With many churches focused on programs for youth and children it is not uncommon for a wonderful group of people to be overlooked, the seniors. There is so much to be gained for a church when it takes care to minister faithfully to the seniors, the elderly. There is much value in what the older generations “brings to the table” so to speak. In oriental cultures, those with gray heads are revered and respected. Unfortunately, the western part of the globe does not see things as well as this Old Testament man. Job said, “With the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days there is understanding.” And with the “Baby Boomer” generation retiring, a church would be wise to consider how it may reach out to them and in turn be blessed by their contributions to the church.
It’s important to value people for the right reasons. It’s been said that “old” folks are worth a fortune-they have silver in their hair, gold in their teeth, lead in their feet, and gas in their stomachs. Well, I know that I will be there one day and would prefer not to be valued for those reasons, humorous though they may be. But they are extremely valuable as they bring into a conversation years, even decades, of experience. They have learned from the most difficult of laboratories, life. They have had successes as well as failures. They have seen moments of great joy and great grief. They have the ability to share with the up and coming generations the way in which you navigate those things and everywhere in between. This is one reason why the apostle Paul said, “Let the older men teach the younger men and the older women the younger women.”
I personally have found the senior generation as a whole to have a wonderful sense of humor. They have lived through some of the most difficult periods of history the world has known. Yet in spite of that, they find reason and occasion to laugh and to take with humor the challenges that come with their phase of life. I once read a prayer by an elderly man which went, “God, Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.” These days many seniors do not live close to their children or grandchildren and they desire to share their lives with others. There is still much gas in tank. Benjamin Franklin contributed the most to American governance and culture after his sixtieth birthday.
So what can your church do to encourage?
- Start a Bible study/book study for the seniors of your congregation but do it mid-day where going home in the dark will not be an issue.
- Arrange monthly outings for the elderly. Museums, historic sights, and other such places have good rates for tours, if not for free.
- Par up and elderly person with a younger person. “Adoptive Grand-Parenting” bridges the generation gap and is a great ministry for those whose families live a considerable distance away.
- Create a membership directory for seniors (such as at ABCFastDirectory). It will help them remember names and faces easier.
- Host a “Classic Movie Day” and encourage them to bring their friends as Hollywood classics starring such actors as were popular during their youth will be shown.
People never want to feel as though they have been forgotten and our seniors are no different. By putting the spotlight on them, it will energize the hearts and their bodies and you will find greater participation and involvement than before. Some churches have increased membership by focusing on the seniors who are unfortunately overlooked.
Plus, senior members have important life experiences that they can share with their younger counterparts, that can strengthen your overall membership.