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10 Ways to Honor the Elderly in the Congregation

MsDora, former teacher and counselor, is fascinated by the prospect of joyful aging. She explores and shares habits of happy seniors.

Honoring the elderly in the congregation.

Honoring the elderly in the congregation.

By comparison with the great effort to make the church service attractive for young people, there is minimal effort in some churches to make the service comfortable for the older folk.

Some seniors have participated in, and contributed to the church service regularly for more than fifty years. For them, the worship service is to their weekly schedule what the breakfast is to their daily routine. They will attend for as long as they are able, and they deserve the utmost respect and appreciation. Only when their eulogy is read will some of the younger members realize the extent of the old folks’ contribution to the congregation, and by then, it will be too late for the honorees to hear the applause.

Following are some suggestions for showing honor to the older members while helping them to endure and enjoy the worship service. “Endure” for those who have chronic pain which makes them uncomfortable away from the accommodations they have at home. “Enjoy” for all of them because the fellowship validates their happiness to belong. Every church may not render all these possibilities, but the seniors will appreciate any effort put forth in their interest. We begin outside the building.

1. Church Bus

For those who do not drive, and do not have friends or relatives available to drive them, being picked up by a comfortable church bus with a senior-friendly driver will relieve the stress of arranging a ride. The experience of meeting, greeting and riding along with their peers after a week’s separation may be the exciting start to another day of worship.

2. Reserved Parking

The seniors who still drive will welcome reserved parking near the entrance to the building. They do not all rush for handicapped stickers, although on some Lord’s Day morning, they may have aching knees. And even without the aches, most of them no longer desire to stride the width of the parking lot. They want to get seated as fast as possible.

3. Seating

In one specific church (there may be others), the older members are issued fans as soon as they enter and are ushered near the front to facilitate their decreasing sight and hearing. Through a nearby side door, they have easy access to the restrooms without traveling the length of the church aisle.

Raised toilet seats would be a welcome accommodation.

Raised toilet seats would be a welcome accommodation.

4. Restroom

For many, the ability to bend without aggravating their knee pain is limited. Raised toilet seats would be a welcome accommodation. They may even be content with one unisex restroom, if they comprise a small population.

5. Inclusion

Young church leaders are focused on recruiting new members and keeping up with contemporary worship styles. Young choristers sing songs which are unfamiliar to the older folk. Young presenters talk media language and display graphs to which seniors cannot relate. Subtly and gradually, the older folks are being left behind. They would feel included if their presence is recognized, if some of the old hymns are sung just for them, if presenters would add a short illustration to which they could relate, if they could be asked to offer the prayer or to participate in any other way. When they are no longer able to participate upfront, let their wisdom be sought and acknowledged by church officers and members who visit them at home.

6. Special Days

The nearer the elderly get to the end of their life’s journey, the more significant the celebration of life’s milestones becomes. Recognition of their birthdays and anniversaries heighten their sense of gratitude to God, and what better time and place to mention their achievement than in the worship service. Just a short reference during the welcome, or a note in the bulletin, or a flash on the big screen will remind them that their church family shares their joy.

Tiredness or anxiety may lessen their attention to a long sermon.

Tiredness or anxiety may lessen their attention to a long sermon.

7. Sermon

Since the sermon is the main feature of the service, and usually what the seniors anticipate most, they may assess their total spiritual and emotional experience by the way they feel during that time. If the sermon is so long that diabetics begin to crave something to eat, or seniors with other conditions begin to count the minutes to their next dose of medication, tiredness or anxiety may lessen their attention and their joy.

Charles Spurgeon, famous British preacher in the nineteenth century, wrote about a still older preacher who used to say, “We ought seldom to go much beyond forty minutes, or say, three-quarters of an hour. If a fellow cannot say all he has to say in that time, when will he say it?" That may still be too much time for some of the elderly and most of the Millennials.

8. Fellowship Lunch

It would certainly add to their positive experience for the aging members to know that a fellowship lunch is attached to the worship agenda. Especially for those who live alone, it would provide another reason to look forward to the weekly service. The hospitality staff could arrange this is several ways:

  • The meal may be prepared in the church kitchen to be enjoyed there by those who are able to remain, or for take out by those who have to hurry home;
  • Church families may be assigned to host a certain number of elderly members on assigned weeks, or to carry the meals to their homes.
  • Lunch visits could be arranged for members to help prepare the Sabbath meals in the homes of the elderly and dine with them there.

