In the individualistic western world, there tends to be an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality towards the elderly. Elderly members of our communities and even our families can often be ignored or treated as an inconvenience.
This is incredibly unfortunate, because we have a responsibility as the Body of Christ to minister to these individuals and care for them. The Good News does not lose its goodness for those in the later years of their lives, and often, these are the people who most need the comfort and healing of God’s love. If your church is struggling to prioritize ministry to the elderly or ill parishioners, here are a few great ideas to make it happen.
For individuals who aren’t up for in-person visits or meetings, FaceTime is the next best thing. With FaceTime, a minister, lay reader, or other church member can make video and audio calls to elderly and ill parishioners and minister to them through the assistance of technology. All that is needed is an iOS device, such as an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac, for each person. For those with an Android or other device, Skype works just as well.
FaceTime gives your church leaders and members the ability to connect and share with elderly and ill parishioners. Simply swap email addresses or phone numbers, schedule a FaceTime visit, and begin. Since FaceTime allows people to interact in real time, the parishioner and participants will be able to ask questions, talk, and pray together, just as they would during a one-to-one, in-person visit.
2. Youth Group Visits
Sometimes, sharing the word of Christ with elderly and ill parishioners is as simple as taking the church to them. If the elderly and ill parishioners are in local hospitals and nursing homes, churches should gather together their youth groups, Bible Study materials, and instruments and take the Good Word on the road. Collaborate with hospital and nursing home staff to plan a time and place to meet with those who are able to leave their rooms.
Church members and leaders can lead a modified service for elderly and ill parishioners, with assistance from youth group members, in hospitals and nursing homes. They also can sing hymns or put on skits, especially around Christmas time. Getting creative with ways to connect will energize the youth group and help them to see the value of ministering to everyone.
3. Conference Calling
It’s often difficult for seniors who are ill, injured, or simply away on vacation to miss the weekly sermons they’ve come to know and love. By adding a conference call option to your sermon, flock members can tune in to your sermon live from anywhere they can access a computer. It’s a wonderful way for them to feel like they’re really there.
You can even set it up so that your sermon is not only broadcast live to those who want to call in but also recorded and available online for later viewings. You can send the recorded sermon via email or post it on your church’s website. That way, if a senior isn’t able to get to a computer at your regularly scheduled sermon time, they can still get the full effect at their convenience. It’s also a simple way to let the message be readily accessible for anyone who feels they may need another listen.
4. Bible Study Outreach
Church members can take advantage of ample opportunities to share the word of Christ with the elderly and ill. Preparing and distributing meals is a wonderful way to forge relationships with them or even begin a Bible Study in their homes. Bible Study leaders can modify lessons and create a unique plan that best fits the audience.
Church members can also provide transportation for elderly parishioners to the church for regularly scheduled Bible Study sessions or Sunday services to share the word of Christ. Better yet, the church can plan a special Bible Study just for elderly parishioners and provide a light lunch, exercise classes, and other activities tailored to improving the lives of community seniors. Sending out a survey is a great way to determine their needs and interests before planning these types of outreach programs.
It’s important that the Church doesn’t forget to reach out to elderly and ill and make them feel as though they are valued members of the church family. Use the strategies above to help make this happen, and remember that while these individuals often need more involved physical care, they possess a great spiritual wealth that will bless you and your Church even more than you can bless them.
For more insights & strategies, check out these additional resources:
- A Hands on Approach to Ministering to Seniors
- Twelve Ways to Minister to the Elderly
- How to Begin An Older Adult Ministry