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I recently preached a sermon from 2 Timothy 4:6 titled, Finish Well where the Apostle Paul at the end of his life stated, ” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Stating the words of that verse with integrity is the goal for every believing person.

Someone asked me how long I spent on the preparation of that sermon. I think I perceived that they were in a complimentary mood, not critical. “Seventeen years!” I said.  I have been thinking about this subject and putting my efforts into leading older adults toward finding a God-honoring balance in their life since I began my ministry in Spirit Lake, Iowa in 2002. Having a larger than normal percentage of age 50+ in that congregation, I saw a new challenge emerge in my ministry,  helping older adults to finish well.

The Encore Generation Team

I immediately began looking for help as I formulated a strategy for ministry to older adults in my Spirit Lake church and one of the first people I was directed to was Dr. Amy Hanson. I describe her as a perky, young, and extremely gifted gerontologist. She wrote the book, Baby Boomers and Beyond and she is an excellent speaker and devoted Christian. Amy and I have continued to connect at a professional level as well as becoming friends in the process. Now we are partnering in a new venture called Encore Generation and we are happy to announce that we have launched what we call Encore Table. The third person of our team is Pastor Sam Benson who serves with me at Live Oaks Community Church as my Executive Pastor. Sam brings 52 years of pastoral ministry and leadership experience and along the way he has pioneered several innovative ministries that also served the church and pastors. He understands pastors and church dynamics! Sam and Amy and I form a dynamic team! Thank you God for bringing us together.

How We Can Help

The Encore Generation ministry is dedicated to assisting and supporting church leaders in how to best connect with Boomers and beyond and then unleash them in a meaningful and productive way for greater Kingdom work. We want to work with pastors and church leaders that are looking for ways to reach the age 50+ group in their church and community so we have created a two day face to face experience where Sam and Amy and I lead a round table discussion; we call Encore Table. We can host up to five churches with up to three representatives from each church. We guide the churches toward creating a strategy to be put in place back home and then we offer three follow-up coaching calls to help them keep moving toward the accomplishment of their goals.

Encore Table

We held our first two day Encore Table in early May and it was a tremendous first experience. Our idea worked! Churches from San Antonio, TX,  Knoxville, TN, a northern Chicago suburb and a church from the southern suburbs of Kansas City sent leaders and each of them made great strides toward the end result reaching and unleashing the older adults in their congregations. We hold Encore Table at our church (Live Oaks Community Church) in The Villages, Florida. Our church has spent the last eight years refining ideas and we are happy to share what we are learning. We meet on Tuesday and Wednesday so we are able to invite Encore Table participants to observe our Filler Factory which engages between 50 and 100 people every week as they create items that go into Operation Christmas Child boxes. We are also able to showcase The Villages which is “Exhibit A” on what active older adults are looking for in their “Encore” of life.

Join Us!

We have three more Encore Tables scheduled for this Fall and Winter. They are on the following dates: Oct 8-9, Jan 21-22, and Mar 24-25. There is a fee for attending but it is the same fee whether a church sends one individual or three. We encourage them to send more than one. They can get more information by contacting me at chrisholck@me.com.

I believe that the time is right for Encore Table. Leaders don’t want another lecture or conference with another three ring binder full of notes that will sit on the shelf. They need a strategy worked out in a collaborative setting and guided by people with expertise and vision. They also need to “sustain the drive” if you will allow a football metaphor so by offering three follow-up coaching calls, they are more likely to take the strategy from paper to people.

I am thrilled to finally get to this launch point of a ministry that I think will grow churches and the Kingdom. Please pray for this new ministry and if you would like your church to participate, either you or one of your key leaders can contact me.

 

One of the descriptive terms given to the Boomer generation is the “Silver Tsunami.” A tidal wave of silver haired Americans has been massing in the distance for some time and it appears that it is now crashing on shore. The big retirement wave was noticeably delayed by the economic recession that came early in this millennium but now with 10,000 people every day in our nation turning 73, 72, 71, 70, and every year down to age 55, the wave is noticeable and formidable. 

IMG_2151They are ready. Will churches unleash them for greater Kingdom work?

These baby boomers are finally transitioning to the empty nest and at long last, retirement or some modified version of retirement. What is the biggest change? They have more discretionary time. Time for what? That’s up to them! Discretionary time is code for flexibility. No longer tied down by a job and a limited vacation schedule, they are free to go. They go on bucket list trips; they go visit children and grandchildren, they go “out” with friends, they go to the doctor more often, some go to their other home,  and for sure they go play, but one place they go to less often is – church. 

