.S. found that employees older than 50 were more motivated to exceed expectations on the job than were younger workers."

Fredman goes on to say that companies that want to stay competitive are turning to their aging and retired work force. Corporations are beginning to view older workers as assets. Mounting evidence shows that mature workers bring unique capabilities and performance advantages to the job:

• Accumulated wisdom. “Experience counts more than any other factor” in pleasing clients, says Greg Thomopulos, the CEO of Stanley Consultants. “The more experience our members have, the more knowledge they have about what worked and didn’t work in the past. Our clients actually prefer that we assign project managers with many years of experience.”
• Rich relationships. The U.S. economy increasingly is based on service, and much of the service sector is based on rela-tionships. The more seasoned the employee, the richer his Rolodex. “Take a senior banker who is rendering advice to big companies or wealthy individuals,” Van Horn says. “When that person goes, that relationship goes along with him or her.If you’re Company X and you lose that person, you’ve potentially lost a client.”
• Market mirrors. Employees aren’t the only ones who are aging; so are custo-mers. “You’re seeing organizations like Home Depot, Borders, and CVS actively recruiting older workers to match the experiences of their employees with the experiences of their customers,” says Eric Lesser, an associate partner in IBM’s Global Business Services Group.
• Motivation. Ditch the picture of retired boomers heading for the golf course and quilting circle. Recent studies from Merrill Lynch, AARP, and Rutgers University consistently find that 70 per-cent to 80 percent of boomers want to work past the traditional retirement age. Though money is a component in the wish to stay on the job, the overriding factors are intellectual and social. “Work allows people to express and challenge themselves, to make friends and keep friends,” says Dychtwald.
• A lifetime of learning. The myththat older workers are inflexible and uncreative simply doesn’t hold true. Economist David Galenson of the University of Chicago posits two types of creativity: conceptual innovation (new ideas that break the mold) and experimental innovation (new ideas that evolve from current practices). The former springs from unconventional approaches to a problem; the latter comes from a lifetime of observation. Companies need both, says Darren Carroll, the executive director of Eli Lilly’s new-ventures division. “New workers bring fresh perspectives and the latest techniques, but the accretive nature of knowledge, particularly in industries like ours, makes older workers valuable.”

Isn't this a powerful affirmation of all that we have been seeing with the Encore Generation? The secular business sector of America is waking up to this current Age Wave. Where is the church in this discovery process, and what, if anything can we learn from information like this? I would like for some of you who lead among Encore Generation folks to chime in by making some comments related to some of the following questions:

  • How should the church in America respond to the realities of older adult capacity in view of its mission?
  • How can the professional experience of the older adults in our congregations be leveraged for the expansion of God's Kingdom?
  • How can the church help leverage the success of older business professionals for significance in their second half?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Justice and Mercy

Micah 6:8 reads, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. " These two words, justice and mercy are often used throughout the scriptures. Jack Jezreel, the Executive Director of Just Faith Ministries tells the following fictitious story to illustrate the difference between justice and mercy.

One day a farmer was out in his field weeding his crops when he noticed of the distance in his creek what appeared to be a body in the water. He dropped what he was doing and immediately ran to see what was going on. When he arrived just seconds later he found that indeed it was the body of a man badly beaten and barely alive. He lifted the man out of the water and carried him into his house. He called a doctor who later came and treated this beaten man. The farmer allowed the man to stay in his home for several days until he was healthy enough to go on his way.

The next month, this same farmer was weeding his crops when he saw what appeared to be two bodies floating in the creek behind his property. Off he ran to discover that in fact now there were two badly beaten men barely alive. He managed as quickly as possible to get these two men into his house. Again he called for the doctor in town who came as fast as he could to give emergency medical care to these two men. After several days, these two men were healthy enough to go on their way.

The following month, the farmer was weeding his crops when he saw what appeared to be the bodies of three men in the creek...It was then, and only then that the farmer concluded that there was a problem up stream. He decided to not only nurse these men back to health, but to go upstream in an effort to get the root cause of this growing problem.

