Reaching and Keeping Senior Adults

Originally Posted on September 15, 2020

Webinar Transcript

– Kathy Mims is a friend of mine for many years. And the whole time has served, at least for the whole time that I’ve known her. And she retired, but she still loves senior adults, and she still understands the ministry of senior adults. And so I’m glad that she was willing to come on board with us tonight and then again on Sunday. And tonight, she’s gonna talk about reaching and keeping senior adults. And so, I think you’re gonna enjoy the information that she has to share. And she did tell me that she has a, the presentation that she has it typed out. She will send it to me, and I’m gonna send you my email address, I’ll write it in here. And you can email me if you want a copy of her presentation that you might be able to share. So just know that. And I am going to pray, and then I’m gonna turn it over to Dr. Kathy Mims. Father, I thank you for tonight. I thank you for each person that has registered and is a part of this webinar. Father, I just pray that the information that Kathy shares is clear and that she has strong voice and that with all the effort and time she’s put in preparation Father, just to bless those efforts in her presentation tonight. We thank you for your love. We thank you for loving senior adults, in Jesus name, Amen. Kathy.

– All right, thank you, darling. All right.

– Welcome to everybody. I’m not accustomed to talking to a screen and a camera I like to see people. So I’m really missing seeing you tonight. And the fact we can be at Shocco at this week, but I’m thankful for technology and that we can participate together this way. I told Eileen this, and I’m gonna tell you this upfront, I’m having some allergy problems. So if I develop a little cough or my throat gets scratchy, be patient with me, I’ve got my water and my cough drops handy. And hopefully we will have no problems for this. As she said, tonight, we’re gonna talk about reaching and keeping senior adults. And I actually titled this, reaching and keeping older adults. And we’re gonna talk about that as we go through why I use that term instead of senior. Just to kind of give you an idea of the direction I took. The first thing I want to talk about is we are losing senior adults. And what are the reasons for that? What are some things you need to be mindful of? And then what are the implications for the Church in regards to older adult ministries. Then we’re gonna talk about some tips for an effective senior adult ministry that reaches and keeps seniors. And then where do you find senior adults who need to know the Lord? We know that there are many senior adults in the community that know the Lord, but they’re not attached to a church. For some reason, they’ve gotten away from the Church. And then I wanted to end up tonight, we’re living in a very different time. And so I wanted to be sure that we talked a little bit about older adult ministry and the coronavirus and what the implications are for that. Some of the things that I may talk about as we go through, and you’re gonna go, ” Well, we can’t do that because we’re not meeting or we’re not having church right now.” And I don’t know where everybody is with that. I know that our church has started meeting again, is very different. And many of our senior adults have not come back to worship in-house because they are scared. And a lot of them have underlying conditions. They’re high-risk, others are healthy, but they said, “We just don’t want to take any chances right now.” So you have to be mindful of that. Fortunately, I’m in a church that we have a television ministry, and we also livestream on Facebook, so they are able to participate that way. I know many, many churches do not have that. But those are kind of the things that we’re gonna talk about tonight. Let’s start first talking about, we are losing our older adults in the Church. And one of the reasons for this is that older people often feel detached from ministry in the body of Christ. Why do they feel detached? Well, first of all, some older adults have the attitude that, I have served my time, or they feel that they have nothing left to contribute due to changes in their life circumstances. They’re experiencing health problems. They maybe have had changes in their financial situation. They have family obligations. Some older adults are raising grandchildren or helping to take care of grandchildren. And they’re dealing with adult children that are having issues, just many things that are going on in their lives. And so they are not as involved in the Church anymore. They may feel tired, depressed, isolated, preoccupied, all the things that we’re dealing with right now. And they are ready to pass the baton or just to drop the baton on to the next group. It’s like, “I’ve done it. I’m done. Leave me alone.” How do we keep them then? There are lots of biblical examples of people that the Lord either did not call until they were much older or they didn’t come into the ministry until they were much older for various reasons. One person that I think of with that is Paul, and where Paul was when he was in prison, he continued to work. He continued to stay in touch with the churches in the Roman Empire. He stayed involved. He stayed in touch with them. And by the same token, they stayed in touch with Paul to let him know what was going on with them. They shared interests, they shared concern, they shared involvement. It wasn’t just a one-way street with them. And Paul wrote to Philemon in 1:7, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, my brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” Paul is saying, “You refresh my heart.” And these were people out there that he was relying on to help him. We have to offer that same encouragement a lot of times to senior adults, refresh their hearts, help them to figure out how do I stay in this? Why should I stay in this? And you have to remember, Paul was an old man in prison when he wrote it. And that’s not where our senior adults are. And they live in a much better circumstances. And so we have to help them see the possibilities. We have to help them stay informed and involved as they age. Are they having an outward focus or an inward focus? So that’s one thing to look at. The other thing is older adults feel marginalized. The Church is not the Church that they’ve known, it’s changed a great deal, to what they’re accustomed to, what they prefer. And what’s the major struggle for older adults and seeing all the changes that have taken place in the Church? You might ask yourself, is the Church changing to reach younger adults? Is that the problem? Or is it because older adults don’t like the music, and we hear that a lot. It may not be their choice, but that is not the reason that they’re struggling. Is it an informal worship service an issue, or is it that the Church has gone to small groups? Maybe they don’t have Sunday school, they’re doing small groups and meeting in people’s homes, that nature of thing. Is it that the Church has no Sunday night services, or is it that preaching style has changed? All of these things, I’ve heard them through my ministry with senior adults. And I’m sure that you have heard many of the same things. Are those really the things that are making them feel marginalized? And the answer to all those questions is no. Well, if it’s no, then what? There’s a sense that they, and when they say they, they’re talking about the Church, don’t need us, don’t want us, won’t listen to us, they disregard us. These are the very people who are saying this, that were the visionaries, they were the givers, the workers, the prayers, the leaders. They’re the ones that possibly built that church and brought it to where it is today. And they feel like they have sort of been pushed to the sidelines in very many ways. So they’re not feeling very significant. They’re feeling like they’re in the way. I don’t know how many of you seen that commercial on TV about the shingles medication, they just go, “What.” That might be our response. When we hear this with senior adult saying we’re marginalized and feeling like they’re in the way is we’re saying, “What? what are you talking about?” Churches, a lot of times concentrate on the next generation. We know we have to have the next generation to survive. And so children and youth ministries get a lot of attention. Again, it’s the older adults who feel like they’re just parked on the sidelines, they’re watching things go by. And we know it’s harder for older people to let go of things. It’s harder to let go of traditions, it’s harder to let go of institutions they cherish, they have their comfort zones, like we all do. And I say that like I’m not a senior adult, but I am. And they have their fears. So they held on tightly to the things that they are comfortable with, the things that they know, the traditions, the memories. But they also face a church life that’s changing in the same way that so many other things in their lives are