Pastors are noticing not only their infrequent attendance but their unwillingness to say yes to serving and leading. Boomers don’t want to be locked in. They want to stay flexible so they can go! Pastors can respond to this in a few different ways. They can attempt to guilt them into coming more often or serving more regularly, but guilt rarely works. They can give up on them, declaring them “has beens” with regard to their usefulness to the church or they can recognize that although their new age and stage creates changes in their lifestyle, it doesn’t necessarily  change their pursuit of God and their contribution to Kingdom work.

Unless pastors are wise about this paradigm shift, it may not end well. Follow this logic: Boomers travel more and attend less because they can,  but also because they feel devalued at their church. How did that happen? Perhaps they feel that way because the church gives every appearance that it has transitioned to the next generation. The programming, the music, the promotional videos, the sermon illustrations etc. It seems obvious that older adults are no longer on the priority list of the leadership team at their church. Someone decided at a high level meeting that the hope for the church’s future is wrapped up in reaching the next generation. That may be a partially true statement, but at the risk of marginalizing the age 55+ generations??? Can we find the “both-and” where we value all generations? Yes, I believe we can and we most definitely should!

My generation (I’m a Baby Boomer) has a lot to offer; discretionary time, life experiences, Godly wisdom, valuable skill sets, and oh that other thing all pastors do want – money.  We have so much to offer but we want is to be recognized as a valuable part of the church and not as a life group within the church that has seen its better days and now simply needs to be pacified with bus trips, Bible studies and occasional hymn sings. Maybe our parents were okay with those “senior” activities, but we are not. We want to be used of God. We want to live a life of significance. We want to leave a legacy. We desire to live a missional lifestyle. We want to finish well.

And did I mention there are lots of us? Thus the image of the tsunami. Let’s harness the power of the silver tsunami and strengthen local churches everywhere by being prepared for what/who  is now coming on shore.

 

 

 

 

What? I haven’t written a blog entry since July of 2015! I’m rather embarrassed but you see, I’ve been busy in my laboratory. I have continued to look at my generation and the culture around me under the microscope and there have been innumerable discoveries. I have had the perfect labs in which  to test theories and conduct experiments – they are called The Villages, Florida and Live Oaks Community Church.

I updated my bio prior to writing this blog and realized that the size of the church that I lead has grown from 300 to over 800 in the almost four years since my last entry.  A successful capital campaign allowed our church to purchase land and open the first phase of our new campus. We held our first service in August of 2017 and the church has more than doubled since that time.

To use the term laboratory makes me sound like an aloof theoretician when in reality I prefer the image of a passionate investigator and  trailblazer in the field of older adult ministry. I get to experiment with  ministry ideas that I believe will find success. A few don’t but most ideas have fueled the personal growth of the older adults I serve and the church they are a part of. I believe that the discoveries made in this unique monogenerational environment, where almost everyone is age 50+, will transfer to “normal” churches that are multigenerational.

I will only bullet point the major takeaways from my seven years of leading Live Oaks Community Church.

What are the distinctives of a ministry that reaches and unleashes Boomers?

  • First and foremost, older adults need to feel valued not marginalized.
  • A successful older adult ministry offers a number of dimensions, of which spiritual nurturing is of utmost importance.
  • The need for community in this age group should also be addressed.
  • The number one distinctive is not what you might expect. It is not primarily about choosing the right music, nor is it about the age and stage issues that they face. Most of all, a ministry to and for Boomers should be missional. They need to be mobilized to use their time, talents and treasures for the Kingdom of God.
  • Boomers want to leave a legacy and live a life of significance.
  • Give them permission to play. They have a lot of things on their bucket list with grandchildren at the top of most lists but they need help in finding a God-honoring balance between play and pray. That balance is expressed in the motto of our church: Play Hard! Pray Hard! Finish Well! 

Our 7th anniversary was last week as we remembered our first service held on 2/19/12.IMG_4670.jpeg

A Retirement Vow

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I will never shovel snow again!

Things you typically hear from Florida retirees:

“I will never shovel snow again!”

The other statements I hear down here in Florida are:

“I sold the lawn mower!” Enough said.

“No more neckties and only in emergencies will I wear long pants!”

Apparently, “No more baking!” because they say the only thing not used in a Villager’s home is the oven.

“No more alarm clock!”

There are some vows on the positive side of the ledger that sound a lot like the same New Year’s Resolutions that we have been making for years, e.g. eat healthier, exercise more, but what  I hear most are declarations of what the Encore Generation  has said good-bye to.

I watch and I wonder when it comes to the faith portion of their life, did they leave behind church altogether  or just vow to stay away from all church committees? Did they decide to refrain from involvement in organized faith communities (code for church or small groups)  or did they retire from the  practice of their personal faith altogether?

