Heads turned throughout the fellowship hall to see which one of the many seniors present was responsible for the loud and rhythmic snore echoing through the room. As it turned out, the only one dozing on this action-packed evening was a three-year-old snuggled in her daddy’s lap. Reflecting the trend toward more interactive meetings, the April 26 semi-annual meeting of the Raleigh Baptist Association (RBA) was not your daddy’s association meeting. A mini-conference themed “Connecting Churches to Seniors’ Needs” followed the business meeting. Messengers heard a keynote address, and had the choice between four breakout sessions that provided options for individualized and interactive learning.
Michael Blackwell, president of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) as well as North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) provided the keynote address. He set the stage for the breakout sessions to follow by sharing statistics and stories about the changing face of aging in North Carolina. Blackwell challenged the group that “each statistic represents ministry opportunities for North Carolina Baptists.”
Cindy Buffaloe, consultant for church start strategy for the RBA, said the affluence of Wake County generally means a lot of physical needs for food and medical care are met.
“There are many people, however, who are lonely and just need someone to visit them,” she said. “I was excited to learn tonight how churches can be involved with NCBAM to meet not only physical needs, but the unique spiritual needs of the aging and their vital need for socialization.”
The aging population in N.C. will double between 2000 and 2030. North Carolina ranks as the sixth most popular state for retirees. The number of North Carolinians age 65 and older is expected to grow 76 percent over the next 20 years.
Blackwell further defined this growing segment of the population into “frail-aging” and “well-aging” categories.
He detailed the benefits and challenges of an aging population and congratulated the aging adults present for service to their churches and communities — and to the frail aging of their generation. Blackwell stated that the mission of NCBAM is to “provide help for the journey while seeking to enable the aging to maintain independence and quality life.”
He gave examples of the ways NCBAM fulfills its mission:
- The Call Center on the Mills Home campus in Thomasville which connects those 65 and over (or their caregivers) with help for their needs
- Regional directors providing information and training from Murphy to Manteo, and making vital connections with civic and social agencies
- Christ the Cornerstone Projects (publications that support the spiritual needs of the aging and their caregivers)
- Fall prevention awareness initiatives
- NCBAM’s most powerful alliance — partnerships with servant volunteers in Baptist churches Because messengers came with different needs for information, the four breakout sessions provided relative information for attendees.
Builders and Boomers presented by Johnny Ross, GuideStone representative from the Baptist State Convention, explored the mindset differences between these two generations and how churches can best design ministries for each.
Assisting Seniors in a Low-Budget Economy presented by Bill Wallace, retired director of missions in the Tar River Association, explored free or low-cost resources that can ease stress for financially burdened seniors.
Connecting to Community Resources presented by Debbie Pilson, central regional director for NCBAM, revealed how to find civic, social and faith-based programs that can meet the needs of aging adults. Life with Christ presented by Wendy Minton Edwards, eastern regional director for NCBAM, addressed natural life issues encountered during the aging process and how they might be intentionally maximized in order to fully experience the presence and power of God.
Roger Nix, executive director of the RBA, has been aware of NCBAM since its beginning through the work of Edwards.
“We partnered with Wendy to plan tonight’s meeting. It is our first attempt to educate the churches in the RBA about the transition from the ministry of Baptist Retirement Homes to NCBAM. The convention did well when they placed the ministry in Mickey’s hands.” And with a grin of understatement, Nix added, “Dr. Blackwell has taken on his new assignment pretty well.”
Ephesus Baptist Church in Raleigh hosted the event. Greg Templin wants his church to be prepared for the aging population shift. “It was an honor to be able to host this special event and learn about NCBAM firsthand from Dr. Blackwell. I’m looking forward to sharing about it next week with the deacons,” Templin said.
Craig Saunders, associate pastor of Highland Baptist Church, said Blackwell’s record at BCH speaks for itself. Saunders said he came away with “lots of good ideas” to develop a senior program and possibly an adult day care.
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