Almost one-third of Southern Baptist church attendees are seniors over the age of 65. Some can’t wait to get back to worship, their group, and their places of service. Others want to come back; but due to their current situation, they simply cannot or will not.
Church leaders are pondering the best way to help seniors return to church and service. Here are just a few considerations.
Do a survey targeting seniors.
You could include on the survey the following:
- When and under what conditions are you willing to return?
- Are you ready to serve when you return?
- When and where would you like to serve when you return?
Giving the opportunity for input helps the church leaders and staff make informed decisions and lets people know that they are a part of the solution to their return.
Clear communication is critical for seniors to know the plan and if the plan changes.
Many churches have returned to worship, but still need to set a date for a return to groups and places of service. What is the plan to bring seniors back and how will we protect them? Perhaps their classroom is in a new location to allow for greater distancing. How will the entrance and exit plan for the church be different? They need to know what to expect and the plan to protect them. They need to feel safe at church.
These and other decisions we make with older adults will certainly affect our dealings with COVID-19 and our ministry long-term.
As we move forward, here are three ways we can be fruitful now and years from now:
- Utilize the forms of communication that reach older adults best.
- Incorporate the use of “snail” mail occasionally.
- Make phone calls regularly.
- Employ visual forms of communication, such as FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp, etc. with tech-savvy adults.
- Contact older adults weekly to encourage them.
- Do not just say you are praying for them but actually pray with them while in conversation.
- Learn about their needs through these touch points and plan to meet them.
- Avoid expecting the pastor or church staff to be the only contact each week as it might not be sustainable for them to do so.
- Encourage their existing group to check on them.
- Support ongoing prayer chains which developed during the pandemic to keep going after their return.
Online with older adults
- Although we have heard stories about the groups who have not or will not go online for Bible Study and ministry, many older adults have made the adjustment and are doing well.
- It is essential that we keep them online in some form even when their groups can return to meeting in person. This allows them to communicate with each other when unable to meet in person, especially those who are homebound.
- This might be a good time to create a new online group for those who are willing to try it, if their leader is not able or willing to do so.
- Now is a great time to be strategic and use our phones, online communication, and other technologies to help seniors stay connected with a group.
- Using technology with seniors can be an open door for them to still be a part of leading and working with ministries at the church without having to be physically present.
- Make a weekly visit to older adults while safe distancing to dispel the loneliness that many are experiencing now.
- Remember this loneliness is nothing new with them since many no longer have a spouse or children that lives nearby, but it has been magnified with COVID.
- Curb their potential fear of close contact by doing a porch visit or delivering a meal to them through a process they trust.
- Volunteer to help with yard work or minor repairs that they might need while keeping everyone safe.
- Think of creative ways to connect personally with our older adults.
- Plan to continue these types of ministries even when a virus is no longer around but loneliness is.