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‘Third Third of Life’ ministry

In response to the declining attendance of young people, many congregations are doing the important and necessary work of reaching out to Millennials and Gen Zs. But there are three trends accompanying the outward migration of younger generations that ministry leaders should also pay attention to: 

  1. Some of the parents of our emerging adults are also migrating away. 
  2. Many of those who remain are expressing deep dissatisfaction with the current state of their faith formation growth. 
  3. Aging congregations often experience a loss of missional focus when their largest ministry focus – children’s ministry and youth ministry – begins shrinking.

Here are three resources that can help congregations rethink fruitful faith formation for both empty nesters, who find themselves with increasing freedom, and those in late adulthood who still have much to contribute to the life of the church.

Calling All Years Good: Christian Vocation throughout Life’s Seasons by Kathleen A. Cahalan and Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore brings a new and remarkably helpful set of perspectives to vocation embedded in an intergenerational context. By discussing the relationship to God’s calling us at different ages, we can better understand the gifts and challenges each group faces. The sections on late adulthood and older adulthood are particularly helpful for a study of the third third of life.

Creative Aging: Rethinking Retirement and Non-Retirement in a Changing World by Marjory Zoet Bankson explores the spiritual dimensions of retirement and aging. She offers creative ways for folks to share their gifts and experience, particularly when retirement leaves them questioning who they are when they are no longer defined by a career. Drawing on stories of people who have reinvented their lives in their later years, Bankson explores the issues to address as one moves into this generative period of life.

To Plant a Walnut Tree: How to Create a Fruitful Legacy by Trevor Waldock describes Waldock’s journey to find what elders can learn and discover about themselves in order to help others. 

Faith Formation Regional Catalyzers have produced a workshop filled with robust ways to support the faith formation of those in the Third Third.  It can be done both virtually and in person.  Contact gro.ancrc@negillinavl for more information.

This article was made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.


  • Lesli works for Faith Formation Ministries with the Christian Reformed Church of North America as a Regional Catalyzer for Eastern Canada.

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