Earlier this week I led a workshop for a national gathering of pastors. My subject, as you might guess, was church ministry with people in the third third of life. My workshop was entitled, “Unlocking the Third Third Potential of Your Church: How to get started helping those age 55 and over live fruitful lives as disciples of Jesus.” I was pleasantly surprised to have a standing-room-only crowd, which suggested to me, “This stuff really matters to pastors and churches.”
Before I started speaking, I asked those who had gathered what they most wanted to get out of the workshop. Some wanted biblical and theological insights. Others were looking for new ways to think about ministry with older adults. But the majority of pastors were eager to get practical guidance. They wanted tools to help them get going in service to their third third folk. They were looking for hands-on ways for their church to grow in this crucial ministry.
In my workshop, I did provide biblical/theological framing for this work as well as new ways to think about third third ministry. But then I spent a good bit of time offering practical guidance and highlighting some particularly valuable resources. In this article for The Pastor’s Workshop, I want to share with you some resources I believe will be especially helpful to you as a pastor and also to the folks in your church. (I sure wish these had been available when I was a parish pastor. They would have helped me immensely.)
Second Half of Life Study
In my leadership of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative, I’m always looking for up-to-date and trustworthy information on what it’s like to be an older adult in the United States. (Of course, I am one of these, so I have my own ideas about this.) In the last four years, I’ve read dozens of books and hundreds of articles related to this topic, but it won’t do you much good if I give you an overly-long bibliography. You need something that summarizes the data in an accessible way.
I found that “something” fairly recently. It’s the Second Half of Life Study that was done through a partnership between AARP and National Geographic. It was published just a few months ago so it reflects recent research. AARP and National Geographic produced an extremely helpful Executive Summary that is available for free online. The summary itself is 56 pages long, so can get an idea of just how much information has been included.
If you are looking for a handy but trustworthy introduction to what’s going on with older adults in the U.S., this will serve you well. Some of the insights you’ll anticipate, like: “Optimists expect and want to live longer than pessimists.” Now that makes sense! Many others will surprise you, such as: “Fear of dying is low and drops as you age; feeling prepared grows as you age.” Really?!
Most Helpful Third Third Books
My Kindle has 77 books in the Third Third category of my library. I’ve read many of these carefully and scanned most of them. Plus, I own at least a dozen physical books about aging. I have many favorites among my third third books but will discipline myself to mention only three of them here.
These are books I have found both fascinating and most helpful. They would certainly help you discover creative ways to serve third third people. And they are also books you can confidently recommend to your flock.
Aging Matters: Finding your calling for the rest of your life, by R. Paul Stevens. This is my favorite Christian book on aging. It’s full of wisdom, biblical truth, and compelling stories. It’s written for someone in the third third of life, but even young pastors could learn a lot from Aging Matters, both for their third third ministry and for their own lives. (Plus, the Kindle edition is only $1.99 right now. Such a deal!)
Aging Faithfully: The Holy Invitation of Growing Older, by Alice Fryling. This book focuses on how we can go deeper in our relationship with God as we grow older. Though relevant to everyone in the third third of life, this book speaks with particular relevance to those who are experiencing some of the losses that come with aging. You might also enjoy a webinar conversation I had with Alice about her book.
Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp, by John Medina. This book, written by a brain scientist, is a popular and delightful presentation of ways that contemporary neuroscience helps us to be healthier and happier as we get older. There is so much to learn here! This is not a “Christian book” in the obvious sense, though the content is certainly compatible with Christian faith. John Medina in addition to being a leading scientist is also an articulate Christian.
De Pree Center Resources for Third Third Flourishing
Before I sign off, I’d like to share with you some of the De Pree Center’s resources, most of which are suitable both for pastors and for third third folks.
Free, online resources. The majority of our resources are available without cost on our website. These include: Third Third Life (monthly e-newsletter), Third Third articles (81 and counting), webinars, both new and recorded (10 and counting), and curated resources (made by others and recommended). You can find all of these resources here.
Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Course. A great way for your church to inform and inspire your third third members as well as folks from your community. This is a six-session, video-based course that’s perfect for adult classes and small groups as well as individual learning. Each session includes: a 30-minute lecture on a key topic and, in the extensive workbook, small group questions, a detailed lecture summary, a personal study guide, devotions, and recommended resources. A church can license the course for unlimited use for $125 (offer many times to as many people as you wish). Each course participant pays $10.99 for the digital workbook. Scholarships are available if needed. Learn more here.
Third Third Flourishing Cohorts. Here’s a chance for third third folk to go deeper in their understanding and practice of third third flourishing. Based on the material from the course, the flourishing cohort offers a setting for personal reflection, group interaction, and practical application. Cohorts consist of six, Zoom-based, two-hour meetings led by a trained, experienced guide.
An in-depth workbook supports the gatherings and suggests lots of experiences for personal growth outside of the meetings. The basic cost for the cohort is $500 per person, with scholarship funding available. Partnerships with churches can facilitate a lower-cost option. Note: The cohort and the course are thematically related but can be taken independently or in any order. By the way, our next round of cohorts begins in March. Check out our website to learn more.
As I mentioned above, most of what we produce at the De Pree Center is available for free. We charge for certain things, like courses and cohorts, in a way that is similar to how a school charges for classes and other experiences. The De Pree Center is a non-profit entity, part of Fuller Seminary. We are funded by donors, grants, and income from our for-sale resources. All of our income funds our programs and personnel.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative.
Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership.
With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
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