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"Doing something for God": empowering ministries by older people in the church

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:54 authored by Ruth Goatly
This research investigated ministries exercised by older people in the church and what empowers them in their ministries. Existing research into collaborative ministry has paid limited attention to age and research into older people in the church has focused more on their ministry needs, than the ministries they exercise. Therefore, there was a dual gap in knowledge at a time when the church is facing a contemporary issue of ageing population and congregations. In addition to examining theoretical perspectives behind collaborative ministry, age and empowerment, original research was conducted in a parish where older people were visibly exercising ministry in three distinct ministry projects. Two methodologies were used: autoethnography and case study, using interview, observation, and documentary analysis. These were chosen to give scope for the voices of experiences of older people to be heard. The research found older people were working together in ministries and identified some of the influences on their undertaking and continuing in ministry. It uncovered an unexpected level of contentment which led to some additional research in a second parish, where experiences were less positive. In both contexts, evidence emerged of the importance of power, leadership roles and understanding how ministries can be affected by age and life-transitions. The research concluded older people do exercise a wide range of ministries in the church and are equipped with gifts for them. However, they can face challenges of ageism and transitions which can disempower them. Issues of empowerment were considered with the conclusion that the key to empowerment of older people in ministry lies not so much in any particular structure or pattern of ministry, but in the extent to which they are connected to the organic whole body of the church. Some steps to consider for their empowerment were identified.



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