Books, Curricula, and Other Growth Opportunities for Older Adults

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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.

People who are in the third third of life should be fully included in the adult education ministry, the small group program, and intergenerational events your church offers. However, third-thirders do face new challenges and possibilities in their daily walk. Here we’ve gathered books, studies, and other resources created to help older adults explore some of those challenges and possibilities.

Books Focusing on Third-Third Challenges

  • The Third Third of Life: Preparing for Your Future by Walter C. Wright. Reviewer Jenny De Groot offers this summary of Wright’s book: “Drawing on stories of others who have lived fully into the latter third, Wright asks readers to consider their own future and to be proactive in engaging the conversation by forming a ‘third third group of trust’ and spending six to eight sessions together in communal self-reflection.”
  • Aging Matters: Finding Your Calling for the Rest of Your Life by R. Paul Stevens. In this reflective and insightful book, Stevens argues that retirement does not mark the end of our calling, and he encourages readers to discern new callings and to keep working in some way until life’s end. 
  • 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me about Retirement. This helpful resource has been coauthored by three Canadian educators, one of whom is Rein Selles, a member of West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta. The authors identify key principles that are part of responsible fiscal planning.
  • Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. In this challenging book, Franciscan monk Richard Rohr shows how the suffering in our lives is what makes us grow. “Some kind of falling,” Rohr says, is necessary for continued spiritual development. “Normally a job, fortune, or reputation has to be lost . . . a death has to be suffered, a house has to be flooded, or a disease has to be endured.” In addition to reading and talking about the short and accessible book with the help of this study guide, your group might also want to view a video lecture Rohr gave about his ideas: Richard Rohr: Falling Upward
  • Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life by Jane Marie Thibault and Richard L. Morgan. The chapters of this book by Thibault and Morgan, who are both in the third third of life, draw on the resources of Scripture, the authors’ experiences, and wisdom from mystics and other spiritual forebears. Questions for reflection are included. Pilgrimage can be used by individuals or as a seven-week small group study.

New/Old Approaches to Faith Formation for Third-Thirders

  • See Devotional Resources for resources that will guide groups in the use of the Examen, lectio divina, and other spiritual practices. 
  • Pastor Laura DeJonge of Second CRC in Zeeland, Michigan, describes her church’s use of these practices: “After we did the Emerging Leaders and Seasoned Saints Cohort with our six-week class on the Examen, we decided to keep rolling with that model. So our Adult Ministries team, which has been newly re-formed, is calling ourselves The Lab, and each year we're going to focus on a different aspect of being church: Worship, Serve, Grow, Repeat.”

A Bible Study Curriculum that Focuses on Including All Adults

  • Often people in the third third of life begin to shy away from Bible study groups for a number of reasons, which may include memory loss and other disabilities. That’s one of the reasons Friendship Ministries created Together Bible studies. Together is an inclusive adult Bible study curriculum that provides learners of all abilities with an important set of tools so that each participant can grow in relationship with God and with one another. To read more about Together and check out a sample session, go to togethersmallgroups.org.

QUESTIONS?

If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.

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