Ministry in Retirement Homes
Many of us grew up—or our kids did—in the time of a TV show called The Waltons. As you may remember, the setting took place during the depression when money was so tight it was hard to scrape up enough to buy a sack of flour at the neighborhood general store.
The lack of money didn’t keep the Walton family from having a good time together, or from loving each other. The story was told from the standpoint of the oldest boy, who grew up to become a writer. He told of three generations living in their house—the boy and his younger siblings, their parents, and their grandparents. Over the years we watched the children grow up and the grandparents grow old, all the while living and loving together in that big, old house.
Now, fast forward to the present. What happens to Grandma and Grandpa as they get older? Many times they don’t live with their children, but in an “Old Age Home.” Of course, now it’s called a “Retirement Home,” or an “Assisted Living Facility.” The buildings are beautifully decorated inside and out, and there is a helpful staff of employees, including someone who plans fun activities for the “residents.” But the home of the Waltons it is not!
How can we, as a church, minister to the residents of such facilities? Some of them may be our family members or friends; some have no family or friends. All of them, however, need what we, the church, can bring to them.
Most retirement homes welcome volunteers who bring the outside world to the homes’ residents. It can be easy—and gratifying—to provide worship services for people who can no longer travel to their home churches. Anyone can do it! I tried it the hard way first. I used to travel to assisted living homes with a portable PA system so I could be heard; a keyboard to provide music; and hymnals for every resident. I needed a van to transport it all, and I was worn out by the time I unloaded all the equipment and set it up. I soon found that a CD player was a much more efficient way to provide the music, I could be heard without a microphone, and the residents didn’t have to fumble to find the correct page number before the hymn ended! I graduated to a one-page handout that contained the words to two verses of the hymns for the day and the Lord’s Prayer. Everyone was happier and the services went more smoothly.
Life has changed a lot from the depression era of the Waltons. Today, we’re blessed with many technological advances that make an outreach ministry to a nearby retirement home not only possible, but enjoyable. Try it—you just might discover that the person receiving the biggest blessing is you!