However, the larger theme among those who took the survey appears to be that those over 40 do seek to maintain a connection with a local church. At the same time, they are less inclined to let that church’s menu of study and service opportunities define them or be the main source of their personal spiritual growth. As I mentioned here, many churches function as spiritual destinations (“Come to church”) rather than spiritual launching pads (“Go be the church”), though precious few would use that language of themselves. Those at midlife seem to recognize the church is meant to be a launch pad, even when church leaders don’t.
Many churches focus on the spiritual tasks of the first half of life, which syncs remarkably well with the focus many have on programs and projects for growing families. It takes a different kind of commitment from a church leader to nurture and cheerlead growth in those in the second half of their lives than it does to put together a whiz-bang children’s program. This commitment may mean leaders need to acquaint themselves with helpful models of spiritual growth and development in order to affirm that those in their second adulthood people are in search of a spiritual life that can sustain them to the end – less crisis/decision/rule-based faith, more valuing of process.