• Plan activities thoughtfully, considering participants’ changing mobility, energy levels and interests.
• Reach out to all older adults, not just the most active. The less-involved may have the most to gain from becoming meaningfully engaged in church activities and programs.
• Remember the church is one of the few places in our culture that has the resources to create diverse opportunities for older adults to find meaning, friendship, respect, adventure, joy and, most importantly, opportunities to contribute to the well-being of others — even as their personal capacities change over time.
• Approach is important: It isn’t enough to put a notice in a bulletin. Personally contact older adults. How we invite others and create a welcoming environment is more important than the programming.
• Each congregation is different: There is no such thing as one right way to start an older-adults ministry. Ideas and processes are the result of discussion and active listening.
Fred Loichinger said he's never been part of anything like this: "To have friends you can talk with about anything and it never leaves the room. We help each other deal with a lot of different situations."
Through GEMS (Grumpy Elderly Men's Group), Loichinger and about 15 others fromAdvent Lutheran Church, Madison, Wis., meet weekly for fellowship and book discussion.
"We have serious conversations and share what is in our hearts and on our minds without feeling judged or wrong," said Al Heggen. "We respect each person and their unique history and convictions."
Advent even has a second group aimed at senior men: Sensitive New Age Guys (SNAG). It's more relaxed and has no formal agenda. Ken Johnson's father told him he envies him for having friends through SNAG, but also continued connections with high school and college friends.
"For men of my father's generation, fellowship with men wasn't something they did," Johnson said. "They didn't get together to have conversations ... on common issues like aging parents and health concerns. ... As you age, you have a desire to revisit the basis of your faith and what keeps you attached to the church. If you were to ask the men in this group why they're still church members, most would probably credit the support they feel in the group. ... Each one has a good perspective. The discussions are pretty thoughtful and passionate."
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