Tips on Ministering to Senior Adults
By Roselyn Staples
For the last six years, Roselyn Staples has been ministering to senior adults as Pastor of Senior Adult Ministries at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. She shares some of the things she has learned as she has been privileged to work with people in this stage of life.
Be A Learner.
When I asked Dr. James Houston, Founder of Regent College, if he had ever ministered to senior adults, he replied, “No”, and then added reflectively, “You don’t minister to seniors, you benefit from them.” I had hoped this was a secret known only to me as I am getting paid to be a receiver of these benefits.
Be A Pray-er.
Praying with and for senior adults is a real faith builder. We have a member of our senior adult prayer team who prays with boldness because she is confident that life can’t deliver anything that God can’t handle. I am beginning to believe it myself.
After praying for service opportunities, we approached the County Department of Senior Services and asked them if they could find places for us to “walk our talk.” We had senior adults who knew how to “talk the talk,” but who needed practice in learning to walk. We met for several months just building relationships, and then the department told us they had a group of people whose behavior and lifestyle had left them isolated for years. We said we wanted to visit them. They asked us why. We said, “That’s where Jesus would go.” He has gone with us and precious stories have given us reason to worship, and the community is doing our public relations for us.
Be In Awe Of God.
My mother, who has vascular dementia, lives with us. She is unable to find the bathroom or recognize her bed. But she can find her Bible and reads it often. She would not be able to tell you how old she is or where she lives, but she can answer spiritual questions with clarity. God, in His faithfulness, has protected the eternal part of us from illness and aging. We have a window into this miracle in our own home. It has prompted us to be passionate about a nursing home worship ministry.
Be Quick To Laugh.
Seniors take themselves less seriously and God more seriously. When I transitioned from children’s ministry, a third grader prayed, “Please God, help Pastor Roselyn have fun with the grandpa’s and grandma’s.” This prayer is being answered on a daily basis.
Be A Realist.
Aging is a diminishing experience, and loss comes with the territory. Often, in a medical crisis seniors need to embrace the painful reality that the lifestyle they want is no longer available. Then, and only then, can they choose from a less desirable alternative and move ahead with the decisions that need to be made.
Be A Shepherd.
I learned at a bioethics conference that the Biblical description of aging is wisdom and weakness. The appropriate response of the church is respect and protection. We watch our ministry and look for ways to weave these qualities into the values we embrace. We want to model this to the generations who follow so that the church can stand for what our culture has not recognized.
Be An Evangelist.
Some of our older sheep have not yet met the Good Shepherd. In children’s ministry we were able to send those who didn’t “get it” on to junior high for another chance. Where do seniors go? Chronologically, a senior adult ministry is the last step before eternity. Thankfully, once they realize their bodies are not going to last, they develop a passionate interest in “what’s next”. This makes seniors very responsive to the gospel.