You will be working in an area where
there is great need, however ministering to the elderly is different and calls for different
skills and focus.
The task can be challenging as the seniors
find themselves in a culture has little time
for the elderly. You can’t just give them the
message and run!
You also have to invest in demonstrating a lot of
love and care. Bottom line is they are very valuable to God, and we need
to communicate this clearly. The senior years can be
very productive and fulfilling, contrary to popular culture.
Tips to Help You Prepare to Minister
Take time to read around the subject and understand those you are ministering to. Do have a read of Understanding People: Ministry to All Stages of Life
This book looks at ministering to people at all stages of life and
helps you to understand the needs of people as they age. It can help
make you ministry more effective. This interview with Larry Winebrenner may
also be useful in getting you thinking about ministering to the elderly. As Larry's says "Every ministering act is an act of evangelism."
Remember many of these folks are ready to look death (and
life) in the face and so there are many open hearts. We need to be there to give them that opportunity for eternal life.
Populations at the nursing homes tend to be small enough for individual
attention suited at each person’s level. Evangelism to the elderly should begin
with establishing relationships. Many of the elderly receive little visitation
from friends and family and have a deep need for companionship and this offers
an easy door for ministry. It is a need we can meet. Try to include a lot of
time for personal one on one discussion either before the ministry session or
after the session. This time should really be seen as a part of the session.
We found some examples of age appropriate documentation in the New International Version Seniors' Devotional Bible: With Life-Affirming Daily Devotions (Niv Devotional/Plain)
. This should guide you in the appropriate language to use. Do keep it simple but not patronizing.
A Good Approach
Often the elderly tend to have better
long term memory rather than short term memory and it is easier to make the
connection with an event in their past. Therefore old hymns, old songs and
music, old pictures, old dances, recounting events of past holidays, or simply
stories of their children or their own youth gives you a starting point of
However work back to the present or the future. We don’t want to
escape to the past but just to make a point of connection and to use it for now. Consider starting out with praise and
thanks giving whether by song or storytelling. There is something in everyone’s
life to give God thanks for.
Need some open ended questions to get
the conversation going - try these.
- Evangelism Explosion Programme or
EE as it is commonly referred to, are now offering a training programme specifically for
ministering to the elderly. You may find it very useful.
Other website links you may find
helpful as you develop a ministry to seniors:
Click here for more Evangelism Resources