Ministry to and with older adults is changing. In an unstable world, this provides a unique opportunity for churches to start or revamp the way they approach ministry to senior adults. We not only want to provide ministry that helps this age group reach and disciple their peers, but we also want to provide ministry that encourages and enables them to “pass the baton” to future generations.
Check out these five suggestions for getting started in reinventing your senior adult ministry:
Pray over a New Senior Ministry
Ask God for His plan to revise or start a senior ministry. That is the only plan you want. If you don’t use His plan, it becomes your plan and your ministry and will limit effectiveness. If we are His bride and His children, then we are His. We are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19). We have been called to do His work – not ours.
Understand who the senior adults are. There has been a shift in older adult ministry for some time now, and we need to proceed with a clear understanding of who we are working with. The new older adult is the Boomer generation. This generation maintains a different philosophy of how they perceive themselves and the church. Consider those on the church roll who are over 55 years of age. This group is more diverse than ever. Some are working, and others are retired. Some are physically or mentally incapacitated to varying degrees. Others have a big nest egg, and the option to travel and have more things, while others do not.
Many have grown up in the church, and others have more recently come into a relationship with Christ or joined a Baptist church. A select number of these Boomers serve every week in church ministries, and others are members that never attend. Many are growing in their faith and walking faithfully in Christ, and others don’t know the Lord. Some have lived in the community all their lives, and others recently moved to the area. With all these factors in mind, we need to strive to include older adults from all walks of life in our community and congregation within any older adult ministry we are pursuing.
Know Your Purpose
Matthew 28 tells us to go and make disciples. This includes senior adults. Many of these seniors are lost and in need of a Savior. Many know all the Bible stories, but no one has ever walked with them through Scripture to help them grow and apply God’s Word to their lives. If the purpose of ministry to older adults is to entertain them through events and trips, then we are doing nothing more than providing what a secular club or organization could provide.
Rather than gather these groups for social events and trips, would it not be more biblical to encourage older adults to be intentional, and take the gospel to others within these community clubs and organizations? Our purpose is the great commission – to make disciples of Jesus Christ (Mt. 28:16-20). Start with this focus and maintain this focus, making sure all we plan and do falls under this purpose.
Who will be the person directing or leading this ministry? This could be a pastor, a staff person, or a lay leader. In any case, there needs to be a God-given love and concern for these essential people in our church and community. A leadership team can be established to help with planning. It can include existing Sunday school or small group leaders, and others that might already have an ongoing ministry with older adults. This team can meet regularly via zoom, or in-person to keep things moving forward. Make sure the meetings are needed and are meeting the needs of those we are working with and striving to reach.
Always plan in conjunction with church leadership. Older adult ministry is an important ministry, but not the only important ministry. We want all the ministries of the church to thrive in reaching and discipling people. Working together with the pastor, staff, and others in leadership help provide the organization and resources that are needed to have a fruitful ministry. Strategic planning allows for events and ongoing ministry to have good promotion, funding, and the servant leaders needed to move forward.