We are required by scripture to show mercy. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?.” In the article How to Start a Soup Kitchen in Your Church/Community I presented practical ways to show mercy to the needy. In this article I focus on the responsibility that we share to care for our elderly, including those in our own family, members in our church, and those in our surrounding communities.
How to Serve The Elderly In Your Community
“And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31 NKJV). We will be much more effective on a practical level, if we take this subject to heart personally. I find it interesting that King David inquired of the Lord on behalf of his own future need when he wrote: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.” (Psalm 71:9, NKJV). Let’s follow this wise and thoughtful contemplation so we can be personal with our application of caring for and serving our precious elders.
“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NKJV). Timothy was a young man but also an authority figure as pastor of the church in Ephesus. He was instructed by the Apostle Paul to show the utmost respect to older men and woman as fathers and mothers, even when required to bring loving correction. Scripture doesn’t allow any one, despite their position, the authority to disrespect elders. Leviticus 19:32 says: “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.”
Caring for the widow
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27, NKJV). We should actively and continuously identify “widows in trouble” so that we can meet their needs and offer relief. Typically we make ourselves available when a widow’s husband first dies, but the ongoing ministry is often overlooked. Follow up, especially around holidays, make sure she is being cared for both spiritually and physically. Offer love and encouragement. Be a friend. If you are a son or daughter, honor your mother with love, appreciation and devoted care.
Spending time and listening
“Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” (Job 12:12)
As a culture we are so driven to perpetuate our youth that we often fail to realize the great gain of growing older. Sure, age can bring with it many challenges, but so does youth if you break it down to pros and cons. How many of us have wished we could take the knowledge of what we know now back to our younger selves? The good news is there is an alternative to always having to learn in retrospect. When we regard the older and wiser generation we have opportunity to look wisdom right in the eye. There is distinct benefit to putting time in with those who have put in significant time to growing in wisdom and knowledge.
Providing for material needs
Shortly after the first church began, the apostles appointed “seven certified men . . . full of spirit and wisdom” to supervise “the daily distribution” of food among needy Christian widows. They didn’t just pull together whoever was left from the more important ministries. No! They were certified and full of spirit and wisdom! Our culture is so backwards. We fail to see the caliber of people we are ministering to when we serve our elders.
Make sure the elderly in your congregation are included in your efforts to provide for the poor. Ask what their specific needs are and seek to serve your senior saints.
There are many practical ways to address the needs of the elderly. For those who are still at home but cannot exert themselves physically, you can task the youth group to serve by raking leaves and helping with yard work. If you are a skilled handyman, offer your services to help with needed repairs around the home. Take them out for lunch or run errands, many can’t drive but still want to get out of the confines of their home. Send a note of encouragement. Find out if there are those in your community or church who are alone for the holidays and include them in your family celebrations.
Visit a retirement home with a group from the church. Sing hymns and other classic tunes from their youth. Make a CD of their favorite music. Draw them out in conversation and the next time you visit bring a thoughtful gift based on a memory they shared. Pray with and for them if they’ll allow you.
Most older folks love children; there’s something about the sparkle of a child that revitalizes them; you can see it in their eyes. If you can, bring your small child along. Elderly Christians like having the Bible read to them. Personal contact is a wonderful way to brighten their day and meet their needs, hold their hand. Above all, listen to what they have to say and show you care.