Ministry to Elderly Starts With a Visit

Ministry to Elderly Starts With a Visit

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


“I just don’t want to be alone!”

He is nearly 90 years old and has just been told he is terminally ill, with a very short time to live. His fear of being alone as his earthly journey comes to an end is certainly not uncommon; nor is it limited to older people.

Despite the fact that he has embraced a life of faith throughout his years; despite the fact that he believes there is life after death; and despite the fact that he knows he is surrounded by God’s love, he is still fearful!

When he opened the door and found me standing there, his first words were, “I am so glad you are here. I didn’t know how to tell you the news. But I do want to see you.” Then he said as he asked for prayer: “I just don’t want to be alone!”

We talked, we prayed, he shared his stories and memories, he cried, he smiled as he talked about his late wife, and then we shared our faith that come what may God’s message was constant. “Fear not I am with you always!”

He said, “I know I am really never alone, but having someone here to remind me makes me less fearful and more certain.”

Once again, I was reminded of the importance of the ministry of presence. In the final analysis, the presence of God is made real when we re-present and speak the divine word. After all, our faith proclaims an incarnate God, a God in human form. It is the same faith that calls us to be like Jesus, the incarnate God.

If people are to know and experience God’s presence, it is most often through others who dare to witness to the truth in the midst of suffering and pain. It is a tall order for mere mortals to heed, but it is the cost of discipleship. It is also a gift to the one being present as well as to the one suffering and fearful.

Older adults, even those who are in relatively good health, are often lonely and fearful. There is no better antidote to this loneliness and fear than having someone’s comforting presence. Those of who would be in ministry with older adults do well to remember that there is no substitute as effective as the ministry of presence. Homebound or hospitalized members, as well as those in long-term care communities thrive on personal visits from their church friends and pastors, as well as from their family. They too respond to such ministry with words such as, “I am so glad you are here.”

Want to know where to begin a ministry with older adults? Visit them! Any program designed with them in mind may be welcome, but that’s ‘gravy.’ Personal visits are the ‘meat.’

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2013 Rev. James Stinson