Jack uses this story to illustrate the importance of mercy, which in the story is giving much needed care to people who need it. All of us need to be involved in acts of mercy in behalf of others who are desperately in need of it. Justice though looks not only at the individual sufferers, but more importantly at the root cause of the suffering. In the case of the story, what is going on up stream. Justice attempts to deal with the reasons for why so many people suffer in similar ways. Justice looks for deep highly leveraged ways of helping lots of people at the same time with sustainable solutions.

I believe this is a powerful message for many Americans over 50 who are scaling down their careers and looking for ways of making the second half of their lives count for something really significant. Many of these people have invested 30 to 40 years in a career and have learned and accomplished a ton of professional expertise, relational capacity, and leadership ability that is just waiting to be leveraged for the Kingdom of God. Could it be that the church's vision and goals are simply too small for some of these folks. Many will readily serve in the church as greeters, ushers, deacons, Sunday School teachers, parking lot attendants, etc.

I have to believe that if the church can envision and release these people to solve some of the justice issues that are causing so much suffering in this world, we would see our churches, cities, world, and nation transformed in ways we've never seen. Bob Buford, the founder and current Chairman of the Board of Leaderhip network wrote Halftime in 1995 in which he gives practial advice for successful people to make a mid-course correction of their lives so that they can invest the rest of their lives in something significant. The influence of his book goes beyond measure. Bob, and all of us who work with Leadership Network often hear the personal stories of so many men and women who have re-ordered their priorities in such a way to make a significant differenc in the lives of others.

I just received Bob's latest musing from his online website. I have excerpted much of his article below. I think you will find it to be a good read. He writes about Chuck Proudfit, whose life was profoundly influenced by reading Halftime.

Paradigm shifts are always led by exceptional people who choose “the road less traveled.” They get out ahead. They incarnate an idea. They prove the possibility that others can then follow. And follow they do. The year after Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes, a feat considered humanly impossible, thirty-seven other runners had broken that barrier. The following year 300 runners had broken the four minute mile!

Halftime was released in January 1995. The idea of success to significance in life’s second half has been written about by others and taken up by quite a few working people, not just the exceptional folks I sought out to interview in Finishing Well. It is an idea that’s now beginning to be embodied and practiced. Just look around. Here’s one such story adapted from the July issue of The Halftime Report (click on www.halftime.org to subscribe. It’s free.)

“The book Halftime hit in me hard in my 30s,” confessed Cincinnati business consultant Chuck Proudfit, now 41. “I couldn’t get it out of my head. I decided that I wanted to tackle Halftime issues before I hit my 40s.”
“I’m a strategic thinker, and it was the strategic concept of significance versus success that really grabbed me,” Chuck said. “The world tells us there is a career path that makes us successful; Bob Buford taught me that God creates a calling that makes us significant.”
Building People

In 1995 Chuck founded his consulting firm, SKILLSOURCE®, “on a kitchen table with little more than a PC and a file folder.” His business model was equally simple: deliver top quality consulting to small businesses at an affordable price. His slogan? Building sales, building profits, building people. The Halftime philosophy stuck to that last category like a magnet to steel. “[After I became a Christian], I became intentional about how I could help my clients build into people. I discovered some of the executives I was working with had climbed the ladder and were miserable. Building into them was giving them permission to start dreaming about a calling instead of career. In some instances, it meant allowing themselves permission to be a little less successful from the profit and sales standpoints and more successful at building people. Bottom line? Many of those clients now spend more time at their kids’ ballgames.”

Fishpond Mentality

Chuck also modeled for his clients the investment potential of strategic charities.

“I build businesses, but the focus of my company’s charity is to build livelihoods — to help disadvantaged people in underdeveloped areas launch small businesses of their own. In partnership with an innovative non-profit organization called Self Sustaining Enterprises, my colleagues and I teach people how to fish and how to buy the fishpond! We call this sustainable philanthropy, and we teach clients they can do this, too.”

And clients are jumping into fishponds with a vigor they haven’t felt in years. “I’ve seen grown men weep because they begin to feel again — to tap into a part of their hearts they believed they had to choke off to be successful in business,” Chuck said.

