Thursday, September 04, 2014

Third Age Entrepreneurship

For many adults, 60 is the new 40.  As older adults remain healthy and active into their seventies, many seem reluctant to fade into the background.  In fact a number of older adults see their later years as the opportunity to undertake tasks that they had put on the back burner or to accomplish goals deferred due to the raising of a family and pursuit of a career.

Chris Farrell of Marketplace Money reported recently, “Millions of people between the ages of 44 and 70 say they want encore careers that combine personal meaning, continued income, and social impact.”  Rather than devote themselves totally to recreation, travel, and time with grandchildren (all good things), they want to do more and make a difference in the world.

Although I have not found a similar study conducted in the United States, research commissioned by Barclays in the United Kingdom discovered, “Entrepreneurs aged over 50 now account for an estimated 15% of all start-ups in England and Wales– a 50% increase over the past ten years.”  The report also stated, “Nearly 35% of third agers starting a business did so because they had been made redundant, retired or were dissatisfied with their existing job.”

This trend, which will undoubtedly continue in the global north as this age group continues to grow, offers both challenges and opportunities for not-for-profits, churches, and educational institutions including seminaries.

Not only does this generation provide a volunteer work force for many community service agencies, they also have the potential to launch new services and ministries to address significant problems in society. They have the experience to create and sustain new organizations to meet specific needs.  For churches, they may be the core leadership for new church starts and creative ministries supported by the churches.

As secular educational institutions offer programs that help “third agers” move into new careers, seminaries should consider ways to equip this highly motivated group for ministry. 
Although seminaries already serve a number of men and women who are transitioning to ministry at mid-career, the challenge to equip and empower the over 50 group for entrepreneurial ministries should not be ignored.  Seminaries and theological schools have the specialized resources to provide them with information, tools, and experience.

Asking the third agers to invest three or four years in a traditional Master of Divinity degree may be impractical, but seminaries could offer a master’s degree or certificate program that incorporates biblical and theological studies, entrepreneurship, leadership, and internship experiences to prepare older adults for new ministries.  Both classroom study and on-site placements would strengthen their chances of success whether they are starting something from scratch or assuming established ministry roles in the churches.

The third agers can be a motivated and valuable resource for the Kingdom of God.

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