changing. And change comes quickly for senior adults. And many of them are changes we don’t want. So one of the things that we can do to counteract this is to focus on the things that all believers do have in common. We’re all loved by God, we’re all valued by God, and we all can be used by God. And it doesn’t matter what age we are. And a lot of times we just have to help people see, what is it that you can do? And one of the quotes that I like is for Missy Buchanan, and she says, “The world needs strong finishers, faithful older adults, who will use their influence and resources for God’s purposes.” But sometimes it takes encouragement from us, from the leaders to help them see what they can do or how they can still contribute. Another reason that we’re losing our adults is that they are feeling traumatized, they’re marginalized, they’re traumatized. And again, in this day and age, aren’t we all, to a certain extent. The world’s changing extremely fast, and it’s disorienting and troubling. And for older people, this can be especially true. They’re concerned about dangerous uncertainties of international affairs, what’s happening to our country. I’m hearing more and more of that because we’re in an election year, and the way things are going. Inability of politicians to effectively address issues that are facing our nation and our states and our cities and our counties where we live. The transcend society. For example, human rights are emphasized at the expense of human responsibilities. And so a lot of times this results in legalization of behaviors that directly contradict divine principles, things that we believe as Christians and followers of Christ. Lifestyles of adult children. They’re experiencing divorces in their children’s families, they’re experiencing disruption of the whole family system, worried about their grandchildren. They’re looking at things that their children are doing, perhaps they don’t agree with, cohabitation, alternative lifestyles. All of these things are upsetting to them. Younger generations are also leaving the Church. Their children and their grandchildren may not be involved in a church. And so, this is not what they desire, and this is not the way they raised them, this is not what they want. So again, it’s another blow to them. Maybe financial matters are a thing that’s worrying them. They’re living on fixed incomes. And with everything the way it’s been this year, up and downs in the stock market and other things where they may have money invested. And so they worry about what’s my security financially, how am I gonna take care of myself? And especially as people are living longer, takes more money because you’re living more years. They worry about their own failing health and medical care. And again, in the days that we’re living in now, I’ve heard a lot of people here that really needed to go to the hospital say, “I’m not going to the hospital.” There’s just too much going on down there with the COVID. And of course we were one of the first hotspots in the nation. I think we were number three on the list. And so we’ve been dealing with a lot in that area. And medical care for normal procedures or routine procedures took a back seat. They’re worried about their health, they’re worried about what’s going to happen with them. And then you’ve layered all this, as I said with the pandemic this year. So it’s been difficult. It’s been difficult for everybody. I found that it’s been particularly difficult for older adults, and particularly for those who live alone, that are widowed or they have nobody living in the home with them. So one of the things that can happen here is being marginalized and traumatized can result in grumpy taking over. And we don’t want that to happen with them. This is another reason that they often are just not involved in the Church. The last thing is older adults are not seniors. They are all older adults, I should say, are not seniors. The baby boomers have arrived, and they’re on the scene, and they’re still arriving. The oldest baby boomers will turn 74 years of age this year, and the youngest ones are turning 56. So they’re maybe are just coming into what or should be coming into senior adult ministry doesn’t mean that they are. A person is age 55 has about roughly 15 to 30 plus more years of life. We really consider those ages more middle years now, as opposed to senior adult years. And in their minds, they are certainly not senior adults. They don’t want to be viewed as senior adults, they do not want to be grouped in with their parents’ generation. Those two generations kinda mix like oil and water if you start trying to plan things where they’re all grouped together. They do not respond to the same things. The boomers are different in terms of the size of the group, they’re a big group, the vitality that they have and outlet that they have. They’re living healthier, more active lives, more productive and longer lives. And so they’re out and about doing, they’re doers, they’re goers, and they also are prone to exhibit lower institutional loyalty. And that’s a factor in church hopping. I don’t know if that’s something that you had seen or experienced. A lot of times they come into a church and if things don’t go their way or something happens that they don’t particularly like, they just go to another church. I know we’ve had that experience, and I’ve watched people go to every Baptist Church just about in town, and eventually they might come back to us. There’s just not that institutional loyalty that you see in the older senior adult generations. Anything for the boomers must be done on their terms and conditions. And it impacts our approach to ministering to them. And we have to factor that in. And one of the things that we can do is the Church can play a role in helping the boomers and the middle aged adults prepare for the journey of aging, so that they can embrace the unknowns with faithfulness and purpose, because they’re experiencing the same things, even the older generations in terms of worrying about how things are going and what is gonna happen, and we’re gonna be able to handle things. So what are the implications for the Church? What are these implications for the Church in terms of older adult ministries? Well, the old ways of doing senior adult ministry must be reevaluated. I know when I started in senior adult ministry at the Church in 1996, it was very different than it was when I retired two years ago. And I had to change the way I did things, I had to reevaluate as I went along. I saw my senior adult groups shrinking as the older ones died off, the younger ones weren’t coming in. So we were constantly looking at what are we doing, how are we doing, how are we responding to people? And one thing that hurts is the phrase senior adult, that can hurt your efforts almost more than anything. There’s a stigma attached to that phrase, making it problematic. So you have to be a church that is age sensitive. And by that, I mean, you’re gonna provide a variety of programs to appeal to the diversity of interest, needs and activities of each age group. In other words, you do not have just one senior adult ministry or older adult ministry. You’re gonna have to have a number of ministries, and your age group. A lot of times you have three generations in that older adult group in your church if you’re in a big enough church. Now not every church fits that mold. I know a lot of churches have just older adults, and I’m talking about the upper 70s, 80s, 90-year-olds. Some might have a few more what we would call those middle adult years, the 50s, 60s, 70s age group. So you kind of have to look at who your people are. So that’s the first thing I’m gonna say. If you want to have an effective adult ministry that reaches and keeps seniors, the first thing you have to do is know your audience, who are the senior adults that attend this church, who are the senior adults in our community that may not be attached to a church and that maybe don’t even know the Lord and need to know the Lord. So you have to kind of figure those things out. What kind of older adults attend your church? How many are in each age group or seniors? How many are working versus retired? How many males and females, roughly speaking, marital status? Do you have a lot of widows and widowers? Do you still have a lot of married couples? And then what are their attitudes? Do they want to focus outward on ministry or they’re real interested in reaching the community for Christ or they’re real interested in going on mission trips or they more inward focused, they’re more interested in fellowship. And you kind of see a shift from the ministry more for fellowship as they age and they don’t feel like there is able to do things. So what are their needs and interests? What’s going on in their families? Like I said, they’re dealing with family issues with their adult children or with grandchildren, health issues, what are their interests? Do they enjoy recreational type activities? Anything that you