Copyright © 2013 Lutheran Senior Services
Six Tips for Congregations to Start an Older Adult Ministry
- Appoint a Planning Committee of 10 (key senior adults plus several baby boomers) who have a concern and desire to develop a ministry to, by, for, and with older adults.
- The Planning Committee seeks to discover the needs and interests of the 50+ crowd in the congregation.
- The Planning Committee researches the services for older adults provided by community agencies. The congregation decides how they can support, assist, and utilize these programs.
- The Planning Committee studies the book “Aging and Ministry in the 21st Century” by Richard H. Gentzler – call 1.800.972.0433 and / or “How to Minister Among Older Adults” by Charles T. Knippel – call 1.800.325.3040.
- The Planning Committee considers the following five areas of ministry – spiritual enrichment, learning opportunities, fellowship, service opportunities, and needed services.
- The Planning Committee makes recommendations to the pastor and church council for implementation.
Six Tactics Congregations Can Use to Respond to Alzheimer’s
- Learn about Alzheimer’s and other dementias and discover ways to respond to people with dementia that meet them where they are. Volunteer at a memory care unit or an adult day services program to learn ways of interacting with and providing meaningful activities for those with advanced forgetfulness.
- Maintain social and spiritual contact. Look for creative, supportive ways to enable those with cognitive impairment to continue to serve in the congregation. Include them and their families in events for as long as possible.
- Offer regular respite care to families in the congregation that are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Provide support groups for those with Alzheimer’s and support groups for caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association offers training to lead such groups.
- Bring worship to persons who can no longer come to church, either in their homes or in residential care settings.
- Advocate for funding for programs that serve and support persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Six Topics for Discussion Groups
- STUDY THE PSALMS. The Psalmists write about many of the issues facing today’s older adults.
- LIVE WITH A PURPOSE. Organize a panel of older adults to share their experiences in their later years.
- WALK WITH GOOD BALANCE. Invite a physical therapist to teach how to improve balance and coordination.
- GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER. Invite a social worker and/or an activities director to discuss ways to retire and make your home a safer place as you age.
- HELP ELDERS RETIRE FROM DRIVING. Giving up your car keys ranks as one of the most difficult changes in life.
- AGING IN THE CONGREGATION. How does the congregation go about sharing knowledge and unlocking opportunities?
Six Thoughts for Caregivers
- Spend time in prayer and meditation. Ask God to help you in your caring ministry.
- Keep records of medications and observe the response to new medications. Get to know the primary physician.
- Have a Health Care Directive as well as a completed and signed Last Will and Testament. Let someone know where important papers are kept.
- Check out insurance policies like home, life, health, long-term care. Are they still appropriate for the family’s needs?
- Have a meeting with other members of the family. Family members need to be on the same page.
- Make plans to participate in a support group. Take care of your own health and social needs.
- We are in the midst of an age wave explosion. In the next 20 years there will be a 74% increase of Americans over the age of 50 and only a 1% increase under 50.
- Retirees need to develop a positive outlook on the passage of time.
- Faith communities need to assist older adults deal with two important questions, “Why is God giving me these extra years of living?” “What should I be doing with this amazing gift of extended life?”
- Older adults are tempted to spend too much time focusing on the past. A better approach is to look toward the future.
- Being a caregiver is not easy. It is important to take steps to care for yourself as you care for a loved one.
- Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
- Be careful when you are organizing your pills. When in doubt, have a friend double check for you.