A great success story is H. J. Benken Floral, Home and Garden, one of largest florist and greenhouses in the state of Ohio. Chuck encouraged CEO Mike Benken to develop a charity that celebrated what Benkin does best—showcasing the beauty and bounty of nature. On Valentine’s Day, the company now delivers roses to battered women living in shelters. Employees also host handicapped children at the Benken facility, where they see [glorious] flowers, carve pumpkins, go on hayrides — things the children have never done. “That’s marketplace ministry!” Chuck declared. But getting Benken employees in touch with local needs was just the beginning.

“I then approached Mike about expanding his reach. ... Nigeria, one of the places where I’m involved philanthropically, is a country of 130 million people with no food-preservation technology. I told Mike: ‘I want you to build a food dehydrator with materials available [in Nigeria] because we’re going to teach them to do it.’ ” Mike created a simple [sun-based] dehydrator “that will literally transform the agricultural economy of Nigeria.” But the physical transformation that emerges when you build into people can’t compete with the spiritual transformation. “Mike [returns from Nigeria] so spiritually touched that he commits his life to Christ. That’s how powerful this stuff is! It bridges the gap that we’ve created in our world between marketplace and ministry,” Chuck said.

An Amazing Paradigm Shift

Chuck is adamant that the integration of marketplace and ministry is the right model for kingdom building. “Most Christians go to church on Sunday and to work on Monday,” he said. “They live separation instead of integration. But when you give yourself permission to break down those barriers, you can become God’s servant in the marketplace right now! It’s an amazing paradigm shift from what the world tells us is success to what God tells us is significance. What [the book Halftime taught me] and what I’m preaching and teaching, through SKILLSOURCE®and my non-profit marketplace ministry called At Work on Purpose®, is to shift from the current mindset of marketplace here and ministry over there to the strategic reality that marketplace and ministry can walk hand in hand — seven days a week!”

Isn't that a great story? Don't you think that there are thousands if not ten thousands of men and women just like Chuck Proudfit and Mike Benken that have the capacity to launch all kinds of new ministries and programs with the real potential to change not just a few, but hundreds and thousands of lives in our communities and around the world? These two men are younger and still working in their careers, and yet they are making a huge difference in the Kingdom. Think about the men and women in their 50's and 60's that are either retiring from their careers completely or working less so that they can have even more time to invest in significant kingdom ministry.

You can subscribe to Bob's Active Energy Newsletter at www.activeenergy.net

There's an Encore in All of Us

If I have learned anything from a little over a year of research in this area, it is that the term "senior" is derrogatory, and not to be used any longer to designate people over 50. The Older Adult Ministry at Fullerton Evangelical Free Church has taken on a new name. Parade Magazine recently asked their readers to submit creative names for the senior adult in this modern day and age. Paul Sailhamer, a long time member of the church came up with Encore and submitted it to Parade. It didn't win the contest, but it won over the leadership of the Older Adult Ministry at the church and they are going with it.

I recently read an article online entitled Retirement or Encore? The article was written by Ron Crossland, who is the Vice Chair of Bluepoint Leadership Development. Interestingly enough, he selected this same word, Encore to depict the role that the boomers will play out the later years of their lives. Here is what he has to say:

What are we (boomers) going to do? Well, frankly, I tend to agree with Dychtwald, et.al, concerning their ideas that baby boomers are not going to stop working. They are just going to start changing the nature of how they view work, just like the younger generation is entering and engaging in the workforce with an altered view. O'Hara-Devereaux likes to think of the current age as the "Badlands" (meaning we are in-between the good old days and the glory days to come - seems like a theme I've been living my entire work life). She argues from a tanker sized collection of evidence that this age of confusion will work itself out over the next decade or so. I heard her speak at the HRPS annual meeting in Tucson recently, and I was impressed by her command of data and puzzled by some of her conclusions. Must mean I'm part of that Republik of the Old. But all this confab about what to do and how it will get done stimulated my mind to consider the following question: Am I going to retire before I do an encore? I mean, are you ready to just end your contribution to work, to the world, to your offspring, to society at large by engaging in some 30-year long recess? (Everyone keeps saying boomers are going to live well into their 80s, 90s, and 100s - pick your pundit for the details.)

