A pastor friend recently asked how we should minister to and engage seniors in the church. In particular, some of his older members are feeling disgruntled because he is spending more time on discipleship and preaching, and not quite so much on visiting seniors in the church. Here was my reply…
We too had a predominately older congregation when I arrived ten years ago (at age 28). I like to say jokingly that our youth group was anyone under age 50.
I spent a lot of time in those early years caring for my aging congregation with hospital visits, nursing home visits, homebound communion, etc. Many of them were the age of my grandparents. Rarely did they come to me for help in issues like counseling or advice. Rather, they viewed me as “The Preacher” who was hired to speak on Sundays and do visitation.
I felt honored to shepherd the flock, but realized I was investing an inordinate amount of time in people who could offer very little support to the church either physically or financially. This took me away from reaching the next generation and was not a sustainable model of ministry.
In my first five years , many of these precious senior saints went to be with the Lord, or were moved out of area to be closer to family. I did my best to give them ample attention and care, but at the same time we prayed for and began seeking more young people, and gradually, the population began to shift to a better balance of old and young.
Besides the obvious hospital and nursing home visits, here are a few things that have been helpful to our church over the years in ministering to older members:
- For several years, we did a church newsletter to show pictures and write short articles about what was going on in the church. This kept our homebound members connected and enabled me to speak truth into their lives, even when they weren’t present at church.
- One senior in our church has the gift of encouragement. She’s a very sweet lady and has all the time in the world to call and chat/pray with seniors. They love to hear from her, and she always has the inside scoop, telling me of needs our seniors have.
- Our secretary keeps a list of all birth dates in the church, and we mail out birthday cards (hand signed) to all the members. Both seniors and kids LOVE this personal touch.
- Phone calls go a long way to show you care, and save much time over excessive house calls.
- Some seniors have grown comfortable with technology like email and Facebook, so I try to maintain an online presence by sending out occasional ministry updates, prayer requests, photos, etc.
- We developed a prayer chain that many of our seniors participate in
- I ask some seniors to accompany me on house calls or counseling. This involves them and helps train and equip them to share in the load of ministry too.
- Early on, we started having Christian college groups come serve like music teams, short term missions teams, sharing testimonies, kids camp, ministry interns, etc. Eventually, we also added a praise team of 2-4 younger adults up on stage to help with worship and reduced the choir from a weekly ministry to once a month special music. The older people LOVE to see the younger generation worshipping the Lord, and are more receptive to ministry changes when they see the positive effects.
Remember, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Prov. 16:31). We need to honor our seniors!
Photo credit: Patrick Gage Kelley