9. Worship Service at Home

This may be challenging, but shut-in elderly members who attended the worship service regularly when they were able, would appreciate an occasional worship service at their home. When they can longer get to the church, it would be great for the church to get to them—even once in a while. Both the shut in and the visiting ministers will enjoy a mini-worship service prepared in love for an old worship veteran.

Every church needs senior saints.

Every church needs senior saints.

10. The Golden Rule

The Bible refers to the church as a building (Ephesians 2:20). Better to prop up the old bricks, not push them out when they begin to crumble. Propping up will enable the old to disintegrate peacefully while the new expands to fill the space that is left.

Bear in mind that the aging process in the congregation is ongoing. The modern stones today will become aged in the future. Let the leaders of this generation establish a protocol of respect and compassion for the elderly, which they would like for themselves when they become old.

© 2019 Dora Weithers


Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 12, 2019:

Lawrence, I love the idea of the mix between the services. So the oldies hung on to the kitchen? Funny! I bet they didn't want to miss a Sunday. Thanks for sharing.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on October 11, 2019:


I remember a few years ago at a church we used to attend having a communal lunch where the three ladies in our kitchen had a combined age of 250, and they weren't giving 'their kitchen' over to us 'young pups'

That church had a traditional service every Sunday morning and a less traditional one afterwards. The twocongregstions used to mingle at the coffee time between the two and there was a good mix of ages.

Great hub

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 23, 2019:

Thanks, Chitrangada. "Love, patience and compassion" as you rightly noted must be the intention of caregivers for the elderly. I think that the other comforts would fall in line.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 20, 2019:

There are some very useful suggestions in your article and I can relate to them. Taking care of the elderly needs lot of understanding of their specific needs and the most important thing is having love, patience and compassion for them.

Thanks for sharing this thoughtful article.

Antonio50S on September 19, 2019:

To Dora.

I am still practicing Brevity, but i think i deviated a little on the last post.

I thought you made that Brevity word up, then i remembered ( Psalms 90:12 ) Oh the Brevity of life. "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom"

It's in that context as well that i referred to Karma. NOT in a bad way, but sometimes it's easy to let life slip by, and before we know it, it's over. By being more aware of that Brevity we learn how to count our days even better, for the better with "eternity" in view.

And keeping that in mind, we can Endure and Enjoy the Service even more so.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 19, 2019:

Thanks, Shaloo. Now that I am one of the oldies, it is easier to understand their needs.

Shaloo Walia from India on September 19, 2019:

Some excellent suggestions!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 18, 2019:

Thank you, RTalloni. Your approach to consult God on the situation is wise and commendable.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 18, 2019:

Thanks, Pastor Bill. You're in a privileged position, having the experience to match the responsibility. Blessings on you, your ministry and members.

RTalloni on September 16, 2019:

Not respecting the elderly has definitely bled into some churches. Thank you for a useful post to get people thinking about this problem and to guide them into taking action. Like other areas of our lives, asking ourselves what God has to say to us about the topic tells us how we should think and respond to the elderly in our churches.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on September 15, 2019:

There's a lot of good advice wrapped up in wisdom in this article, Dora. From an elderly minister's point of view. It all works - on both sides.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 14, 2019:

Thank you

Antonio50S on September 13, 2019:

Taken from the "Berean Study Bible" ( Leviticus 19:32 )

"You are to rise in the presence of the elderly, honor the aged, and fear your God. I am the LORD"

There may be mitigating circumstances in todays world which makes it hard for some to do that, past upbringings etc, which God is aware of, but as a "General rule" Especially in congregational settings the above verse is a command from God himself. That's what God expects, but unfortunately he cannot force people to do that.

If there's one thing that distinguishes us from the animal world, it's FREE WILL. That "free will" is also the reason why theres so many problems in the world today and ALSO why God don't step in right now to sort it all out. But eventually when God has proved his point that "Man cannot govern or direct their own steps apart from him" as history is proving again and again, then that's when he will step in and sort the worlds problems out. ( Jeremiah 10:23 ) But the only ones who's really going to see the rewards are the ones who used that FREE WILL to make the right choices. Making the right choices applies to ALL, both young and old.

