Churches offer tips for reaching seniors - Word&Way

Churches offer tips for reaching seniors

How are Missouri Baptist churches reaching the senior population? Three churches talk about senior ministries and share tips they've found effective in outreach:

Holmeswood Baptist, Kansas City
I recommend that churches looking for ways to reach senior adults pay attention to the divisions of senior-age groups. Many of us can easily identify those seniors with wonderful heads of gray hair, or no hair at all. But how many congregations are paying attention to the new seniors who are still working, still vibrant and who don't want to sit at luncheons listening to a guest speaker? The outreach for this age group would be tremendous.

There are many single 60- to 75-year-old people, still working, who are looking for ways to continue serving. However, there do not seem to be many senior adult programs that reach out to this particular division. Senior adults in this age bracket are wonderful missionaries, still love to go out and dance, go to movies and have weekend fellowship opportunities.

However, they are in the throes of realizing that life will be changing and they need their own support group of the same age, the same interests and the same concerns. But their needs are different from the 75- to 85-year-old senior adults who need afternoon events.

As we continue to live much longer, there will be new opportunities to serve young senior adults.

— Kathy Pickett, associate pastor for youth and missions.

University Heights, Springfield
Our senior adult ministry began officially 1 1/2 years ago. The leadership is a volunteer committee that plans and implements events, such as a monthly meeting that might be a chili cook-off or might feature a doctor discussing health issues, or perhaps a trip to the Clinton Library or to see the Steamboat Arabia in Kansas City.

In September, the group will lead our worship service on Grandparents' Sunday. These folks are self-starters who love their church and have a lot to give…. They are upbeat and full of good ideas. They don't need a church staff person to guide them, but to step aside and let them minister.

— Michael Olmsted, pastor

Kirkwood Baptist, St. Louis
This summer we took our youth to visit our some of our homebound members. Wednesday nights are tough during the summer as numbers wane and attendance varies. So taking small groups of youth for visits to our seniors worked out nicely.

Because of the travel time involved, I added an hour to our normal Wednesday night schedule. When the youth arrived at church, I gave them some background about the person we would be going to meet.

Also at the first meeting, we came up with a list of questions that the youth could ask to help them get to know the senior better. Typically, I asked the questions, not because I'm the youth minister, but because I wanted the youth to concentrate on listening. I wanted them to hear the stories and to discover the joy and pain and laughter in the lives of the people we met.

One week we went off the schedule a bit and visited a church member whom we would not consider as homebound. This member had been in an assisted living center for only a couple of months when the apartment below hers caught on fire. Her apartment was covered with soot and an oily residue and smelled of smoke. However, she chose to stay in the apartment until it was cleaned.

I offered for the youth to come by and be a distraction for her but she was too stressed out for that, inviting us to come some other time. I told the youth that just because she didn't want to visit with us didn't mean we couldn't do anything.

So we went to Target and students put together a care package of items they thought she would need – air fresheners, soap and cleaners, and other items. Then we went to the assisted living center and left the care package outside her apartment door. On our way out, we asked the receptionist to call her and tell her to go look outside her door.

As we left, I asked the youth "How do you feel about what we did tonight?"

One teen responded, "It was great. We respected her wishes but still got to do something nice for her."

Daniel Johnson, associate pastor for student ministries

Read the Aug. 25 issue of Word&Way to find out more about senior adult ministries and read stories about seniors who still make a difference in their communities and churches. (08-25-05)