can learn about them. And then who and where are the older adults that need reaching with the gospel of Jesus Christ? And we’re gonna talk about that a little further on too tonight. The other thing is you gotta know your church, and that is, is your church senior sensitive or senior insensitive. And some questions that you, is there an dammit us mentality? Then again, when you get a group of senior adults that are feeling marginalized, you can drift toward having that mentality of they view everybody else is it’s them against us, and you don’t want that to happen. So to determine how senior sensitive your church is, you might ask questions like, are we taking advantage of contributions that older adult members can make, or we’re using them in ministry? Are we providing opportunities for them to be involved? Do we have a staff person or dedicated leaders who work with senior adults? Not every church is blessed with having a designated staff person that can work with senior adults. I hope in those churches that there are lots of volunteers who step up to the play and provide a leadership and are willing to give up their time and energy for that. But again, are the church leaders trained to understand the unique needs, opportunities and outreach strategies required for older adults? Because it’s different, and you can’t treat it all the same. You can’t approach them the same way that you would approach 20 something year olds in doing things. What portion of your budget is dedicated to older adult ministries? I know when I started on church staff, I think I had a budget of about $200 a year to do everything. And that didn’t go very far. And one of the kind of things that I would hear people say is, “Well, senior adults can pay their own way.” And I thought, “Well, that is true for a lot of them, not true for all of them, but it’s also true that when it’s time to do youth camps and children’s camps and mission trips for the youth and things like that, who do you turn to to finance those things? You turn to your senior adults.” So you’re kind of asking them to carry everything that everybody’s doing in the Church. And I thought there’s gotta be some times when they benefit some from the gifts that they’re giving to the Church too. So over time, I was able to get that budget increase as we increased the ministries we were involved in with our older adult ministries, and as we created more opportunities for them getting involved. And then we were able to build up kind of a little kitty in a designated fund, so that when we had special things that were really needed to, like we want to bring in a special speaker or something, I had a little fund that I could draw from. So you wanna look though, is, do we have money designated for older adult ministries, at least some? And then, is there a general attitude of ageism or discrimination against older adults? I’ve heard people say, “Well, we really need to get some young people in the choir. We really need to get fewer gray hairs up there on stage, or we really need to do this or that.” Well, those are signs of ageism. You’re looking at what’s on the outside, you’re not looking at what people still have to contribute and what they want to give to you. One solution to this might be to begin, not with a older adult ministry or a senior adult ministry, but just to begin with an adult ministry. Make adults in general, one of the priorities of your church, and then mobilize them for ministry and leadership. And you can develop all kinds of groups when you do that. And some of them might be again for the younger ones, they might be more intergenerational with different ages of adults in them. That can be any number of things, mission trips, book clubs, Bible studies, any way that you can get them interacting, fellowships that you do together. Just think adult ministry may be instead of older adult ministry, and let all of it come forth out of that. And then you wanna build your ministry on adult motivators. What motivates older adults? What motivates adults in general? And I came across kind of five values that they say you should include, and sort of a foundation when you’re building your ministries. One is autonomy. They would like to be, or to remain self-sufficient. Of course, we know this is particularly true, as people get older, we don’t wanna get too dependent on other people to help us or to help take care of us. You wanna look at the autonomy and how you can help them remain self-sufficient. Social and spiritual connectedness is another value. They will respond to people more than they will respond to programs. Ways that they can know each other, ways that they can really pray for each other, ways that they can work together. They want that connectedness, and they want authenticity at the same time. Then there’s altruism. They want to give something back to the world. I hear many as people age and they have grandchildren and they say, “Well, I want them to leave the world in better shape for my grandchildren. It worries me what’s happening in the world today because of my grandchildren.” How can you look at the altruistic part of it? And then you’ve got personal growth. The desire to continue developing as human beings. They want to continue to learn and to grow. Sometimes you don’t see that, but if you give them opportunities, they will respond to that. And then revitalization. Respond to activities that bring fresh and new experiences. You don’t wanna do the same old, same old all the time. I don’t like that. I imagine that most of you don’t like that. And so you want some new opportunities, some new experiences, some new way of doing things sometimes. So if you can integrate these five values, the autonomy, socialist, spiritual connectedness, altruism, personal growth, and revitalization into a creative variety of activities and experiences, your ministry will go further, it will be more successful. Another thing is, do you have a leadership team? You can’t do it all by yourself. And I think that’s true regardless of the size of your church and the size of your group, that you need to involve people that are in the group, so that you can know better what they want and how you have to approach it. So recruit and develop a diverse leadership team age-wise. If you’ve got a raw variety of ages in your church, in the outdoor adult ministries, then you might have to break it down into like the 55 to 65 group or 55 to 70 group, and then the 70 to 80 or 85 group, and then your much older adults who are the ones that tend to be, they’re not goers and doers as much, because of their own health problems. They’ve slowed down in life. And so, you may have to break it down into groups to make it more effective. But you also wanna provide training for the individuals who serve in this capacity. And one is, you’re gonna have to approach people individually to ask them to serve in this capacity. And then you have to provide some training for them to let them know you want them to know what the mission is, you want them to know what your expectations are for them in the role that they’ve taken on, and ways to interact with adults of all ages. It’s not an across the board thing. So you would like to help people to learn how to do that. And people on your team should also have a genuine love for people in this age group. I’ve seen too many times that ministers get assigned the responsibility of older adult ministries, and that’s not their thing, that’s not their age group. I feel the same way about children. I tell the preacher, I say, “I’ll do anything, but don’t put me in there with children, ’cause that’s not my thing, I like old people.” So you have to be aware of that, because this is not a job, it is a ministry. And so you want somebody who can love on older adults, who can respond to older adults, who’s there for older adults, and who can lead them and encourage them and motivate them. So that’s what you want to look for too when you’re putting together a ministry team. It’s great if you can develop a purpose statement, you need a guiding light. This should be a statement that’s owned by the group. And it’s also a yardstick to measure progress that the group is making. And this can help prevent a group from becoming too self-serving and self-centered. You wanna maintain, you’ve got to have outward focus as well as inward focus. And a lot of times churches find it very easy to drift towards the inward focus because that’s our comfort zone, and that’s where we want to be. So included in a purpose statement might be ongoing development of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, connecting older adults to ministries of the Church, involving them in gospel sharing and an application of scripture to daily living. And your mission should be based on the belief that there is no retirement from responsibilities of a Christian life. And one place that, occasionally, I just go on the web internet and Google things just to see what’s out there. And sometimes I might Google something like