We can call it Karma if we wish, but Jesus made it very clear, "What we sow, is what we reap" Even Physics Prove that in Newton's Third Law. "For every action theres a reaction"

God is still inviting everyone, everywhere to test him out and see if his ways don't work best. But we also need to keep in mind, the work God is doing through his Son this time, is not just for our immediate benefit or generation, but for the benefit of ALL future generations to come.

If God commands people to Rise In The Presence of the Elderly, he's doing so for a reason. Helping the Elderly is part of that command.

Sorry Dora. Only trying to help.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 12, 2019:

Thanks Cynthia, for echoing my concern: "I RARELY hear of how we could honour our elderly members by thinking carefully of their place in the lifespan and what their needs might be at that point."

Thanks also for sharing the caring spirit of the exemplary church and pastor you described. There's so much to learn.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on September 12, 2019:

This is spot-on, Dora! I frequently hear how we need to masculinize/de-feminize our services to attract more men, or, even more frequently, what we "must do" to attract and grow young adult membership.

I have often seen hard-working elders taken for granted, and allowed, mostly, to fade into a caricature of themselves once they are allowed to retire as the head deaconess, for example. I RARELY hear of how we could honour our elderly members by thinking carefully of their place in the lifespan and what their needs might be at that point.

I think of one church we attend that seems to have a vibrant multi-generational attendance. They really do go all out to care for the elderly (sing from the hymnals, pick them up, announce special occasions like birthdays and read from the front the names of people who are hospitalized or sick at home and welcoming visitors).

They also have families with children, single moms, single professional and disabled people attending, so they are reaching a spectrum of people with a variety of needs. They also invite dogs out of hot cars to wait in a basement room for the service to end.

Looked at more closely, I recognize they are practicing Christ-like kindness and thoughtfulness. And this is a Church whose pastor is only there every third week.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 12, 2019:

Thanks, Devika. It is true that children who interact with their grand parents have the opportunity to learn care and compassion for the elderly from an early age.

Devika Primic on September 11, 2019:

Interesting and useful hub! Care in all aspects is required for the elderly and everyone don't care for the elderly. Everything starts at home for a child and if not taught by the parents you would find that care for the elderly from the growing up child. They won't respect others or the elderly if parents don't teach their children from a young age.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 11, 2019:

Antonio, thanks for your input. I appreciate your admiration for the elderly.

Antonio50S on September 11, 2019:

To Dora.

I totally agree. It's about helping the Elderly to "Endure" the Worship Service. There's nothing wrong with "Enjoying" it along the way as well.

Most, if not all the early disciples died an early death because of their faith. ( And that was the easy part ) "Crucifying the flesh" ? We don't need to go looking for that one since getting old is no fun for anybody, and that itself is crucifying the flesh on a daily basis with the pain some of these Elderly people have to go through.

One of the "Secrets" ( Or learning to be "Content" in all situations ) Paul was referring to in ( 1 Philippians 4:10-13 ) would have include "Endurance" but he also "Rejoiced" in whatever situation he found himself in as well. Getting Older was another challenge. There's a lot of Wisdom in them "Old Bricks" and we should keep this one thing in mind, them "Old Bricks" will one day become even more youthful than todays youth. How would we feel then knowing how we neglected them now ? A lot of these Elderly even have smiles on their faces, not because they are Pain Free, but because they learned a lot of Paul's Secrets, and for that, have the right attitude.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 11, 2019:

Tim, thanks for sharing that beautiful idea. Elderly members are blessed by such thoughtful acts of service.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on September 11, 2019:

Wonderful article, Ms. Dora. These are wonderful suggestions. I particularly like the one we do: Each week, we hold a "devotion," which is focused on the week's sermon at an elderly member's house who cannot make it out. But all of these thoughts are crucial for Christians to remember. After all, as you rightly point out, the young members of the congregation someday will be elderly. Bless your talents and gifts for communicating the truth. Respect and admiration.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 11, 2019:

Thanks, Lincy. I guess that old people like me think about such things. I appreciate your kind comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 11, 2019:

Lori, sorry about that elderly woman. Children need to be taught to look out for them, so such accidents do not happen. Obviously, your congregation has the old folks' interest in mind.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 11, 2019:

Linda, your pastor is a keeper. There needs to be more like him.

