t-shirts-they-know-stuff-we-dontHow to motivate your seniors – to fully engage your mature members?  We’re often asked for ‘top tips’ by churches wanting to polish the family silver,  both in their fellowships and in the community.  Drawing on the experience of our ‘partner’ churches, we’ve drawn up this list of the top ten.  Much is done by seniors, we know, and there are probably other suggestions you could make.  Do send them to us!

  • Preach on the value of older people and their purpose in the Kingdom. We have resources that can help, including seminar notes and the booklet, ‘Living out God’s purpose in our senior years.’  Everyone will be blessed to hear that God has a highly individual plan for each person to the every end of their lives.  
  • Evaluate what you already do and make sure they are involved. How involved are your seniors in decisions that are made, including the choice of worship music? Most that we’ve met are very happy with the new songs but see no reason for abandoning the old hymns.  Why not a mixture of both?  But more than music … the idea is to involve But you have to ask – older people won’t normally put themselves forward.  Where they feel excluded they will often quietly leave.
  • Encourage your seniors to form their own group, if they don’t already have one. In a church in Torquay an original group of 30 formed separate interest groups, and grew in the process, inviting friends to join.
  • Challenge any opt-out retirement thinking. The only retirement in the Bible was for the Levites, and then they were encouraged to stay on and help with the work, without the ‘heavy lifting’.  One church gives its members tracts to keep in their pockets.  A lady who became very poorly sighted used to sit in a bus-stop shelter and ask a waiting person if he or she would read it to her.  Then she would ask, ‘What do you think of that?’ 
  • Support older people in their ministry of ‘telling out’ God’s work in their lives.  Invite them to speak on a Sunday morning.  One older member told of his experience as a soldier in liberating a notorious Nazi prison camp.  Another told of taking Bibles into Romania when under communist rule. Another told of running a home for unmarried mothers and their babies, and helping to lead them to Christ.
  • Encourage activities that form bridges between older and younger members. For example, seniors could be prayer supporters for the younger, praying for exams and relationships, for instance.  Technology clubs are places where younger members show seniors how to ‘hang out’ on their digital tablets and ‘Face’ and Skype on their phones, as well as helping with their laptops.
  • Hold special outreach days that involve seniors, too. A church in Wiltshire held a ‘pampering’ day, to attract people from the area in to church.  The pampering (manicures, pedicures, head and neck massage, make-up) was done by a local company. Ruth, a church member in her late 80s went in and sampled all the pampering, building bridges with the manicurists, and so on and, as the Spirit led, talking about Jesus.
  • Look for special interests/aptitudes among seniors that could benefit the church as a whole.  An 80 year old who became quite deaf grew a ministry of keeping in touch with missionaries by email, writing a newsletter which the church secretary printed out for distribution to those without computers.  Not everyone will come out with ideas at once; but they will over time if they know they will be considered.
  • Create opportunities for service. Involve seniors in activities organised by the church, for say, lunchtime outreach, or mid-week meetings, or visiting.  In Birmingham, an 82 year old opens her home to the wives of international visitors for tea and conversation once a week. She is fully supported by her church fellowship.  Another lady in her 80s visits older people in the community who have joined in the church’s holiday week.  A group of eight seniors, led by a retired vicar, requested copies of our ‘Worshipping with Dementia’ for taking services in housing and care homes.
  • Give someone a watching brief.  If an older person is absent for a week or so, telephone them to ask if they are alright.  Make sure names and phone numbers are in your church directory.

Psalm 92: 12-14 says, ‘But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.  They flourish in the courts of our God.  Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.’ Valuing older people acknowledges their place and their purpose in the Kingdom.  One of our popular seminars is called, ‘Engaging and Empowering Older People,’ and if  this would interest your fellowship, contact us through our website.

This article is also in our Winter Pilgrims’ Magazine

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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