mission statements for senior adult church groups. And one of the ones that I came across the last time I did that that I liked, and I kind of pull some of this information from was the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. And it’s a little two-page thing, where they give their mission statement, they talk about how they developed what they focus on. And so, if you’re in the process of thinking about a purpose statement or a mission statement, that’s a great way to start. It’s just see what other churches have done, see how they’ve approached it. Not everybody has to recreate the wheel and start from scratch. But at the same time, you have to take into account who are my people, and where do we need to tweak this to make it applicable so to speak. Another thing you need to do is to challenge and equip older adults to serve in outreach, in leadership, discipleship, to help them to be able to lead groups. And a question to ask yourself, is what did the older adults in this church or community have to offer? What did older adults in your church and in your community have to offer? And make a list. Make a list of things that they can do or things that they could do with a little training or with a little encouragement with somebody kind of helping them. And you want to be able to help them with that. So think outside the box when you’re doing this too. Some ideas might be, I don’t know how many of you maybe are familiar with Stevens Ministries or have had training for your church group. But that’s one possibility that you might look at. Maybe you’ve got some couples in your church that could provide some counseling. And I don’t mean like professional counseling, but just encouragement and working with premier couples that are preparing to get married or with young couples who are newly married or maybe new parents. Again, that they could be mentors to them. Again, this is something that might require some training. How many are interested in one on mission trips, or being involved in ministries locally? And if you start asking and looking around, if you don’t know, a lot of senior adults already involved in things in the community. I know we have a lot of senior adults in our church that are involved in the local food pantry, they work at hospital as volunteers, they work with the CASA, which is advocates for children that have come out of abusive situations. They are out in the community doing things. They have things they’re interested in. How can you build on that? How can you encourage them? And at the same time, not just doing what they’re out there to do, but as they go sharing Christ, as they go inviting people to come, as they go learning who else is in the community and have to be involved in that. What kind of skills do they have? Maybe you have somebody who’s proficient in a language or could teach English as a second language. Maybe you’ve got somebody who’s really good at cooking or grilling, sewing, quilting, woodworking, doing minor repair jobs, car maintenance. What talents and gifts do your group have that they could teach to the younger people in the Church, or they could teach others in the community who might need it? So figure out ways that you can get them plugged in with things they’re already interested in, but at the same time, working with other people and helping share those skills and teaching those skills possibly. And then also connect them with young people. There might be a mentoring through the Church or through the school system sometimes where they can mentor and disciple young people, they can have prayer times with them, one-on-one meetings with them, share mutual hobbies. Again, it may require some training. And how do you work with the young people? How do you understand young people? They’re different today than we were when we were coming along. Those are some ideas of ways to help getting them involved using their skills, their abilities, their interests, and still getting them out, meeting other people, mentoring other people, working with other people, and building up the church and the community. You might also consider some kind of new outreach, not necessarily a worship service, but something where you can use lots of different types of styles. You can sometimes do hymns, maybe have a gospel choir, special music, children’s spots, interviews with people, quartets, public invitations. Look for unique places to do this. This is one of those things that the pastor or the staff would certainly have to endorse and be there to help you with possibly. But retirement homes, assisted living facilities, hospital chapels, open spaces, going out to parks, doing like festivals out in your community and in areas where there’s open air parks, and that children and families could come, and you could have opportunities to work with them on different things. All of these are things that when we do things like that, a lot of our senior adults turn out for it and they love it. They like to be involved, they like to get out and they love to be around the children or the young people and to work with them. And then please, please, please do intergenerational events, help the generations to learn one another’s names, help them to play together, to pray together, and to connect in meaningful ways. I think that’s one of the things in our churches a lot of times we don’t have the opportunities that we’ve had as much in the past to connect generations and to get them to where they know each other. Again, we’re kind of segregating in the Church with our age grade, Sunday schools and that sort of thing. And so a lot of times I’ll have the older people say to me, “Who are those people? I haven’t ever met them. I haven’t ever seen them.” Try to help them to know each other. You can do that in a lot of different ways with different kinds of events. I was also the women’s ministry leader, and I can remember one event that I did, we put different kinds of candy bars, bite sized candy bars in a basket as they came in, and we tell them to pick their favorite candy bar and don’t eat it, but take it with you. And then we divided them into groups based on the candy bar that they chose. And we had them get through different activities, that gradually they had to share more and more information about themselves. And then at the end, we’re having prayer groups, and asking, share your prayer needs and pray for each other. And we had some younger women connected with older women in the group, and they became prayer partners through that. We saw a lot of good results from things like that. So build on things you might’ve already be doing, and you can incorporate other aspects into it. We’ve had game nights where we said, bring your grandchildren, ’cause they wanna learn how to play chicken foot and all these other games that y’all liked to play. And the kids loved it, the senior adults loved it. And it was a good way to connect. Parents could come with them. If you did monthly luncheons, sometimes we would have programs that I knew kids would like. And so I would say, if you want to your grandkids, bring them on. And the homeschool association got winded that one time with one particular speaker and they asked if they could come and bring their children. And that turned out to be kind of a blessing, because they came, their children interacted well, they were thrilled to be there, and it kinda added a different element to that senior adult luncheon. And it created a little excitement for them. And so they came to several of them, ended up coming to several of our programs and our luncheons, where we were able to have them. And so think outside the box, think of different ways you can pull in people and get different exposure and have opportunities to share the gospel. One thing we have to remember is old adult ministries is not just about serving older people, it’s about equipping them for and giving them opportunities to serve in meaningful ways, not just to fill up time or produce something, but meaningful ways, and letting them take opportunities to be a blessing to others. That’s what they want, that’s what God desires. He wants all the people involved in the Church and the community serving others and telling them about Jesus Christ. So those are just some ideas of some things that would help you to have an effective ministry. And I know you’ve heard some of those things before, but hopefully there were some new nuggets in there or different way of thinking about some of the things that you may already be doing. So the next question is, where do you find older adults who need to know the Lord? You wanna reach older adults. They’re everywhere, everywhere, anywhere you might get. Think about the places you go, the things outside of church in which you were involved or that your other older adults or adults in the church are involved in. Where did they go? What did they do for fun and for involvement outside of church? And these might include things like civics clubs, garden clubs, book clubs. If y’all