Not Finished Yet
More than 800 older adults took part in the first National Senior Adults Conference in the 102-year history of the Assemblies of God this week in Branson, Missouri.
The three-day event far exceeded anything the planners had imagined, according to Wes Bartel, national director of the AG’s Senior Adult Ministries. The original registration target of 600 was surpassed in the first six weeks, and, though the ministry added 200 more slots at substantial cost, registrations reached the absolute limit by the end of eight weeks.
Bartel said another 1,600 wanting to register after the cutoff had to be turned away. Registrants snatched up available rooms at the contracted hotels, the host Chateau on the Lake, the nearby Lawrence Welk Resort, and then spilled over to other Branson motels.
The conference was designed primarily to place an emphasis on the value of seniors, bringing them together to help them see God isn’t finished with them, according to Bartel.
He cited a second reason in the need for effective networking.
“We have seniors scattered all over the nation, and they seldom have the opportunity of relating to and enjoying fellowship with brothers and sisters in their same age group,” Bartel said.
The event drew seniors from 34 states, including 240 from Missouri, 114 from Texas, and 80 from Ohio.
Bartel listed a third basic reason for the event.
“We’ve created so many great resources that sometimes seniors are not even aware they exist,” Bartel said. “This gives us an opportunity to make them aware of the ministries and resources available.”
Indeed, a steady stream filed through the ministry and resource exhibits and seniors lined up at the My Healthy Church store to buy books from the “Pentecostal Classics” shelves and a wide variety of resources for themselves, their children, and, especially, their grandchildren. The Fire Bible for Kids with a new interactive app for IPads sold out.
Loren Unruh from Great Bend, Kansas, a longtime Light for the Lost supporter, said seniors need to be challenged more.
“There’s a chunk of us builders and boomers out there!” Unruh said.
Bartel said he heard numerous seniors at the conference express sentiments that they didn’t feel their ministry work was over.
Mike Futhey of Memphis, Tennessee, said the most important aspect of the event, against the backdrop of gloom and doom in society and in some churches, was “an air of opportunity and optimism” for what seniors have ahead.
“We’re not wringing our hands,” Futhey said. “This is what we’ve been yearning for!” He and his wife, April, took home ideas to use in their senior adults small group.
Four Assemblies of God national executives developed the conference theme, “It’s About Time,” in evening and morning services. General Superintendent George O. Wood opened by preaching a sermon entitled “It’s Your Time,” in which he examined the Bible characters Simeon and Anna as models of senior adults passionate about God, focused on His promises, and faithful in His service despite situations they couldn’t approve.
General Secretary James T. Bradford followed with the message, “It’s Time to Serve.” Assistant Superintendent Alton Garrison led an extended time of worship and recounted miracles of salvation, deliverance, and healing in his family and the family of his wife, Johanna, during a free-wheeling message, “It’s Time to Reach Out.”
General Treasurer Doug E. Clay and his 84-year-old mother, Audrey, led a “song for every season,” as she unfolded the story of her life and ministry. They focused on “It’s Time to Re-engage.” She called seniors to look to new chapters and new horizons in their lives.
“There is Kingdom work to be done!” she said.
Bartel said two statistics alone demonstrate senior adults are important to the Fellowship and to the nation. Official estimates place the number of individuals over age 60 in the year 2030 between one in every four to five people in the U.S. This same age group is expected to control approximately 40 percent of the nation’s finances.
“We have awakened, to a certain extent, a sleeping giant,” Bartel said.