October 31, 2022 • Third Third Journal
Our “Dixville Notch” has voted, and they have strongly endorsed the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life course. I am both grateful and greatly encouraged!
Dixville Notch is a tiny community in northern New Hampshire. It’s likely you would never have heard of it except for one salient fact: Dixville Notch claims to be the first community in the United States to cast and tally its votes for president. The citizens of Dixville Notch, of which there are now four, gather in the Balsams Resort at midnight on election night to cast their votes in presidential primaries and general elections. The media love to debate whether the results from Dixville Notch predict what will happen later throughout the country. (If I’m counting correctly, the votes at Dixville notch have a 15-1 track record when it comes to predicting which candidate will win the general election for President.)
As you may recall, last month the De Pree Center released our new Flourishing in the Third Third of Life course. Many churches (and quite a few individuals) have purchased the course with plans to complete its six sessions. But most of those who started the course in mid-October haven’t finished it yet . . . except for our version of Dixville Notch. That’s right, we have very early returns on the course and its impact.
The First Presbyterian Church of Monrovia, California received an early copy of the course. They began offering it in September, completing the six sessions last week. I was able to sit in on several sessions, observing how people responded to the video lectures and interacted in small groups. Then, on the last night, I asked the 20-plus class members to fill out a short evaluation survey. The survey was anonymous, so people would feel free to share honestly.
As you might imagine, I felt rather nervous as I prepared to study the survey results. From my time in the class, I felt confident that most people found it helpful. But, I wondered, would their apparent enthusiasm show up in their surveys?
I’m happy to report that the results from our “Dixville Notch” are most encouraging. For example, the survey asked how likely people would be to recommend this course to others, giving five options (very likely, likely, maybe, unlikely, very unlikely). The vote: 6 likely and 16 very likely, and that’s it. Whew! That’s good news out of our “Dixville Notch.”
Here are some other comments from the survey. (By the way, I received permission from the respondents to publish their comments anonymously.)
Of the things you learned in this course, what was most relevant and important to you?
At least half of the respondents learned about the importance of relationships in the third third of life.
That God is not done with me yet.
How important this time of my life can be and I can even be more in this time of my life.
This course was extremely relevant and timely for me as I just retired and have been “lost.” Everything in this course has given me hope that I do have a purpose.
I am still of use to the Lord.
In light of what you learned in this course, mention one or two actions you plan to take (or have already begun to take).
Better physical care and getting exercise (already doing).
I will continue to be more intentional about being grateful and place living a healthy active life at the top of my goals.
I began mentoring a younger member of my extended family.
Experiment to find out what my purpose looks like.
Began to volunteer at a local elementary school to play with children during recess.
Intentionally seeking relationships with a greater number of people, not just those with whom I am comfortable.
If you are likely to recommend this course to someone, what would you tell that person about the course? Why would you recommend it?
That it was extremely beneficial and came at the right time.
It’s eye-opening, practical, and based on science and Scripture.
It really helps you to reflect on your life, how you are doing and what God might have for you. It underlines how important my relationship with God is, and it outlines practical steps, backed by Scripture and science, to help point the way to a deeper and more flourishing life.
The course is helpful in identifying the good things about getting older and it increases one’s gratefulness for this time of life.
Encourages you to seek a deeper relationship with God. It also causes you to question some of your current priorities.
I have been telling my friends about this class and they all want to know when it will be given again.
As we continue to improve this course, do you have any suggestions or requests?
More time in small groups. [In Monrovia, the small groups met for about 25 minutes after each 30-minute video lecture.]
Would like a digital copy of the workbook so I can use the links. [The church printed the workbooks for participants, which is fine. Participants are also entitled to a digital copy of the workbook. We need to make this clear to all.]
As you can imagine, I’m greatly encouraged by the positive response to the course from our “Dixville Notch” voters. I was particularly gratified to discover how many course participants were already making changes to their lives. The Flourishing course isn’t just about getting new information. It’s meant to help folks in the third third of life actually flourish through how they live each day.
If you take this course, either as part of a group or on your own, I’d love to hear from you. Please share with me what this course has meant to you. Plus, I am always open to questions, corrections, and suggestions. I want this course to be as helpful as it possibly can be. Also, I’m always thinking about the next resources we will produce as part of our Third Third Initiative. Your input is vital. You can email me here.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.