The church needs to be ready to reach out to the growing older population, as there is no doubt that the nation is getting older.
Statistics can only ever paint half a picture, but right across the board the situation is clear: there are more over-55s in the UK now than ever before and, within a decade, more than one third of the population will be in this age bracket.
While the church might have failed to engage its young people, we still have time to be ready for this population change. Defined as ‘baby boomers’ by sociologists, those born between 1945 and 1960 are ones we need to reach with the gospel as a priority.
They are now in their late 50s or 60s and are a generation that, during the 1960s especially, began to reject previously upheld Christian beliefs and values.
Reaching them might need us to re-adapt our methods of evangelism and mission. Outlook Trust has a genuine history of such work. Founded 20 years ago, we have 600 members up and down the land, sharing the gospel on a daily basis — in care homes, retirement villages, through coffee mornings, nostalgia evenings and more.
The beauty of Outlook is that almost all of our members are over 55 themselves, so the model of peer-to-peer evangelism is well used. We have a stack of resources and a wealth of experience in sharing our faith. We work around issues that affect this age group — frailty, loneliness and dementia in various forms, to name just a few.
The time for evangelising this group is now. Sometimes it seems as if Christians in our country are surprised by changes in culture and attitudes. There’s no doubt that Britain is more liberal now than it was 50 years ago.
There are stories of ‘tolerance’ which are difficult for Christians to hear, generally based around issues of sexuality or the continued acceptance of science as the supposed victor over Christianity. But, if God is the omnipotent, omnipresent God whom we believe in, then, as the psalmist reminds us, ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Psalm 24:1).
This means that, when our country drifted away from previously held common truths about Christianity, God was ultimately sovereign over this drift. For reasons we cannot grasp, this is part of his ongoing redemptive plan for humankind. That means that we still have a glorious opportunity.
The news has recently been full of stories about the elderly. Tragically, 800,000 older people in the UK are chronically lonely. That seems to be a terrible indictment on our society.
In a recent survey, when elderly housebound people were asked how many people they had contact with each week, the top response was, ‘Does that include those I see on the television?’ ‘It is not good for man to be alone’, echoes the voice of God from Genesis.
The elderly are also the largest growing group of socially excluded people in the nation. There are more over-55s than before living below the poverty line and more that can’t afford to feed themselves adequately.
Outlook is committed to being a part of the mission of God among this generation. Among our members there is drive and enthusiasm, wisdom and passion, and, by the grace of God and his guiding Spirit, we have a genuine opportunity to make a difference.
I hope that you’ll join us and together we can share the good news of Jesus with those that perhaps need to hear it most (
National director of Outlook Trust