Retirement, especially if it involves relocation creates opportunities to start over and for vows to be made! What vow would you make with God as you transition in life to a season where you have more discretionary time, more aquired skills, more Godly wisdom and knowledge (I pray this is true after a lifetime of following Him), and more worldly resources that you have saved up.

What is your vow? How about something like, “I’ll do all I can while I can with all I’ve got!  For Jesus!!!”

Put it into your own words. What do you suggest for a retirement vow?

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I was  with friends recently who are two years away from retirement. They have lived in a number of places as a result of job opportunities and each time they have moved, they made finding a new church and getting involved amongst their highest priorities.They are committed to the Lord and the local church but they had some honest questions as they looked into their retired future.

1) How should I serve in my church when I retire?

2) How can I even get involved when I plan to be gone so much?

They are both great questions. I love that they are being asked. It shows a sincere intentionality about life and ministry. This is someone who truly wants to finish well. The first question will be saved for a later blog. It has to do with with discovering gifts and passions. The second question needs to be answered by both the individual and the church. I speak as a pastor.

One of the true trademarks of the Boomer generation, in contrast to their parents and the former generations, is their mobility. They own time shares, go cruising, have lake homes, like to escape to favorite getaway spots and have bucket lists of places they have not yet been. As money allows, they will continue to travel. Even if they don’t travel for pleasure, they will certainly  travel to see family! Most likely their children and grandchildren live in different places so they take turns traveling to see them. They may also have elderly parents who need regular visits as they age. Add  all their necessary and pleasureful travel  together and they will be lucky to be “home”  and able to attend their “home church” half of the time. Include some sickness and periods of inactivity due to surgical rehabilitation. Throw in some  bad weather Sundays and  maybe an occasional tee time and  … well, you get the point.

Churches need to understand the Boomers and they need to accept the Boomer mobility factor as the new normal. Pastors  shouldn’t make them feel guilty about their travel or lay a guilt trip on them for “not being more committed to their local church.” One pastor told me he decided to hand his Boomer travelers a book and say, “Enjoy your time away. Read this and when you return, let’s get together over coffee and discuss it.” Much better than, “You’re going away again?!’

Churches need to create short term opportunities for Boomers so they can volunteer on the days they know they will be in town. Don’t ban them from leadership; avail them by either allowing them to Skype into meetings when they are on the road and/or simply by accepting that they will miss a meeting now and then. Create service opportunities like our church does with the Operation Christmas Child Filler Factory. The “factory” is open every Tuesday and Thursday and people come when it fits their schedule. Our people don’t all travel at once so we seem to have lots of volunteers show up each week – it’s just a different group of people each time. Mission trips should be planned well in advance so that Boomers can get them on their calendar. They might travel with the group or they might meet the group at the destination but many of them do want to travel with a purpose. Work with them to help make that happen.

Small groups? Absolutely!! Perfect attendance isn’t likely so we build our groups a little bigger with 14-18 on the roster. That way we don’t cancel when two or three couples are gone. They continue to meet weekly and enough people are present to create a good group dynamic. Leaders travel too so they need to have a backup or apprentice who can take over.  Many older adults are involved in  mentoring relationships which is perfect.  Disciple making is easier to reschedule because only two or three people are involved.

Retiring Boomers – Don’t use your travel as an excuse! Don’t stop using your gifts and talents because you don’t want to be tied down. Find a way to serve when you are in town. You have more discretionary time. Use wise discretion in how you choose to use that time.

Churches with Boomers in them – Find ways to engage the Boomers in purposeful ministry. If you don’t they will become more and more disconnected from the church. They may decide, “All the church wants is my money.” They may go elsewhere to find outlets for  their urge to volunteer. Most likely, the Rotary Club or Garden Club or school reading program will take their volunteer time whenever they can give it. Let’s not miss out on the Kingdom capacity of this unusually large segment of believers. 

Finish Well!

Chris Holck

Pastor of Live Oaks Community Church and President, Encore Generation

Have you ever heard someone in the church say “Let the younger ones do it?” Have you ever thought it yourself? What prompts such a statement?

Honestly I don’t hear it much any more from Christians who are retired but it was spoken enough in the past that most people reading this know that it is a stereotype hanging over older adults today. Where did that attitude come from?

Burn Out is one possibility. “I was the church chairman for 16 years with just the mandatory years off in between terms to satisfy the By-Laws. I got us through a rough time with the pastor leaving and the remodeling project. I did it because they kept asking me; now I’ve done my part, so let someone else do it.”