hear my dog collar, he’s roaming around in here with me, so just forgive him. Volunteer organizations like Red Cross, Cancer Society, boards of different organizations in your community, local hangouts, the McDonald’s are working. I know we have older men that meet and fly to go to McDonald’s. Some of them like to go to Burger King, some of them like to go to the mall, and they just liked to hang out for a little while and have their morning coffee and engage in fellowship. Who else is there with them? I know we had one group of men from our church, there was a bunch of men that went to the mall for their morning coffee. And I happened to be out there one morning where they all sitting around and I went over, I knew a couple of them. So I went over and started talking to them, and they introduced me to the other men. Other times when I would see them, it gave me opportunities to talk with them. And so take advantage of where they already are. Recreational things like ball games, older adults are gonna go to ball games. I spent a lot of time at ball fields, they’ve got grandchildren playing. And so you can go to the ball games, introduce yourself, just strike up conversations with people. Neighborhoods, who are your neighbors? Who are the neighbors of the senior adults in your group? How many of them don’t know the Lord or they’re falling away from the Church? That usually, it’s pretty easy on Sunday morning to tell most of the time who’s getting up and heading out to get somewhere, and if they’re just going out to breakfast, or if they’re headed to church. Walmart, standing in a line at Walmart talking to the target at Walmart. Everywhere we go, there are older people who need Jesus. And we just have to be willing sometimes to take the risk, to strike up the conversation, to step out of our comfort zone, because they need someone to introduce them to Jesus. Or there are those who know Jesus, but they’ve moved far away from Him, and they just need somebody that can help them find their way back. If we don’t make the effort, if we don’t take the initiative, if we don’t help our senior adults take that initiative in the places where they are, and that comes through just a lifestyle, and helping them to do that. Unfortunately, there’s not a magic bullet. I wish I could say, if you did this, this and this, you’re gonna just have senior adults flocking in to your church, but it involves putting yourself out there and being available. And like I said, striking up the conversations, stepping in when someone is in need or hurting or being available, listening, inviting people into your home, perhaps, out to eat to events at church. Is looking for the opportunities to share your faith story and the difference that Christ has made in your life, and getting your senior adults to do that. What did He do for you? And it’s not just, what did He do for you, it also is what is He doing for you now? What difference is it making in your life now? So we have to empower church members to do this. It doesn’t come easy to everybody, it does not… They will say, “Well, that’s not my gift.” But even though it’s not everybody’s gift, it is our responsibility as believers to be sharing the gospel. And we don’t necessarily do that through a program, we do it by daily living out the gospel in our lives, and helping those under our watch so to speak, to do the same thing. Think about what your church is doing. I know churches aren’t doing much right now because we can’t with the COVID going on and the social distancing and everything. But in the future, you have to… Eventually, we’re gonna come out of this. In the future, what are some big events that you could piggyback on with an event? Like if you’re gonna have a big Christmas musical or Easter presentation or something like that, could you tack on a dinner or some type of social event of reception for the older adults, for mixed group of adults, that they could… They’re going to be there anyway. And if it’s a multi night thing, you might just pick one night and say, this is what we’re doing. And it’s designed for them or it’s designed for a particular subset of older adults. Like you might say, “Okay, we’re gonna have the session on this. If you were alive in the 1930s, you’re invited, or if you were alive in the 1940s, you’re invited,” that sort of limits your group down. But depending on what you’re doing and who you want to include for that particular thing. And you don’t limit it to just church members or church attenders, this would be an outreach function. Also, they can invite other people to come and be a part of it. You can also do something with Sunday school classes tacking on. I know that we in the past had done several things where we would ask maybe a younger Sunday school class and an older Sunday school class to save for lunch after church on Sunday and get them, then that kind of evolved into some of the younger groups approaching some of the senior adult classes and saying, “We want to provide lunch for you, and would y’all stay and have lunch with us on Sunday, whatever date.” So it sort of helped to start creating some of those intergenerational things. It wasn’t just the staff person or the leaders in the senior adult ministry doing it. The younger Sunday school classes caught vision for how they could do things with the older adult classes. And so that turned out to be a great benefit. You want things that can pull them all together. The key is making people feel special. You make them feel wanted, you make them feel valued. You have to put extra effort into invitation and contacting people. We know that personal touch is the best outreach tool we have. If you make that personal contact and let them know we want you there, I might come pick you up if it’s needed, whatever’s needed to get them there, get them a ride, help them to understand what’s going on. Somebody will meet them there. Try to pull in those people. You wanna incorporate as many people volunteers, as you can for whatever you’re doing. Again, they have ownership in it. They will participate in it, they want to be a part of it. Whatever you do, you’ve got to do it with excellence. And that’s particularly true for the baby boomers. They don’t want something that’s sort of half-baked. So you want to do your planning. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive, it doesn’t mean it has to be over the top elegant, but you have to do whatever you’re gonna do with excellence. Let it show that planning and preparation went into it, and that people would want to be a part of the thing. So once they come along and see what you’re doing and know that there’s a quality product, so to speak there, that’s gonna encourage them to participate in future events that you have. Let’s talk for just a few minutes about ministry and the corona 19 virus, because that’s been huge, huge. It’s been pointed out over and over that those most at risk from the novel coronavirus are individuals who are older, and those who have underlying conditions, and those most at risk for severe infection should do everything they can to reduce exposure to the virus. So we’re having to keep space between ourselves and anyone who is sick. When we go out, we have to avoid crowds. We have to limit our time in public. We have to keep a distance from others, a minimum of six feet. They’ve also said that 10 feet is really preferred, washing your hands often, using sanitizer all the time, stay at home as much as possible. We all went through the shelter in place, but stay home as much as possible, if there’s an outbreak, and particular, if there’s an outbreak in your community. Social distancing is the new phrase that describes most of this. It goes against what we normally advocate and try to achieve for older adults. We’ve always encouraged fellowship, be together. Geriatricians promote the benefits of social engagement, because it has been proven that social isolation can result in a poor health outcomes. So we don’t want them to be isolated. Just excuse me just one minute. My throat is getting dry. So how do the older adults balance these competing recommendations in the middle of a pandemic? Well, some suggestions that have been made is one, and this is probably the scariest one for a lot of them, is learn the new technology, FaceTimes, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. There’s lots of avenues out there to explore. All sorts of online options are out there to help us stay in touch with our family and our friends. And being tech savvy is not necessarily required for all these. I’m not tech savvy, I’ll tell you, but I’m learning. I’m going places I don’t want to get really, but I’m learning. Doing the basics is easy for most people, perhaps with a little tutorial or some help, getting things set up. But if setting up an account is daunting, who can help? Well, family members can help, neighbors can help, church members can help. This might be a ministry opportunity that you could hook up some of the people in the church, that