Encore means "an additional performance in response to audience demand." It means performing one final act or series of acts that let those who have admired your work see that your work is worth admiring. It's often thought of as a command performance. Some artists (aren't you one?) simply repeat one of their favorites - others perform something that was not in the original set. I really prefer the French saying (doesn't this language just have the best phrases for everything) "de l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace," which means "audacity, more audacity, and ever more audacity." An encore of audacity.

That's where I believe a number of us Boomers are going. We are going to boom once again in our third adulthood (right after our second midlife crisis). We are going to work more casually, work in a different industry, work for different purposes, but work we will. Yeah, some of it will be driven by the fact that we can't stop just yet because we are anxious about money. And yeah, some of it will be driven by the fact that our spouses will not be able to tolerate our company 100% of the time. And yeah, it will be driven by the fact that recess is fun, only for a while.

But I believe it will be driven mostly by the fact that we aren't finished making a contribution - that there's an encore in all of us. And boomers, today all the world is your stage, so my advice - "de l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace."

Here is the link to the article: http://www.centerpointforleaders.org/newsletters/jun06.pdf

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Wedge, a Powerful Combination of Forces

Recent research has revealed that "new older adults" in America are seeking ways to reinvent themselves so that they can give back to their communities. Churches are awakening to the fact that the new, high capacity older adult wants to serve, but in ways that will make a difference in the lives of others both inside and outside of the church. The menu selections for church involvement have been too few and uninspiring for many of them. The churches that create fresh, new ways of connecting this desire with an abundance of opportunities to serve will unleash older adults to make a huge impact in the world in which they live.

Leadership Network is identifying and connecting churches that are changing these current realities, and seeking ways to welcome older adults back into the mainstream of life and service in their congregations. They are also inventing ways for the new seniors to leverage what they have learned through life experiences and professional careers in order to maximize their impact in their church, their community and their world.

The emergent church is becoming increasingly more committed to serving and making an impact on the community. Leadership Network is close to completing its 5th Leadership Community of Externally Focused Churches. Each community has consisted of small teams from about a dozen churches at a time. These churches measure their success on the basis of not only what happens within the walls of the church, but also on what happens in the surrounding communities where they serve. They ask the question of themselves, “If our church were to close its doors today and cease to exist would anybody in the community weep. Would anybody in the community notice? Would anybody in the community care?” These 60 churches are changing the way people think of church, and their influence is rapidly spreading throughout the nation. They are daily inventing new ways of being a blessing to the people in their cities by helping them meet the raw needs of people, and by partnering in new ways with other churches and community based organizations.

Simultaneous to churches in America redesigning themselves to more effectively serve and make a difference in their communities; nearly 4 million Americans every year for the next 18 years will turn 60. Many of them are saying that they want to re-orient their work and their lives so that they can serve their communities. Leadership Network would like to help position the Church in America to effectively mobilize this huge labor force for community transformation in the communities all over our country. We will seek to do this by forming new Leadership Communities in the area of Innovative Older Adult Ministry. I will serve in this new effort in the role of Leadership Community Director.

In this next year we will attempt to form two new Leadership Communities. These communities will each consist of 3-4 leaders from about a dozen churches that have significant ministries to and through older adults over 50. Each church makes a commitment to gather together in community 4 times over a two year period. Leadership Network hosts and facilitates the gatherings, which are very fast-paced three-day colaborative learning sessions. The sessions are designed to bring the very best contributions of all the leaders in the room to the surface to create a sum that is much greater than the individual parts. As you might imagine, the community of leaders with similar bold objectives leads to some strong connections, to a strong sense of group accountability for the goals and strategic plans they form for their individual ministries. At the end of the two-year Leadership Community, we ask that the participating churches become teaching churches for other churches in their region who want to benefit from what they have learned.

In Newport Beach there is a notorious beach that is known as the Wedge. The entrance to the Newport Harbor is formed by a rock jetty that marks the end of the Newport Beach. The angle of the jetty in relation to the swells of the ocean creates "the wedge", which often results in a massive, unpredictable wave as high as 20 feet that will hurl a body surfer in ways you wouldn't believe. It's a sight to behold. Only the most daring of body surfers dare to enter the water when the conditions are optimal for the Wedge. You can get a look at the wedge if you click on this link: http://www.surfline.com/travel/surfmaps/surfspot.cfm?id=672 .

