Evangelism for the Elderly

Stand up in the presence of the aged,
show respect for the elderly and revere your God.
I am the Lord. 
Leviticus 19:32

There has been a growing realisation that as many of the world’s populations are aging, that there is opening up before us a new field of evangelism for our elders and our seniors.  The Church mirrors the society in that there is a corresponding growing number of seniors in the Church. We must therefore balance our focus which previously was primarily on our youth as the engine of growth and development to now also include the seniors and elders for the growth and development of both the Church and the society.

We have before us the opportunity of ministry to the seniors and elders within the Church as well as evangelism to the currently outside the Church.

As you read or discuss about ministry or evangelism for the elderly, you will observe a bit of confusion in terms and 2 different approaches to ministering to seniors emerging.  In one instance the new emerging seniors ( 50's & 60's) are seen as still young, fun loving and fully productive and church activities are planed around that theme. In the other instance ( 70's & over ) they are seen as elderly  having physical and emotional pressing needs (i.e. loneliness, depression, dementia), living in retirement / nursing homes, living alone, confined at home and ministry is focused around that.  Both views are legitimate; they just speak to different phases in the aging process.

This article will focus on the latter group of elderly folks. If you are interested in ministry to seniors - the aging baby boomer or , who may be still working in an active, productive opportunity or be a retired independent senior, then select our RSS feed as we will feature those articles shortly. 

Are you interested in ministering to elderly? Maybe folks in a nursing home or seniors confined at home or living alone?

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 connection.

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.

Training Opportunities

  • 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


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