Martyrdom is another possibility. “I taught 2nd grade Sunday School for 38 years. I missed two Sundays a year except for when I had back surgery and then I was out for three weeks in row until they agreed to carry me up that flight of stairs to the Sunday School room. I loved it but it’s time to be done.”

Necessity was a reason some served. “Seemed like I was the only guy who could fix things and would show up for work days, so they made me a Trustee and never let me leave. I think I have more than paid my dues!”

For a variety of motivations (many of them poor) people have served in churches until they lost their joy. When they empty nested or retired or relocated, they now had “valid excuses” to say “no” when asked to serve, even if they weren’t being asked to teach all year long, or chair the congregational meetings or organize every work project.  Nevertheless, they began to hide behind reasons like, “We want to start traveling.” or “We want to spend more time with the grandkids.” or “I’m not as strong as I used to be.”   They said no to everything and then they said, “I think we should let the younger ones do it.”

I live in a place where every resident has relocated. They either sold the home up north (or a few sold homes farther south)  or they go back and forth depending on the thermometer. They left the church they served all those years and now they get to start over. True motivations show themselves easily. Is their love for the Lord, their acknowledgement of the gifts He has given them and their desire to keep investing those talents until “the end” going to propel them to keep looking for ways to serve God and His kingdom? Or are they going to hide in their cleverly devised Christian version of a  “witness relocation program” where no one knows they used to chair committees, play the piano, head up the serving groups or preach at the nursing home? Will they hide or will they step forward as they start over in a new place?

We all the know the right answer and I am glad to say that I see a lot more “put me in coach” attitudes than I do, ”I’ll just sit over here and watch.” Advice for those moving toward retirement years – Make sure you are abiding in the Vine and serving for the right reasons, and then you will be more likely to run the whole race instead of quitting three quarters of the way to the finish line.

Remember, If you’re not dead, you’re not done!

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“Don’t put me out to pasture,  turn the pasture into a ministry center!
I recently ran across that quote which I heard at least five years ago, but now it feels prophetic!  These are pictures of the pasture/property we have purchased so that we can build our first phase of our new campus. We have been referring to our first phase as the “Ministry Center.” How incredible is that?!

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“Being put out to pasture” is a phrase that has worked its way into our language to indicate that our time of productivity is over. The plow horse isn’t what it used to be so it is relinquished to lazy days of meandering in green pastures. We refer to people who leave their job as being “put out to pasture.” We lose our health or vitality and are “put out to pasture.” We stop teaching Sunday School and are “put out to pasture.” A pitcher loses his arm strength and he is “put out to pasture.” We retire and move to Florida and “are put out to pasture.”

I live and minister in the world’s largest retirement community – The Villages, FL. With over 600 holes of golf, over 75 pools and more than 150 pickleball courts, this place is the world’s largest recreation center. There are nearly 2500 clubs to join and you can always find a neighbor or  friend to join you for an evening of conversation or games. There is plenty of playing that goes on but the people I meet want more than play time. Our church credo is “Play hard! Pray hard! Finish well!”  It’s about balance. It’s about living a lifestyle that honors God and pure hedonism, that is a life lived solely for selfish pleasures, does not honor the God who gave you that life and those talents to invest.

The Christians I meet here  and run into from other retirement pockets around the country are not “headed for the pasture.” They are saying, “What’s next God?!” I love it! I get to lead older adults who have more time, more knowledge and wisdom, more understanding of how God wired them, a statistically longer life and higher expectations for sustained good health, and a strong desire to serve. That is why we are building a Ministry Center. So we can gather and mobilize older adults in, around and beyond The Villages with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. That is our ministry focus.

A bunch of old people who came to Florida to do nothing – I don’t think so! They are headed for the pasture alright, but that’s because the pasture is being turned  into a Ministry Center. Don’t cut older adults short. At Live Oaks Community Church we like to say, “If you’re  not dead, you’re not done!”

If you would like to read more about my experiences in The Villages and as the pastor of a unique mono-generational church and what it means to “Finish Well”, then start clicking.

First click on this Facebook entry and you will land on my WordPress Blog site. Once there, you will see in the right hand column or at the bottom of the post, Click Here To Follow. If you click on that you will receive emails notifications when a new blog post is created. I hope to write one per week so you will not be swamped with my emails.

I understand that not all of my Facebook friends have an interest in this unique world in which I live and serve, but we are all headed toward older age and we all certainly know someone older who we could better understand and encourage as a result of these writings. I hope you will receive some food for your soul as well. Give it a try and of course, you can always unsubscribe.

I enjoy writing and chronicling my experiences and teachable moments and I like to add pictures.  I know that every reader has limited time so I pledge to make it worth your while and not too long!