I think there is a powerful combination of forces gathering in our culture with this current Age Wave that is hitting the shores of our nation. Not only are we seeing masses of healthy, mobile adults moving into their 60's (4 million each year for the next 18 years), but we are also learning that they want to invest the rest of their lives in giving back to their communities. If the church can harness the incredible power of this forming "wedge" and direct it toward the expansion of the kingdom, there is no limit to what we could happen in the next several years. Leadership Network would like to be a part of seeing this happen, and we feel that the Leadership Communities can be an accelerator in the process.

Interesting Facts about Baby Boomers

Approximately 77 million babies were born in the U.S. during the “boom” years of 1946-1964. (US Dept. of Health & Human Services)

In January 2006, the first boomers will turn 60. In 2011, the oldest baby boomers will turn 65, and, on average can expect to live to 83.

One in four Americans is a baby boomer. This is the largest population group in U.S. history.

A baby boomer turns 50 every 18 seconds and 60 every 7 seconds.

Baby boomers comprise 28% of the U.S. population, nearly 3 in 10 Americans.

Half of all baby boomers and 2/3 of younger boomers have children under 18 living in their household.

More than one third of boomers care for an older parent. (AARP)

Boomers are concentrated in metropolitan areas, as opposed to rural counties. Regionally, they are more highly concentrated in New England, the Mid-Atlantic States the upper Great Lake states and the Pacific Northwest. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Baby Boomers and Volunteering:

Nearly a third of all boomers – comprising some 25.8 million people – volunteered for a formal organization in 2005. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

At 33.2%, the volunteer rate for baby boomers is the highest of any generational age group, and more than four percentage points above the national average of 28.8%. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

A typical boomer volunteer serves 51 hours a year, or approximately one hour a week. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The percentage of retired baby boomers who volunteered increased steadily, from approximately 25% in 2002 to approximately 30% in 2004. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Volunteering tends to peak at mid-life, around the current age of baby boomers, and then decline slightly; declining further among the oldest old (typically 75+).

The biggest single inducement for baby boomers to volunteer is being asked by someone with whom one has an established relationship.

Baby boomers are less likely than older age groups to volunteer out of a sense of duty or obligation and more likely to volunteer as part of a social interaction.

Baby boomers are more likely to volunteer as a result of social, self development, self-esteem, or leisure-focused motivations. Episodic, familiar, community-based opportunities are also preferred.

Four out of five boomers see work as playing a role in their retirement years, with only 20% anticipating retiring and not working at all (AARP):

Of U.S. workers over 45, 69% plan to work in some capacity during retirement, with only 28% expecting not to work at all.

More than 75% of workers 45+ feel that work is important to their self-esteem.

(Research taken from the 2004 “Reinventing Aging – Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement” report, Harvard School of Public Health & MetLife Foundation Initiative on Retirement and Civic Engagement, unless otherwise cited.)

Older Adults Want to Give Back to their Communities

MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures sponsored a survey that was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, from March to April of 2005, and involving 1,000 people age 50 to 70. The results are very encouraging and they affirm that people in this cohort not only bring great capacity for community service and kingdom work, but they have a strong desire to do so as well.

Anne Kiehle recently was asked to be the Lay Minister to Senior Adults at Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas. As I read through this report I couldn’t stop thinking about Anne and what she is doing. She recently retired from her job as a Superintendent of Public Schools in San Antonio. She has PhD from Texas A&M in Leadership and Educational Administration. Oak Hills is a church of about 4500 and 900 of them are over 55. In a recent email I received from her she wrote, “About a year and a half ago, I retired as a public school administrator—the last 8 as superintendent of schools. It was a wonderful career and I feel like I was able to touch many lives in a positive and caring way. But, I also heard the Lord call me to ministry and here I am for now. Frustrated at times, but confident the Lord will move in the direction he wants for his kingdom.”

When you look at the results of this survey, it is heartening to know that there are a very large number of people like Anne with training, expertise, and a sense that God is calling them to what may well be the most significant years of their lives.

