Midlife Adults: Engaging the midlife crisis
Midlife Adults: Engaging the midlife crisis

Midlife crises are an opportunity for faith formation

This post by Jim Merhaut is part of a series inspired by the Seasons of Adult Faith Formation book, symposium, and issue of Lifelong Faith Journal. You can read the whole issue here.

The midlife crisis is an opportune moment for churches to intervene in the lives of midlife adults to provide helpful and relevant faith formation opportunities and resources that will help people successfully navigate the tumultuous experience of midlife maturation.

Church leaders can help members recognize the typical signs of a midlife crisis and then encourage them to explore the crisis as an opportunity for spiritual growth. Psychologist Vivian Diller offers a series of questions that help midlife adults discern whether or not they are experiencing a midlife crisis.

Here is an adaptation of her assessment questions:

  1. Have you been feeling down or empty for long periods of time with no relief? (This is different from mood swings, which come and go.)
  2. Do you get enraged over small things or have violent outbursts with your family and friends? (Again, this is not the same as feeling irritable on and off.)
  3. Do you feel detached? Have you stopped engaging in activities or hobbies that once gave you pleasure with your mate, friends or at work?
  4. Do you find yourself constantly thinking about your mortality, the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life?
  5. Are you deeply dissatisfied with your primary relationship?
  6. Are you thinking of quitting your job or fantasizing about never working again, even if you can’t afford to retire?
  7. Does the life you envision ahead exclude the people or activities you are currently attached to?
  8. Are you questioning your faith or your religion? Are you seeking a deeper connection to spirituality?

Many more here …

Any one of these thoughts, feelings or actions by itself does not constitute a crisis, but if an adult identifies with most of them they may indicate that he or she is in the midst of a midlife crisis and should seek guidance in the form of education and/or coaching, counseling, and spiritual direction. Faith formation leaders can help individual church members assess whether or not they are experiencing a crisis and then guide them to the help they need to successfully navigate the crisis.

Programs and resources that help midlife adults reflect deeply on the path their lives have taken up to this point are helpful. Midlife adults need to be guided as they think about the goals they set earlier in life.

Most adults have career goals, community participation goals, intimacy goals, family goals, personal goals and faith goals. These goals need to be clarified and evaluated in terms of their current status.

How have they been met? Are they still unmet? Are they goals worth keeping? Are there new goals that need to be established?

Identify ways to help midlife adults reflect upon where they have been and where they are going in light of their current commitments. Help them listen to the inner voice of God calling them to a more abundant future. Here are some recommended program and resource ideas to consider:

  • Develop prayer and reflection groups that address crises as opportunities.
  • Create a series of pages on your website with reflection questions and audio and video segments that address midlife adult issues.
  • Send regular emails to midlife adults with links to helpful articles about the midlife crisis.
  • Organize a book club that focuses on books that address midlife adult themes.
  • Develop and distribute a pamphlet that includes both the signs of crisis and referral information.
  • Publish a series of podcasts on your websites consisting of audio interviews with older church members talking about how they successfully navigated midlife and what role the church played in their growth.

This post by Jim Merhaut is part of a series inspired by the Seasons of Adult Faith Formation book, symposium, and issue of Lifelong Faith Journal. You can read the whole issue here.

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