As I continue some thoughts on the sustainability of CLC, I will delve into another aspect of the arriving retirees to our area of Sussex County which is their age. Historically folks retired at 65 plus or minus 5 years. However, it appears that with our economy this number may be increasing which further exacerbates the time crunch.
What we have is a time of availability of folks bounded by their retirement and permanent moving to the area and then their departure either by moving to be closer to family, moving to a retirement complex, a nursing home or, of course, death. During this span of time lots of things happen which effect a person’s interest in the church and their ability to participate in the life of the congregation. Initially, most folks are anxious to shed all involvements and tend to share the idea of “I’ve already done that, I’m ready for a rest.” Folks need to grow through this period of new found freedom until they are ready to commit themselves to the work of the church. Keep in mind that these folks are the church; it’s not them serving another entity – they are the entity. It is through their participation that both they and the church are supported. Their own spirituality will evolve and grow from their involvement.
So the current leadership of the church needs to develop plans to have the church provide resources, programs, training etc. to accelerate the time folks take to move from being visitor to active member, i.e., members which participate and also provide service and help to those in need. For the sake of discussion, consider the following steps:
visitor to attending member to participating member to server/helper to leader to one with institutional wisdom to departure.
If, on average, the cycle is 15 years long, then, on average, each phase would be 2 ½ years long. Since some folks will never move beyond just attending worship services, it is imperative that those who will become leaders grow into that role as soon as possible. I suggest that we already have some ideas for welcoming folks and even for following through to their becoming members. However, once members, it is not well defined how to nurture personal growth. Perhaps a portion of the plans and goals for all the ministries and teams of Community LC should relate to how to nurture participation and growth of all members. In other words, how to help folks become true Disciples of Christ.
Please share your thoughts.