if they could be cleared to go into people’s homes to help them set up their FaceTime or to get on Facebook or to do whatever it is that they can do, learn how to use the devices that they have. And then help them also to access online tutorials, ’cause for a lot of these things, you can learn how to use them just by Googling the tutorials online. Encourage them to stay active in the community from home. Well, how do you be a part of the community if you’re at home, separate from the community? A lot of organizations do this, political parties do it, nonprofits do it, faith-based groups do it, because they rely on volunteers to make phone calls. And it’s a community-based activity that can be done right at home. One of the things is getting people to call each other, just to check on each other, that buddy system sort of thing. And that helps keep them involved and helps them to know what’s going on. The other thing I would encourage them to do is to go on a news diet. I cannot tell you how many folks I have had say, in particularly I have have had some spouses say, “All he or she wants to do is sit in front of the TV and listen to the news all day, and all it is is bad news.” And we want to stay informed, but you don’t wanna endlessly watch the breaking news on the 24-hour news channel. It doesn’t change that much from , and spending too much time doing that is depressing, and it can create needless anxiety. So good advice, watch a news update in the morning and then they can check it again at night, and do not stay with it . And so probably 30 minutes to an hour is plenty. But I know people that said that they just sit and watch it, all they get more and more depressed, they’re getting more and more anxious about things. It serves no good end in that way, especially if you’re at home isolated and that’s all you’re hearing. And then finally, reach out to family and friends, stay in touch with people close to you, especially those who are socially distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that communities create many systems like we mentioned, to make sure that vulnerable and hard to reach people are staying connected. Churches are an ideal place to do that. And it doesn’t have to be church members you’re staying in touch with, but who are some people in the community that maybe need a touch, and they just need somebody to call and check on them. So you can do it through church, social groups, neighborhoods. They can be done in a variety of ways, phone calls, sending notes and cards too, email blast, Zoom meetings, any way that you can engage them and help them to stay connected. So social distancing does not have to mean social isolation. We shouldn’t even let a deadly virus make us be alone, even though we may be by ourselves living alone. But now’s the time for people to find a smart way to stay connected. And so those are some of the ideas that have been thrown out there for senior adults particularly. So what does that mean for ministry? Well, technology has been a great way for church leaders to stay in touch with church members during this pandemic and in the season of sheltering in place. Just like what we’re doing tonight. A lot of them have done a great job of taking what should have happened and making sure have access to speakers and information that could have been deprived of otherwise. So technology has been a great help to us during these times. But even now that as churches are beginning to gradually reopen and to regather, like I said, many people, particularly the older adults are still not comfortable returning. They’re kind of waiting to see what’s gonna happen. So this is especially true for older populations, and especially true for those who are more at risk of contracting the virus. Recognizing that technology is great, we also have to recognize that not every church, not every person and not every family has access to the internet. And that may be a function they just don’t have home, that may be a function of where they live in. A lot of rural communities, the infrastructure is not there to access it. They don’t have computers, they may not have a smartphone, may not have a tablet or whatever, the devices we think of. So these folks rely on landlines. So not use those means of corresponding with people. Set up a system where they’re being contacted regularly and getting information from the Church. If your church has a newsletter, mail copies of the newsletter, worship bulletins, prayer list, information about pertinent church matters or events that might be coming up. Anything that you might be sharing through email other ways, , be sure that you identify the ones who don’t have access to that, and that they are included, that they still feel like they’re part of the Church and they haven’t just been forgotten. Was reading one article and it said, there’s a pastor or somewhere in Georgia, she’s in a small church, so this is easier to do, and it’s a Methodist Church. That’s why I’m saying she is the minister. But she’s mailing copies of her sermons to the people in her congregation that don’t have access to technology. And so they can’t do the livestream that she’s doing or the FaceTime Live that she’s doing with her sermons. There’s ways to get around some of that. For those who do have access to more technology, ways to stay in touch could include the email, the text messages, Facebook, and that would be videos and live events that you can post on Facebook, have on Facebook, Zoom, like what we’re doing tonight, or webinars. One article I’ve just came across yesterday. I don’t know if any of you are followers of Missy Buchanan. She does a lot of work in the field of older adults, and she is a Methodist. I actually met her. I told Eileen I met her because she was invited to a conference that Eileen and I attended several years ago together. That was ministers to older adults. But there’s a guy in Georgia, and he’s developed a thing called sermon by phone. And I saw this in an article yesterday that Missy shared on her Facebook page. She’s got two Facebook pages, but this one would be the one called, Aging and Faith: Missy Buchanan. She had this article in there. This minister in Georgia has developed a product sermon by phone. He developed it, the system that allows churches to upload sermons, that church members can reach by dialing a phone number. So the sermon gets uploaded, they dial the number and they can listen to the sermon. And the cost of it is about $10 a month for that. You can find that out when you get this information if you want it as I’ve got it in here. And then there’s another one. I think somebody in Virginia developed this, it’s called phone live streaming. There’s a similar service and it cost about $30 for a local line and $40 for a toll free line. But another ministry opportunity that you have is all these ways of keeping in touch, is like I said, older adults may have access to the technology, but they might benefit from somebody helping them learn how to use it or coming in and helping them get it set up. My husband works for a computer company just on the side, so to speak. And he gets a lot of calls from senior adults saying, “Would you come over here and help me set up my computer? Would you come over here and help me learn how to use Facebook? Would you come over here and help me with whatever? I want communicate well with my grandchildren. I want to do this or that.” My church is using a lot of technology to stay in touch with people. So some of them are saying, “I need you to come show me how Facebook Live works. I need you to come show me these things.” So if there are people in your church who can go help older adults that would be interested in this, that’s another ministry opportunity, take advantage of it. So we are in a great time to minister, we’re in a great time to create intergenerational relationships and to form new relationships. We have to be sure to act in ways that are recommended for safety and for keeping everybody healthy in this time of the virus. Some in person visits might be warranted. And that would be sure that nobody’s going into the home who’s sick, or has the virus or might be asymptomatic. It also might mean doing porch visits to be sure that the person that you might be going to visit would be comfortable with that. But sometimes that may be warranted. There may be a situation that would call for that. So that’s kind of the gist of everything. Let me just say, as we age, what we’re able to do changes, and we have to continue to seek out how each were called to serving God’s kingdom. And we have to love the older people. And I am an older person, and I still love my older people. And help them figure out how they can continue to serve as they grow older and older. And how are we gonna motivate them for service and let them be honored, by allowing them to be seen and known in the church, and to help them understand they are just as important as any other believer in the church. So thank you for your time tonight.

