When people reach a certain age, they will retire and no longer need to toil. But in the church, the elderly will never retire and will never be fired.
From a certain point of view, the elderly are actually more committed to the church than the young. Usually, young people change frequently due to reasons such as work, life, and their children's schooling. But older people tend to be stable and committed to their home churches.
While some churches concentrate on youth ministry, there are also churches that focus their attention on pastoral care for the elderly and organize elderly ministry.
In Guangzhou, there is a church that encourages the whole congregation to participate in serving the church. The chief pastor of the church points out that the elderly can also serve in the church, in positions such as prayer partners, senior choir members, members of the cleaning team, etc. Since he saw many elderly people just watching Tik Tok or other online videos in their free time and had nothing better to do, he organized training classes for the elderly to teach them how to edit short videos and retouch pictures, and he helped them apply their skills to the evangelism ministry of the church.
The church will also regularly visit the elderly who cannot participate in church meetings in person. During the visits, these elderly members are invited to join the prayer ministry and offer their prayers for the church, the pastors, and their family members. At first, many of these older people thought that they could not do anything for God because they were frail and could not go to church, but as they understood the significance of prayers, they immediately had a sense of purpose.
In M city of Guangdong, Pastor Ye of a grassroots church has also been promoting their elderly ministry in recent years. Pastor Ye’s church only has a small congregation, and the members are basically elderly people; even Pastor Ye himself is in his forties already. Previously, for a long period of time, Pastor Ye focused his attention on youth ministry. He tried to find ways to attract and minister to young people so that they would be willing to commit to the church. But one problem faced by grassroots churches is that there are only a handful of young people. Then, where is the hope of the church?
As Pastor Ye is teaching in a Bible training center and further studying for a master's degree in Hong Kong, he understands more about elderly ministry and its significance. Therefore, Pastor Ye and the church staff begin to explore methods to minister to the elderly. Their goal is to encourage church members who have reached 70 years old to serve for another five years, as long as they are physically and mentally allowed. To complement such a goal, they incorporate more activities that are beneficial to the elderly into their Wednesday and Friday gatherings. For example, in group gatherings, they teach the elderly to fold Cootie Catcher and ask them to write on the four corners the names of the people they want to pray for; in this way, they are able to combine pleasure, intercession, as well as finger dexterity training, and increase the elderly people’s motivation to serve.
For those elderly who cannot join the church in person, the church staff will arrange visits for them. During these visits, they will read the scriptures with the elderly, listen to their needs, and offer help accordingly. On the other hand, the church also adds more celebration activities for various festivals and invites the elderly to share their stories of grace. “We are not settling for less when turning our focus to the elderly, but are finding a breakthrough via elderly ministry,” Pastor Ye said.
This year, two churches in Guangzhou have started to set up senior fellowships to better minister to the elderly over 70 years old. These fellowships are specially designed for the elderly, with content such as Sign Dance, birthday parties, Cantonese gospel opera, etc.
In order to facilitate elderly people's attendance at church meetings, there are also grassroots churches that rent cars to transport them to and from church every Sunday. Some churches may even purchase their own vehicles if they are financially capable, so as to avoid accidents happening to the elderly when they travel to the church.
- Translated by Joyce Leung