Hope-Filled Older People’s Ministry

Untitled design (4)

Author: Faith in Later Life

Rhi is a member of our Church Champion community and leads the older people’s ministry at her local church, and she’s passionate about her about her work serving and empowering older people.

Rhi has been involved in her church’s older people’s ministry for around half a decade, which began with her and a friend praying about how they could serve the older members of their congregation. In addition to her role at the church, Rhi is also an Occupational Therapist (OT) with the NHS. Her experience working on a dementia ward is where she felt God first show her his heart for older people. She admitted that she hadn’t always been passionate about working with older people, but as God kept placing her in jobs caring for them, her passion grew, and she could see God’s guiding hand in it.

Rhi’s work as an OT informs her approach and attitude in her ministry work, in which she aims to support older people in her church physically, mentally, and spiritually. When we spoke with Rhi she quoted John 10:10, ‘…I came that they may have life and have it in abundance’, and explained how she wants to help the older people in her church live life more fully. The name of their older people’s work is aptly named HOPE Life, which stands for Helping Older People Enjoy Life.

Rhi is deeply passionate about empowering and challenging older people in her group to be more involved in church life. She believes that older people have a responsibility to share their wisdom and experience with the younger members of the church, in the same way that young members have a responsibility to learn from and respect them. She sees her role as facilitating this by creating opportunities for older members to step up, share and engage, and, as a result, feel more valued. One way she is doing this is by connecting older members of the church with students to stay in touch. This was particularly valuable during the pandemic, and helped students get to know older people as individuals.

Rhi mentioned that she would encourage churches to be much more positive about ageing, and that negative views of ageing tells older people ‘we don’t want to be like you.’ This can lead older members to count themselves out and refrain from getting involved in church or community life. Society often makes idols out of independence and productivity, so when these are lost, people feel like they have lost their value. Churches need to be careful not to share this view.

Rhi’s example should spur us on to break down misconceptions of old age and be willing to adapt so that older people are more encouraged get involved in outreach, events, and church life. An example Rhi gave from her own church was of older members in her group who were keen to get involved in the church’s outreach but weren’t able to help with initiatives such as the soup kitchen. A local care home got in touch asking if anyone from the church would be able to volunteer and visit the residents, which the older members were keen to do! They started making regular visits, enjoying social time with residents, and this gave them their own opportunity to do outreach too.

Rhi’s example should inspire us to value and engage with older members of our communities, creating opportunities for them to share their wisdom and experience with younger members. How might we be willing to adapt and embrace a more positive view of aging? How might we learn to better support and serve our older brothers and sisters in Christ. We hope you’ve found some answers to these questions in this article, but please do check out faithinlaterlife.org to find out more about our resources, training, and ongoing work to help Faith in Later Life Church Champions like Rhi to serve the Lord and his people in and through the local church.

Grace and Peace