Start strengthening older adult ministry in the new year!


The new year ushers in an opportunity for church leaders to take a fresh look at how their churches are engaged in ministry for and with older adults. It’s time that we think beyond monthly potluck luncheons and daytrips to ensure that that there’s a ministry plan involving older adults in every life stage, from active to frail. Here are two questions to get you started:

Does your church have a system in place to track and nurture older adults at every life stage?

Since senior adults go through many life transitions, it’s easy for them to get lost in the shuffle of daily church life. Consider the scenario of eighty-six year-old Mrs. Jones who had been very active until she fell and broke a hip. Following surgery, she went from the hospital to a rehab facility for six weeks. Then she moved into her daughter’s home while the family tried to figure out the best next step. After a few months, Mrs. Jones moved again to a senior care center across town.

Unless the church is intentional in its efforts to track its older members, it is likely that Mrs. Jones and others like her will become of victims of that deadly church disease– good-intentions-but-bad-follow-through. One antidote to this malady is to have a communication and tracking system that ensures that the church knows where Mrs. Jones is and how they can address her spiritual needs.

In larger churches it will mean that leaders in older adult ministry and those representing congregational care need to work closely together to make certain that Mrs. Jones’ spiritual needs are being met, not just that she has an occasional visitor from church. It will also require that churches reach out to family members and strongly encourage them to keep in contact about their older loved one. Providing family members with the name of a specific go-to person, including a cell phone number for texting, can be very helpful in the tracking process.

Is your church being intentional about finding new ways for older adults at every life stage to serve others?

As older adults deal with physical decline, they often come to believe that they have no real purpose since they cannot do what they once did. One of the church’s most important roles in the journey through aging is to redirect the gifts and talents of every older adult, including those who are frail, to new ways of serving others.

Now that they are physically unable to go on mission trips like they once did, an older couple might serve as marriage mentors to newly engaged couples. Older adults with dementia who participate in a church’s respite program could help make personal care bags for the homeless.

If church leaders make it a priority, they could easily incorporate the artwork of older adults for bulletin covers or screen images for worship services. Some seniors would love to write devotions or prayers for Lenten or Advent booklets. Others could participate in a phone-call ministry to other homebound members.

The point is, the church needs to find out what things each older adult is passionate about. What skills and gifts do they have? What still excites them? How can they serve?

In 2014 let’s reach out to older adults, from active to frail, and help them lean forward into the new year!


Missy Buchanan, UMR Columnist

Missy Buchanan is a sought-after speaker on topics of older adult ministry and spiritual creativity, she brings passion and humor to many events for churches, organizations, and women’s groups. She has appeared on Good Morning America with co-host Robin Roberts and is the author of books including Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults, Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms, and Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults. She has written for many publications including Presbyterians Today, Mature Years, Christian Association Serving Adults Ministries, Entrepreneur, and The Dallas Morning News.

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Judith Ernst

Good afternoon, a fellow member sent me to this site. I am glad that she did. The past two congreagations that I have been involved in have had ‘the graying” age group in the majority. I see that some people start feeling that they have nothing to contribute/or feel useless due to health problems or inability to drive any longer. My Mother is soon to be “90” and can no longer drive. Her comment regarding that is, “I can’t even go get a birthday card when I want; that is because she feels no longer independent since she can’t drive.… Read more »

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