A couple of years ago we spoke with a Faith in Later Life Church Champion, Judi, about her work with older people. Judi shared how her involvement with older people became more natural as she got older. “My involvement with older people and my interest of them has always been there, but it kind of kicked off when my husband and I retired. We can see clearer what it’s like in older age. So, it has been natural for us to gravitate towards that age group more than we did before.” Judi found that her ministry with older people was a natural extension of her stage of life.
Sometimes, God calls us to serve from the place we are already in. Often, our life experiences and the stage of life we are in helps us to more easily connect with those around us. For example, family groups create connections between people in a similar stage of life, as do groups for the elderly. Judi found that as she got older, her stage of life and the experiences she had were shared by many others in her age group. God wanted to use where she was at, this natural connection, to share His love with the older people around her.
When Judi first began serving her church’s luncheon club it was her job to set up the tables. The luncheon club was catering for 70 people and she and her husband would have to get there early in the morning to get everything ready. They would also help by offering people lifts there and home again, in addition to serving at the club.
At 81, Judi is now a member of that luncheon club herself. She helps introduce people and get people talking. The luncheon club is a mix of Christians and non-Christians. It is a place where people can enjoy a two-course meal and a tea or coffee, followed by a ten-minute talk, a hymn, and a prayer. Although there are a lot of non-Christians in attendance, many of them appreciate this structure and enjoy hearing what the talks are about.
In addition to the luncheon club, Judi started ‘Friday Fusion – Fun, Friendship, and Faith’ and was overjoyed when 50 people came to the first session. Judi shared how, “during the programme we sometimes have a speaker, or I can interview people to help draw out their story. We therefore communicate faith in a natural way and people have liked and enjoyed it.”
During the “Covid-Era” Judi had to adapt to maintain social distance. She organised groups of six to enjoy weekly craft sessions together. Despite the restrictions, these mornings were a wonderful time for people to get together and talk, and though we will hopefully not have to resort to such measures again, it helps to illustrate how important it is to reach out to those who are homebound, or struggle in larger settings. Another example of this is a communion service, in which communion wines and wafers are taken into care homes, or to people’s homes. This helps connect those who cannot attend a church service in a way they could not before.
Another excellent example Judi shared, and would encourage others to pursue, is to walk with people. This is a great way to connect and, in addition to regular phone calls, this helps Judi to keep in touch with about 150 people on a regular basis. Judi told us, “there are so many people feeling so cut off. If I didn’t make the first move, I would feel the same. If you have the strength to be proactive, you must do what you can because your role is vital in connecting people together – and at this time that is very important.”
Judi shared with us a story of her neighbour whose husband died. She shared with us how, “I befriended her, and I offered to go to a bereavement service with her which was non-threatening, to remember people. I went with her to the local parish church. She attended a bereavement counselling service and I accompanied her to that. She was willing to come to ‘Friday Fusion’ and it has helped her connect with God.”
We are always so encouraged to hear how striking up friendships with people helps lead them to the Lord! God asks us to love people and when we do that, he attracts them in. I recently heard someone say “people are coming to church and they are listening. They are going to church and they are being drawn in. It’s about friendship and connecting with people.”
In the book of Hebrews, we read ‘and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ – Hebrews 10:24-25
How can you connect with someone today? Take a moment to consider who you could offer the gift of friendship too. Friendships and connections are getting so many people through this lonely and difficult time because they are helping people connect with a God who loves them. If you love and value an older person, it makes them consider that perhaps, God loves and values them too. And you get to be a witness to God working a miracle in that person’s life by bringing them into a knowledge of Him, His sacrifice for them, and His constant presence and help in times of trouble.
We would love to support more people who are in ministry with older people, or who are interested in starting something new.
‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ – Psalm 46:1