What images does mission bring to us? Young families heading out to new lives overseas, orphanages in developing countries, student campus missions around the world.
Great stuff. But we also need to think about the other end of the age spectrum.
While many developing countries have a younger population, Europe is ageing. From 2011-2060 over 65s will rise from 17.5 – 29.5% of the European population. That’s a huge and growing number of older people. It’s both a great challenge and an opportunity for mission.
We need to win, care for and mobilise this growing age group.
Winning. Many churches will have a significant numbers of faithful older and elderly Christians. But there are many outside the church, who have never really investigated the gospel and many who made decisions as younger people who might think again. As the numbers of older and elderly people grow, both churches and missions need to review how we reach out to this part of the community and the relative resources we give to that challenge. It’s a wonderful thing to see people come to faith at the eleventh hour, to experience at last life to the full, and to know for certain of their eternal home.
Caring. Our God is also the God of compassion. As the numbers of elderly people grow in many countries around the world, we will need to review how we care for them. Here in the UK over half (51%) of all older people live alone. 11% only see another person less than once a month and two fifths (3.9 million) say that television is their main company. There are comparable situations in many other countries. This is an affront to God, who calls us to ‘stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God’ (Lev. 19:32). All the more as the numbers increase, we need to review our mission of compassion for the elderly.
Mobilising. Here at All Souls, some of our best Mission Partners are older people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. These Mission Partners have paid into pension schemes earlier in life and are now using the benefits to fund their missionary work. As with all our Mission Partners, they need the support and supervision of a mission agency, and we regularly review with all our Mission Partners to determine how they’re doing and what the next step will hold. Back at home, many others are involved in mentoring younger Mission Partners, praying in our world prayer groups and reaching out to international students. We couldn’t do without them.
So there’s a great challenge and a great opportunity – for churches and mission agencies alike – to win, care for and mobilising this growing age group.