If you download these files, you can read (pp.6-8) a good executive summary of the survey results. I will pull a few things from that and mention a few other bits of information that might connect with what we are doing with churches.

“The survey finds that this group of boomers, age 50-59 is thinking seriously about giving back to their communities, as are their contemporaries who are just a few years older”

“The relationship between work and retirement isn’t what it used to be, i.e., mutually exclusive. This new survey of Americans age 50 to 70 finds that they do not expect to, or want to, put their feet up and not work at all in retirement.”

“Fully half of all adults age 50-70 say they are interested in taking jobs now or in the future to help improve the quality of life in their communities. Leading edge baby boomers are especially interested; with 6 in 10 (58%) indicating they would consider taking jobs now or in the future that would serve their communities. Twenty-one percent say they are very interested in taking a paying job in one of seven types of organizations or programs that serve their communities (and 37 percent say they are somewhat interested).” The seven types of organizations cover education, health care, helping those in need, working with youth, civic activism, arts and culture, and the environment.

“These findings break new ground, highlighting the broad interest among Americans age 50 to 70—and especially among leading-edge baby boomers—in giving back to their communities through work now and through work in retirement. Despite critiques suggesting baby boomers are self-centered and focused on material things, these findings expose a vein of commitment to service that stretches from now through the end of their lives.”

“There is overwhelming interest in finding specific types of work in retirement that would serve the community and people in need. Among Americans who may work in retirement (53% of all adults age 50-70):

· More than three-quarters (78%) are interested in working to help the poor, the elderly, and other people in need.
· Fifty-six percent are interested in dealing with health issues, whether working in a hospital or with an organization fighting a particular disease.
· Fifty-five percent are interested in a teaching or other educational position.
· Forty-five percent say they are interested in working in a youth program.

“After working lives that stretch 35 years and more, why would Americans age 50 to 70 want to continue working? The incentives are varied, from personal satisfaction to the need for additional income, from the desire to help their community to the desire to help those in need. Four aspects of work are very important to most adults age 50-70 who are considering working in retirement:

· Six in ten (59%) say staying involved with other people is very important in attracting them to a job in retirement.
· Fifty-seven percent say the job giving them a sense of purpose.
· About half (52%) say the job providing additional income.
· Nearly half (48%) say the job providing the opportunity to help improve the quality of life in their community.”

There is a collection of commentaries from a broad range of perspectives on this downloadable report, but the one that I think has the most value for the church in America is the one written by Robert Egger of D.C. Central Kitchen. I have excerpted some of what he says in his commentary entitled, “A Silver Lining in the Graying of America.”

“In the minutes just past midnight on this upcoming New Year’s Eve, the oldest of America’s baby boomers will begin to celebrate their 60th birthdays. Over the next 18 years, the rest of the nation’s 77 million baby boomers will reach the same milestone and begin the latter phase of their life’s journey”

“We can plan to capitalize on one of the greatest transfers of wealth in the history of the world—the wealth of experience that this generation has and is willing to share through active volunteerism in communities big and small throughout this country. Retired or semi-retired boomers will have much to contribute, but, to be frank; most non-profits aren’t ready to make the most of their experience. To get ready—and there’s no time to waste—nonprofit organizations must:

Conduct a complete review of current volunteer opportunities.
Stop and really think about how to adapt programs, strategies, outcomes, and even hours of operation to boomers’ needs.
Invest in a new kind of employee—a volunteer manager.
Prepare for a future when nonprofit managers are full-time or part-time volunteers.
Rethink nonprofit leadership opportunities for this coming wave of talent”

“Boomers, particularly those who came of age in the 1960’s, will seek to finish the job that was heralded by the giants who called them to action in their youth. Whether it was President Kennedy’s challenge for them to “ask not,” Dr. King’s inspirational dream, or John Lennon’s call to imagine, boomers’ long and often self-focused sojourn can lead them to a great destiny.”

“This is the richest, most educated generation in history. Thanks to the sacrifices of those who went before, boomers have benefited handsomely from being raised in one of the freest and most open societies in history. Now is their chance to assume the mantle of ‘the greatest generation.’ The nonprofit sector can be the conduit. Let us be ready.”