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Older Christians Urged to Take Gospel Online

Nearly 6 out of every 10 American adults aged 65 and older are now online, according to Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. Increasingly, Web use is becoming a way of life for seniors, with many seeing it as a tool for ministry.

Nearly 6 out of every 10 American adults aged 65 and older are now online, according to Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. While they still lag behind their children and grandchildren when it comes to using technology, seniors are quickly gaining ground.

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of U.S. Internet users older than 65 grew 16 percent annually, according to the Nielsen Norman Group. By comparison, the number of people ages 30 to 49 using the Internet increased by about 3 percent each year. Nielsen attributes these figures to an aging population as well as a surge in the number of seniors embracing the digital age.

"Seniors are currently the fastest-growing demographic among social networks," says Wes Bartel, national director of Senior Adult Ministries for the Assemblies of God. "There are millions of people aged 65 and older using Facebook, Twitter and Skype."

Increasingly, Web use is becoming a way of life for seniors. Among Internet users 65 and older, 71 percent go online on a typical day (compared to 82 percent of adult Internet users overall), according to Pew Research.

Internet use is least prevalent among Americans aged 80 and over, Pew found. Yet even among this group of seniors, dubbed the "G.I. Generation,” 37 percent are active online.

Bartel says more seniors logging onto the Internet can aid the spread of the gospel. Not only can an increasing number of online seniors access ministry resources, such as evangelistic websites and church broadcasts, older Christians can also engage in Internet outreach, he says.

"Today, we are seeing increased ministry opportunities for seniors online," Bartel says. "They can share important biblical values on family blog sites and social media. Getting on Facebook can be an opportunity for encouraging friends, posting life lessons, and sharing Bible knowledge."

Social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are gaining popularity among seniors. The number of Internet users aged 65 and older participating in social networks grew from 13 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2013, according to Pew Research.

Ginny Carter, who is 85, joined Facebook in 2009. She sees the Internet as a mission field. Many of her posts are related to faith. She has written and posted hundreds of devotional essays. She also operates a Facebook prayer chain, sharing urgent needs she receives or comes across in her news feed.

"Once in a while I get a 'like' from someone I never even knew was reading," Carter says. "You never know whose life you might touch. It’s just such an opportunity in the Lord."

Carter is an active contributor to an online forum for young mothers. She frequently interacts with the women, encouraging them and sharing Christ's message.

"I have come to love these mamas from all over," Carter says. "Some are believers and some aren't, but I want all of them to hear about the Lord. The Bible says the older people should mentor the younger ones, and that’s what I try to do. I am amazed at all that God has given me to do in my old age."

Carter says her online activities are no substitute for face-to-face ministry. She volunteers in the church nursery, helps with weekly Wednesday night church dinners, and works with the Junior Bible Quiz and Teen Bible Quiz ministries. Yet she says older Christians should not overlook the potential of the Internet as a ministry tool.

"I've heard so many people say, 'I've done my time,'" Carter says. “But just because you're older doesn't mean God is finished using you. God doesn't have a retirement plan for old people. Wherever there is a ministry opportunity and a mission field, older folks should find a way to get involved."

Mark Flattery, CEO and ministry director of Network211, an Internet outreach of the AG based in Springfield, Missouri, says every Christian can find a way to represent Christ online.

"The Internet levels the playing field of communication," Flattery says. "All voices are equal. Christian seniors have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in the lives of those online by sharing their opinions, life experiences, wisdom and stories of what the Lord has done in their lives. Their online expression of faith in Christ can change lives for eternity."

Article image used in accordance with Creative Commons License. Photo credit: fechi fajardo, Flickr.

Christina Quick

Christina Quick is a former Pentecostal Evangel staff writer who attends James River Church (Assemblies of God) in Ozark, Missouri.