Today’s picture is the best moment from my recent vacation to our other home – Okoboji. It just so happens that the newest resident of Okoboji, Iowa is my beautiful granddaughter, Lily. I don’t know how I could leave but I am back in Florida and looking forward to all that summer brings here.

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Love at first sight

There are a few reasons why you need to see The Villages to understand it. With 110,000 residents, the sheer size is quite astounding. Everything is supersized with 603 holes of golf, 76 pools, 150 pickleball courts, 2200 clubs to join etc., so having over 50,000 golf carts that can traverse over 100 miles of golf cart trails is all of the sudden, not so surprising.  There are golf cart communities and then there is The Villages where people describe a good day as “a day I don’t have to drive  my car.”

Part of the developer’s genius was designing a community where everything would be accessible by golf cart. Of course you can use your own golf cart on any of the golf courses which is nice since your own golf cart can be personalized with music, ball washers, GPS devices for measuring distance to the hole, coolers, supplies of golf balls as well as other accessories that wouldn’t be a part of a cart provided by the course. But beyond getting to and around the golf courses, there are many other places that can be accessed on your golf cart; banks, grocery stores, restaurants, movie theatres, big box stores, hospitals and doctors to name a few. Why wouldn’t you use your golf cart? Whether you get 50 mpg in your gas variety or you just plug in the umbilical cord to the electric models, it is a very economical decision.

So can you go to church on a golf cart? There are presently nine churches accessible by golf cart. Live Oaks Community Church will be the tenth! Will people really come to church on a golf cart? Won’t they be too dressed up? Casual is the key!  Aren’t they in a hurry? They are retired and have no kids to get ready! Don’t they want to go out for lunch after church? They can do that on the golf cart too with over 100 dining choices connected to the multi-modal trail system. Not everyone will come on a golf cart but Villagers would like to have that option available to them.

Will people really come to church on a golf cart? We thought we knew the answer to the question but the answer became abundantly clear at our last two Easter Sunrise Services. We rented the Polo Grounds which is in the middle of The Villages and is golf cart accessible and as you can see in the picture – they came on their golf carts. Hundreds of golf carts came pre-dawn and some of them stayed in their golf carts for the service while others moved into the grandstand for the service.

Easter Sunrise Service at Polo Grounds

Easter Sunrise Service at Polo Grounds

They came because they could and we learned a lesson that would inform our future. If at all possible, find a location that is golf cart accessible!! 

We give thanks to God for His provision of a property that although not in The Villages (across the street) it is golf cart accessible. That is a very rare scenario that probably will not happen again so we are thrilled to have this opportunity. In fact, our plans are to have a drive-in outdoor worship experience for people in golf carts. Weird? Not in The Villages! A future blog entry will talk more about our strategy to reach people through this unique ministry strategy.

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It has been awhile! A couple of years to be exact. The best excuse I can come up with is, “I’ve been busy” but that is kind of lame in a world full of busy people. Let me try another – I’ve been waiting for the story to unfold. The story is of a church seeking to live out the new paradigm of older adult ministry that I was thinking, talking and praying about for years. The story is far from finished but it has enough history now that I feel like I’m ready to start telling the story.

Kathleen and I moved to The Villages, Florida at the beginning of 2012 and in the beginning there was “us four and now more.” We advertised, we prayed and we cultivated relationships even before we moved so that by the time we had our first “Once a Month Church” service in Feb 2012, there were about 20 of us who felt led to work together toward the establishment of a new kind of church.  A church that was mono-generational because that was the predominant mission field we were called to and a church that was aiming at the “young old.”  We progressed from once a month services to twice a month and in October of 2012 we began meeting weekly for worship. We moved quickly beyond 100 and then experienced 200 and if everyone showed up on the same Sunday, (not gonna happen) we would have nearly 350 people together who call Live Oaks Community Church their home – at least for part of the year.

We became an “official” church in March of 2014, meaning that we are autonomous to the point of making our own governing decisions. One of those decisions was to enter into a partnership with Elim Care so that we could develop a campus together that physically attaches the church to the Care Center. What once was just an “out there idea” is now moving toward reality. We recently purchased 25 acres along with Elim and we are working on the details of how it can best be developed.

Kathleen and I love living in and serving The Villages and the surrounding area in Central Florida. I know that one person has found his encore. I feel as though my whole life was a prelude to this opportunity to serve God in such a unique setting. This is the best saved for last and He’s not done yet. I will attempt to bring regular Blog posts from this point forward that will add depth to the story that God is writing. I will look forward to your feedback and questions. I invite you to look at the Tab titled, “What and Who is Encore Generation” for an update on my ministry and personal life. Lots has been going on – thus the busy excuse.

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