The following post was adapted from content provided by Chaplain Bill Crider of Minden, Louisiana. Shared with permission.
Don’t think that senior adults cannot “trot around the world” serving the Lord. They have been involved at all levels of mission programs. That includes local and area projects (for those who are limited in travel) and state and national mission projects. We have had senior adults travel to Colorado and Wyoming. Some have worked in Arkansas and along the Bayous in South Louisiana. Others have helped with local and area disaster units, state park ministries, Baptist Children’s Home projects, and ministries along the Gulf Coast. Others with more limitations faithfully commit to pray and support mission projects and those who serve.
One of the greatest rewards in missions is to see senior adults climb aboard a transcontinental flight to go halfway around the world to spend two weeks as a “volunteer missionary.” I have been blessed to take them to Central America on many trips. We have climbed the Mayan ruins in Belize and Guatemala and conducted Vacation Bible Schools, sports camps, health clinics, light construction, painting, school programs, adult seminars, and street evangelism, just to name a few. What a variety of talents, skills, and gifts that senior adults possess that can be a real asset on the mission field! Thank God for senior adults who willingly use their leisure time and personal money to go boldly into the frontiers of missions and declare the name of Jesus Christ. You name it; they will do it!
Perhaps you need to raise the bar for the seniors in your church or ministry (or even for yourself), challenging them to see to what heights they will raise the mission levels within your congregation. I would encourage you to invite them to help, equip them, provide some assistance, and point them to “mission needs.” Like a bird dog that knows what his assignment is—they will get to the business of doing missions.
Need some ideas to help you get started? Here’s a list of ways your senior adult ministry can get involved in the mission of God:
- Create a Homebound Ministry.
Homebound Ministry can provide great outreach opportunities. Many churches see the Homebound Ministry just as a responsibility to minister to the “old folks.” However, the churches that choose to see the outreach, witnessing, and ministry opportunities are being blessed in tremendous ways. Consider these ways to utilize this ministry in your church to begin or strengthen the ministry to the homebound.
- Form a Nursing Home Ministry.
In this new millennium, hardly any church can say, “We have no connection to a nursing home.” And those who can say that should see the vast need to be involved in ministry in the local facilities nearest them. With the aging population almost at an explosive rate, every church family will be affected by the needs of these adults who have built the communities and churches that in many ways, seem to neglect them now. Perhaps it is time for your church to consider how to effectively provide ministry to these adults who have special needs at this critical point in their lives.
- Start a Bereavement Ministry.
When death occurs in the church family (or to the immediate family of a church member), the church should be organized to “swing into action.” Of course, if every church member is on a Bible Study class roster, then a team of concerned members can rise to the occasion and provide support, food, and loving care for the family during such tragic times. However, on the day of the funeral, a bereavement ministry can provide a “special touch” that will be remembered and bring dividends in special ways.
- Develop a Medical Equipment Closet.
With the need for medical equipment so great and the cost rising so dramatically, a church with seniors in it (or as prospects) would provide a great service to the community by offering medical equipment on a loan basis to those in need. A church family can collect several wheelchairs, walkers, canes, potty chairs, extensions to be used, and maybe even a hospital bed. All of these are valuable to people who have to use such for a short period of time. Some are provided through insurance, medicare, and so forth, but more and more folks today are without insurance. Many are not eligible yet for Medicare. So this puts the church in a crucial position to minister in this key area of need.
- Collect Items for various church ministries, local homeless shelters, addiction centers, or other ministries in your community.
Consider the needs of your church ministries (clothes closet, food pantry, and so forth), and then look to local homeless shelters, addiction centers, community centers, and crisis pregnancy centers and reach out to see what needs they have.
- Adopt area first responders as prayer partners and pray for them by name.
Connect with local police stations, fire departments, and first responders to get a list of names. Adopt each individual, perhaps sending cards or small gifts (like donuts or coffee), and commit to praying for him/her by name.
- Host Christmas Stores in Nursing Homes.
Those living in nursing homes are usually unable to visit stores at Christmas time to purchase gifts for friends and family members. Work with other groups in your church to coordinate a mobile “Christmas Store” that can be set up in a nursing home. Items can include candy, board games, card games, cards, and other small and affordable gift items.
- Serve at Vacation Bible School.
There is always room for more volunteers to serve and help with VBS. Senior adults can assist younger children with crafts, assist with snacks, and help lead in any way they feel comfortable.
- Celebrate teacher appreciation week.
Connect with a local school to get the names of school teachers. Give each teacher an apple (or any other fun gift item), and commit to praying for him/her by name.
- Serve as Meal Hosts.
If your church serves meals on Wednesday nights (or any other time), invite senior adults to serve as table hosts. They can welcome members, share stories, assist with setup, cleanup, and everything in-between!
- Organize Disaster Relief Training.
Offer a SEND Relief disaster relief training to provide the opportunity to become a certified Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer.
- Participate in Operation Christmas Child.
This is an easy and fun way to involve everyone in your church in international missions. The mission of Operation Christmas Child is “to provide God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.” Individuals can get involved by packing shoeboxes with essentials like soap and socks as well as fun things like games and books.
It is important that each church’s missions committee spend time on a purpose and vision statement. And what biblical passage is more directive than Matthew 28:19-20? With these marching orders, how can a church or individual not be on mission every day? Developing a vision statement might wrap these thoughts together to best fit the needs and visions of the local church: to meet the needs of unchurched people in our community, area, and state, in the nation, and even around the world. This can be done through meeting physical needs, developing relationships and friendships, giving to others in the name of Jesus, preaching and teaching the good news of Jesus Christ. To make sure the church has a balanced approach to missions, consider these strategies:
1. Consider your Jerusalem (needs right around your church/community).
2. Then consider Judea (extend the circles around you and see the area/state needs).
3. Next comes the Samaria that pushes us out of our comfort zones and into new depths of servanthood. We must go forth throughout the state and touch people for Christ.
4. And the final test of our commitment is to go to the uttermost parts of the world. This will lead you beyond the national borders.
Bill Crider has served as the leader of the Chapel Class, a group of sixty-five senior adults ages sixty-five and up. This is his twenty-second year of leading this group in his local church. For the past twelve years, he has served as senior adult minister in Minden, Louisiana. Previously, Bill served the Illinois Baptist State Association in the Sunday School Department.