How does the church treat its older members? Unfortunately, those who are no longer able to participate regularly in the life of the church may be forgotten. Often these people are the very ones who were instrumental in establishing and building the church—through their gifts of time, energy, and resources.
This situation is not limited to congregations, either. Although not true for all older adults, many people in that generation have accumulated significant financial resources and have contributed generously to the church and its institutions. While they are thanked for their gifts, it can seem as if the church/institution is only interested in the older generation because of the financial support they can offer. We all need to feel valued and appreciated.
My grandparents made a substantial contribution to an independent ministry, but when they visited the physical location of this ministry, no one in the administration would even talk with them. They wanted to know how their gift was being used, to meet the leaders, and to be appreciated for more than their financial gift.
So, how can the church and its institutions remedy this situation?
Periodically call the person just to say hello and ask how they are doing.
Keep a list of their birthdays and send a card.
When you learn of a life event (birth of a great grandchild, death of spouse/child, etc.) that has occurred, contact the person.
Visit, visit, visit. Many older adults claim that no one from their church visits. When they were younger, the pastor regularly visited everyone, and they still have that expectation. If you are a leader at one of our institutions, stop by when your travels take you in the vicinity of some of your older contributors.
If possible, take the church to them. Many churches record the service for those who cannot be present. A Sunday school class might meet where a speaker phone is available and include a member by phone. As technology advances, consider streaming the worship service so that people can participate in real time.
Find out what their interests and talents are. Maybe they could teach a craft to a child/adult or help someone learn to read.
Seek ways of keeping older adults involved in the life and ministry of the church. For instance, people who are unable to leave home can send cards, make phone calls, pray, etc. Doing so gives them a purpose and meets an important need for the church. (The church should provide the cards and stamps.)
Let’s not let our older adults be forgotten. They still have much to offer the church and there is much the church can continue to learn from them.