Towards a policy on ministry with, to, and by elderly people for the C&MA church in Australia

Graeme Robinson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This study is about ministry in the church by, with and to elderly people, and the need, particularly for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Australia (C&MA) for a policy that addresses issues associated with older adult ministry. People are living longer and healthier, so the percentage of older people in the population is increasing and this increase is reflected in the church community. Despite the larger numbers of older adults in the church, there are no programs that are particularly designed to allow them to have an effective role in the ministries of the church. More importantly, there is no policy by which appropriate programs can be evaluated or developed. Setting up such a policy in the C&MA is challenging because of the need to cater for a wide range of ethnic congregations, and in particular for the significant number of Chinese and Vietnamese congregations that constitute the C&MA in Australia.There is an important connection reported in the literature between involvement, spiritual growth and well-being in older adults. The need for spiritual support and guidance increases with age (Mowat, 2006) and providing an environment in which older adults can work towards spiritual growth is an important aspect of church pastoral care. In order to collect information on the needs and aspirations of older people in the C&MA a questionnaire was distributed to all the major congregations in the C&MA throughout Australia. The questionnaire was translated into Chinese and Vietnamese as these were the major ethnic groups in the C&MA, and a response was requested from all people over eighteen years of age. Responses were analysed using SSPS software under three main areas: beliefs and values, ministry involvement, and later life needs. The data showed that elderly people did not wish to retire from the ministries of the church but remain active. Worship and the rituals associated with church attendance were important, as was involvement in ministry activities. Ministry seemed to be limited to activities within the church congregation rather than out in the community. This lack of community involvement was consistent with reports in the literature. There was no significant difference between the responses provided by Anglos, Chinese or Vietnamese. This allowed for developing principles for a general policy for the whole denominationThe principles for developing a policy on ministry to elderly people is discussed under three aspects. Firstly, ministry by the elderly which involves those ministries rendered by older adults to the community at large and described through a ministry model for older adults. Secondly, ministry with the elderly covers principles for peer focussed ministries that promote integration, and mitigate against ageism and polarisation of the cohort of elderly people. Thirdly, ministry to elderly people covers those activities that the church provides and includes worship, opportunities for spiritual formation and emotional and mental well-being. This is especially important for those with dementia.A documented policy is important in that it defines the denomination''s position with respect to older adults, it assist leadership within congregations to consider ways of providing pastoral care to older people, and it helps ensure a balanced approach to ministry. A policy provides the basis for leadership training and budgeting requirements into the future. This study articulates the principles for such a policy.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Ministry
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • MacKinlay, Elizabeth, Principal Supervisor
Award date01 Jun 2015
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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