– Kathy, thank you so much for that information. And some folks joined us late. If you want a copy of Kathy’s notes that she presented tonight, you see my email address in the chat, you can scroll up if you don’t see it, scroll up on the page and email me at emitchell@alsbom.org. And when I get it from Kathy, I will forward it on to you. Please know that you will be able to go to pinnaclealabama.org. Again, that’s in the chat. And you’ll get notified that these videos have posted to that website, so that you can get this information if you want to share it with someone else. Kathy, I did have a few questions, I had one comment. Dave Burns said that the phrase news diet was worth the whole thing. He loves that. And I just want to say my brother-in-law had a real issue. He thought he was having a heart attack, but it was an anxiety attack, and the doctor asked him how much news he watched at that time. He turned the news on at noon and watched it till eight o’clock. And he said, “You’ve got to stop that. This is what happened because of that.”

– Some days I’ll get two or three days I’ll say, “I can’t do it. I don’t even wanna do it.”

– Because of that, I’m the other way. Maybe once a week, I might turn the news on, I’m the other way. I guess, got my head in the sand. But we did have a couple of questions, and one was about the name that we call, should we change our names if you are the minister? We had some ministers on the call. Should you be a minister to older adults? And you could change that. I have Mark Saner, who is at First Baptist Church in Huntsville, he calls his group seasoned, like a seasoning, seasoned adults. And that’s what his title is, minister to seasoned adults. I think it gives a variety. But if you have to explain your title and the words in your title, it’s too much. I think older adults, people understand who that is. Those are people that are older in the church.

