Book Reviews -- By: Lilly Park
JDFM 3:2 (Spring 2013) p. 78
A Vision for the Aging Church: Renewing Ministry for and by Seniors. By James M. Houston and Michael Parker. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012, 279 pp., $24.00.
“This book represents an effort to join science and religion in ways that most positively impact the partnership between today’s churches and seniors” (11). With this self-imposed mandate, James Houston and Michael Parker begin their journey through the five fascinating sections of their book. The authors have the credentials to live up to their stated purpose. Houston, an octogenarian seminary professor, and Parker, a retired army officer and professor of geriatric medicine, utilize past and current research as they present new alternatives for ministry with senior adults.
Houston and Parker present a case for hope not despair as Christians move into “old age.” In so doing, they “address the part today’s church must play in meeting the demands and embracing the opportunities of senior living” (22). The authors’ approach is to ensure that seniors age well (22). Houston and Parker “propose the idea that longer lives can be more fulfilled lives,” and they reject the idea that age should restrict the function and value of senior adults in contemporary society (23).
Organizationally, the book begins with a discussion of society’s ageist view of mature adults, moves through biblical and historical themes of aging, to solutions for the aging church, presents a description of successful senior living, and closes with a treatment of end-of-life matters. Five appendices are included.
At the heart of their work, Parker and Houston present a model for successful aging as elders “avoid disease and disability, maximize cognitive and physical fitness, remain actively engaged in life through volunteerism and continue to learn and grow spiritually” (142). The Houston/Parker model makes use of current church/academic/governmental relationships and focuses on the lives of seniors and their adult children. Additionally, research and interventions in local communities allow these agencies to provide care for both the aging and their families. Through careful group planning, according to Houston and Parker, aging adults and their families will be enabled to live successfully as they embrace old age (142).
Beyond their comprehensive model for senior adult ministry, the authors make several interesting observations and recommendations. First, they insist that churches must focus on ministry “to” and “from” senior adults (32). In other words, churches must move beyond “doing ministry for” senior adults to leading seniors “to ministry to others.” As the au...
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