Older Adults Ministries

Jim Stinson,
Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

jstinson@optonline.net

WELCOME TO BEING OLD! This seemed to be a common greeting as I turned 70 this year. One after another, friends and family members said this, or something like it, on my birthday. Because family history suggested I would never hear such greetings (most of my male forebears have died in their early sixties), I met these greetings with mixed feelings. The first was gratitude! I had passed a major barrier and just might live a lot longer. I felt truly blessed! The second was annoyance that so many said the word “old” as if it were something bad, something to be avoided, as if it were a problem.

Now — because the bulk of my ministry is with older adults — I am particularly sensitive to the second feeling. Every day, it seems, someone tells me about the woes and perils of getting old. Every day someone shares a new pain or illness. Every day someone reminds me of why age is seen as a problem to be avoided at all costs, for as long as possible.

A common theme of such comments can be summed up in the truism: “Things are not the way they used to be.” The theme suggests a desire to return to “the good old days.” It longs for a time when life seemed more predictable; when life did not present so many losses and changes. It longs for the time when surroundings were familiar, when the person still lived in a home of choice, a time when spouses and other family members and friends were still alive, a time when one went shopping on her own, went to a job that defined so much of who he was, a time when she appeared to have control of what she did, when he did it, and with whom he did it. The truth is it suggests a reality of aging that is not positive or something to be actively sought. The truth is aging brings loss and unwanted change with it.

But there is more to say, which is why it is bothersome to hear only this part of the story. Aging is also the only route to the wisdom that comes through experience. It is what gives a person perspective on life’s true value. It is age that allows us to see a broader range of life’s meanings. How often an older adult will reflect on the past and say wistfully, “If only I had known, if only I had seen the other side of the story.” What a gift the older person could bring to our families, to our culture, to our churches, if we allowed that gift to be shared! But so often this gift of being “old” is wasted because society has devalued aging and we have bought into the attitudes that allow the waste.

Amidst all the realities of aging – loss on so many levels, sicknesses of body and soul, frailties and failing abilities – the gift of aging gets blurred in our vision. We do not claim for ourselves or for others, what other cultures do so naturally. We do not claim the gift of wisdom and experience, the gift of being able to lead others. And in so doing we add to the list the greatest loss of all, the gift of being valuable, the gift of being needed, the gift of having something to say.

Older Adult Ministry often has different goals in different settings as it seeks to address the realities confronting the aging. But from where I sit, the single most important goal of such ministry is enabling an environment in which the gift of aging is acknowledged and tapped into. It is a goal of challenging every older adult to hear the gospel message, “you are of more value than these.” It is the goal of seeing this message lived fully.

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministry

Jim Stinson's Articles

To read some of Jim Stinson's articles concerning older adults, please click here.

Jim Stinson's FAQs

Jim gets asked a lot of questions and would like to share some of his answers with you. To read Jim's Frequently Asked Questions, please click here.

Jim Stinson Workshops and Presentations

I invite you to request my services in sharing any of the workshops/presentations on ministry with//for older adults with you. These workshops/presentations are very fluid, designed to fit the need of the congregation/group to whom it is presented and are not limited to those listed. The length varies according the needs and time constraints of those likely to attend. All such events are filled with active participation, lively discussion, humor and honesty.

1. Spirituality and Aging – designed to help congregations/groups/persons seeking to do ministry with and for older adults understand the nature of spirituality and the ways in which spirituality affects their lives. Offers suggestions for ways to do ministry in ways that encourage spiritual health.

2. A Christian View of Aging – discusses aging from a Biblical perspective, stresses the unique value of each individual regardless of age or limitations. Looks at cultural assumptions of aging and how it often warps a Christian understanding. Offers specific suggestions on how to overcome cultural attitudes in ministry with/for older adults.

3. Remaining Faithful as Our Bodies Wear Out – designed to enable congregations/groups/caregivers to understand the ways in which aging can affect our faith lives and to offer ways to encourage and enable faithfulness despite what is happening to our bodies.

4. Doing Ministry with Older Adults – offers specific ways to do effective ministry, always allowing the person(s) to whom we are ministering to be seen (and to see themselves) as whole people, complete with gifts and grace that might be used in the ministry of care. Offers suggestions about how not to see the limitation rather than the person. Discussion will center on the “dos” and “don’ts” of older adult ministry.

5. Humor and Ministry with Older Adults – offers a variety of ways in which humor may be used effectively in ministry with/for older adults. Specific examples of when humor has been used to defuse anger and frustration, to redirect conversation in constructive ways to allow the Gospel to be heard will be shared.

6. Issues of Aging — This workshop/presentation explores the many ways in which older adults feel dis-membered. These people experience loss on so many levels, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Through a presentation and interactive sharing, participants discover ways to enable the older adult(s) (for whom and to whom they minister) to re-member themselves. It is based on Biblical insights about wholeness. Anyone involved with this age group would benefit from this presentation/workshop.

These are workshops/presentations I have done in various churches and senior citizen groups that seemingly have been well received. I am more than willing to work with any congregation/group/caregivers on any other concern regarding issues of ministry with/for this age group.

You can contact Jim via email at chaplain.umh@gmail.com for more information or to schedule a workshop/presentation for your congregation.

For more information about Older Adult Ministries, please visit the GBOD site by clicking here.