What to consider first
Five questions before starting a new church activity for older people:
- Who is it for? (e.g. Church members; Invitees only; General Public or?)
- What will it do? (Provide help with practical tasks at home or in the garden, tradesmen?)
- Where will it be? (e.g. Church Facilities; Hired Hall; Community Facility; Private Home or?)
- Who is providing it? (e.g. Age range; Availability; Qualifications; Christians only?)
- How will it be funded? (e.g. Church; Charity/Trust; Fee; Voluntary; Public Funds or?)
These questions will help to define your model. It must work for you in your community and be sustainable.
- Have you checked if anything similar is being offered in this area? Consider groups like education groups (e.g U3A), volunteer services, lunch clubs, support groups and networks specific to health conditions, local community charities, transport services and church groups.
- Have you thought about all the possible benefits from this work?
- Have you contacted other churches to learn from their experience?
It is important to remember that whilst needs vary, for each individual it is their perceived need which is important to them. Focussing primarily on meeting needs, though, could foster a “dependency culture”. The focus therefore needs to include encouraging everyone to use their skills to the maximum, all the time, with peers, and the community beyond!
Joy in dependency
The ultimate objective of the work must be to address the real need of every individual – the need to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ; to depend on Him for salvation. To know the joy of faith in Jesus in later life transcends everything. Some will have known this joy from years ago; for others it will be a joy they come to know in their later life.
Each model will have different ‘gospel’ opportunities at different times that need to be prayerfully and intentionally incorporated from the outset:
- ‘Salt and light’ – showing the love of God with perhaps no, or very low key, gospel content
- Events with speakers
- Courses and discussion groups – studying Christianity and the Bible
- One to one opportunities to read the Bible
- To integrate individuals into a church that can disciple them in the ways of Jesus Christ.
Use the Resource Hub, the internet and your locality to find specific relevant resources. Be aware that providing services and facilities for the general public brings inevitable responsibilities. These will vary according to what you are doing and how you are delivering it. You may need to set up basic procedures and policies, including areas like training (for all volunteers and helpers), safeguarding (including DBS checks for anyone working with vulnerable adults, insurance (public liability, transport) and health and safety (possibly including food hygiene training). Your local council will be a good place to start for this. Find more resources here.