– Somehow that it’s not quite as offensive or unpleasant to people. I think we all go kind of kicking and screaming into senior adulthood, even though I don’t know why our time was wonderful.

– I know. We start aging when we’re born.

– Well, best thing is if you’re not aging, you’re not living.

– Exactly. And I got to think, and when Kathy was talking about all those activities, early on, I heard Kathy say she gave permission to those in her conference, that they did not have to attend every thing that these groups did, she was just there to bless it, see if they needed something that you could facilitate that for them, for like the builders that they’re going to do a repair job. She doesn’t have to go to every site when they’re building, but she could say, “Hey, do you need a cooler that has water in it to take to on the site? Come by the church, it’ll be ready for you,” those kind of things. For those of us who think that we have to be at everything.

– You have to empower them and let them feel like it’s theirs, make it theirs.

– Such a blessing, yes. Kathy, tell about the one event, one that you did attend was the bike hike that y’all did when your group went on a bike hike, that 26 mile. Tell them about.

– Well, we live about two hours from Tallahassee, Florida, and in Tallahassee, there’s a trail called St. Mark’s Trail. And it’s about 13 miles from where we got on the trail. But we did. I did a senior adult bike trip, and we loaded up our bicycles and put them in a trailer and took off for Tallahassee, Florida, and got on the bike trail that morning and rode 13 miles down. And there just happened to be a really good seafood restaurant at the end. So we had a nice lunch. And then we got on our bikes, so we rode back and we came home. Had one lady… I mean, some of the people that went were bikers. I mean, they get out and ride. Like there was one man in our church, he was gonna turn 80 and he talked to another man in the church, he said, “Let’s go out and ride 80 miles for my 18th birthday.” And they did. I had a few that were serious, like to go out and ride their bikes. And then I had one lady and she had what I called a granny bicycle, which was the old fashioned bicycle with no, you just pedal. And she hadn’t ridden a bike in years. And she went with us and she rode every inch of the way. We had a great time, it was a beautiful day. We had a great time together. And it was several different ages of senior adults.

– Well, here’s one that… We always have questions in our ministry. When you talked about grumpy people in your church, I put up in the chat, I said, do you have any grumpy people in your group? And we have some pastors on our call. I was excited to see that. And a pastor said, what about a 72-year-old couple that continually dwell on the past, and the mistakes made in the past and blame that for why we’re not growing now? This happened 10 years ago.

– Something that happened in the Church.

– Right, right.

– That’s toxic.

– Yeah, how do you help them?

– Well, one, let’s look at some of the things that have happened that are good. I mean, try to redirect, refocus, reframe it.

– I also thought that some… I was reading in Ephesians 4. That’s what we’re studying in Sunday school. And that we’re to be humble and gentle and encourage one another. And sometimes I think it’s hard, but we have to say, we can’t keep this. It’s changing the whole tenor of our spirit in our church because we’re not forgiving one another and moving on.

– That’s what we’re called to do as Christians. I did have a lady, she’s long been gone with the Lord now, but she was a toxic person, she was just negative. And I can remember one trip we went on and she just was really harassing everybody. And finally, they got tired of it and they began to confront her. And then she got upset and tell me to make them stop. I said, “If you’re gonna dish it out, you got to take it. I said, but they’re trying to tell you in a nice way that they’ve had enough. And that you’re basically running the trip for them. So let’s try to leave that and let’s move forward because there’s a lot to salvage.”

– Yeah. And usually, the members in your congregation or your group wish somebody would say something, because they feel that same way, but they they’ve been friends for 40 years they don’t feel like they can say or something like that. Another question that was, when we come back and start rebuilding Sunday school, should we look at doing Sunday school in homes, which would be small groups, I guess, or into the Church building? I myself think older adults want to come to the Church building.

– They want to come to the Church. Yeah, most of them do. I don’t know how many of them have homes that they would feel comfortable, especially in this day and age inviting people into, because you might be sick and not know it, that kind of thing. We’ve started church services back probably about six weeks ago. And we went to two services. We had only had one and we went to two services so that we can social distance. They sanitize everything in-between the services. They assigned people services to go to based on Sunday school groups so that they got an intergenerational group at each service. And that didn’t mean that you absolutely could not come to the other service if that one wasn’t convenient for you for whatever reason. They’re looking at doing the same thing with Sunday school. Some Sunday school groups, like my Sunday school group has been meeting by Zoom

– Mine too. pretty much the whole time. And we talked the other night about going back and up though to just stay on Zoom for the time being, because they don’t want us meeting on Sunday, they want us to pick another time of the week.

– Because there’s only limited space. My Sunday school class, there’s 35 to 40 in not a huge space. So we couldn’t socially distance. We need to meet in a fellowship hall or a large classroom that-

– So I think for your older adults, they’re probably gonna want to come back to the Church. And like you say, you just gonna have to do the social distancing and the sanitizing and all those things that go on with it. And you got to know your group. That part of it is knowing your group and what they’re going to be comfortable with. And some of them might be comfortable in homes, let them do that, help facilitate that for them.

– That’d be great. Well, those were the questions that I received. And I do want to remind you, if you are able to register for the Sunday afternoon conference, if you wanna be here live and hear anything that might be said before it’s edited, it will be at two o’clock. So go ahead and register. If you cannot attend, but you would like to be notified when that video is ready, go ahead and register. And that just make sure that everybody who registers gets that notification. And if you want a copy of that handout, again, you’ll have to email me a second one and do it for conference two or session two or something like that so I know which ones. Thank you so much. And Kathy, I’m gonna ask, would you close our time?

– Not just appreciate everybody being here tonight, I wish I could see you. Let’s pray. Father, we do thank you for the time we’ve had together tonight. At least thank you for technology and the way it’s helped us to stay connected. I thank you for Eileen and her leadership and for the others that have worked with her to get all these meetings set up since we were not able to be at Shocco Springs together. Lord, just be with everybody that’s on tonight. Just pray your blessings on them and their ministries and the work that they do. I just pray, Lord, that you would be with them as they minister to senior adults. I have such a heart for senior adults and love them so much. I know that this time has just been particularly hard for so many of them. It’s been hard for all of us, but Lord, we know you’ve blessed us in so many ways and given us so much, even during this time, the sheltering in place and the time we’ve had with family and just have time to stop and reflect and spend more time with you. So we thank you for that. Lord, just pray for the senior adults out there, that they would feel your presence in a very real way, even though they may be feeling very lonely, but to know that they’re not alone, that you do love them, that you value them and that you can still use them and help us to be motivators, encouragers, leaders that will help them to know that in a way that they might not understand right now at whatever point in their life they’re at. But thank you again for tonight. And I thank you for everyone that was in attendance and I pray towards your blessings on them. All this is we ask in Christ name, Amen.

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