Lincy Francis from Allahabad on September 11, 2019:

Loved your article Ms. Dora. It addresses a very less spoken of issue. Even I have never thought about these things in particular. It's a keeper for the days to come.

Lori Colbo from United States on September 10, 2019:

This was fantastic. I never thought about the toilet seat. We worship at a school and the toilets are small and low. We do have some older people but none appear to need any special help, but some issues aren't seen with the eye.

We are a contemporary church however we sing hymns and modern songs. I love them both. The older people sit in front mostly so they can see and hear better (that would be me).

At a very small church I once went to, we had a potluck. An elderly woman was getting food when some small children running wild in the fellowship hall, knocked her over and she broke her hip. I have a pet peeve about parents letting their little one race and run all over. They can knock people over, cause them to spill hot coffee, or trip someone.

You covered all the bases. I always love your interesting thoughtful topics.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 10, 2019:

Dora, oh yes, the Pastor visits once per week and offers Holy Communion for them if they so desire.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Thanks, Pam. It would be great if members gave preference to the elderly without having to be told, but some don't.. So we have to assign parking for the elderly in addition to the handicapped. Please feel free to forward the article

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Thanks, Linda. The young needs to be reminded that youth does not last forever. We need to appreciate both the young and the aged.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Linda, thanks for sharing. Kudos to your church for facilitating the shut ins. I hope they still get an occasional, personal visit. Yes, the elderly have to decide how much movement they can handle. Hope they are given options.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Carolyn, I totally agree. The habit of long sermons is disappearing. I referred to the Millennials who possibly cannot wrap their heads around the idea.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Charlie, remember when Jesus asked His disciple-friend to take care of His old mother? (John 19:26-27) It is in the same vein that I am asking us to take care of the elderly church members.

Thanks for your willingness to expound on crucifying the flesh, but that's an entirely different discussion for another time.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Bill, you're as old as you feel, they say. So don't give in to old age just yet. Thanks for your kind comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Thanks, Liz. That's a very important point you raised. It's one thing to seat the elderly near the front to accommodate their hearing the Word, but then they'd be too close to the loud music. And yes, in many congregations the program organizers import speakers when some of the older folk in their congregation can do as good a job.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Thanks, Flourish. Older people have much respect for their pastor. A visit from him means the world to them.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 10, 2019:

Thanks, Cheryl. Looking out for the oldies, of which I am one.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 10, 2019:

As a senior citizen, I can say I loved your article for church goers. I like your suggestions and think they could really help the seniors to get into church and for their membership to feel valued. We have a few handicap spots at my church, but if I don't arrive early they are gone. It is hard to walk a distance when you have to use a walker. I wish all pastors could read your article, as it is wonderful.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 10, 2019:

This is a lovely article, Dora. Your suggestions are excellent. It's important for people of all ages to be able to appreciate and participate in the different aspects of a church service or other spiritual event. As you say, people who are young today will eventually be elderly and may have to face the problems experienced by some of today's seniors.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 10, 2019:

Valuable points all presented with careful thought and loving spirit. I find that my greatest difficulty is the continual standing and sitting and standing again (as Lutherans we sit when we sing and stand when we pray).

Another suggestion is something that we have begun to do at our church--we live stream the service so that shut-ins can still hear the sermon, liturgy, and hymns. (You can even pause the video feed if you need to go to the bathroom, etc.).

Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on September 10, 2019:

A sermon that goes on for 45 minutes? I don't think that's going to work today - where most attention spans can be measured in seconds, not minutes. This applies to all age groups.

All good points - thank you for sharing your wisdom.

charlie from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth in between the oceans on September 10, 2019:

the idea of making "church" of the church system (which is not found in the new testament) comfortable is not compatable with Jesus plans which require complete change. crucifying your flesh is not a comfortable experience it but is is necessary and a requirement. Jesus says if we follow HIM (not man) we will have trouble. He never promised, peace and comfort as the false church system does

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 10, 2019:

I guess I'm considered elderly, but I sure don't feel like it yet. Great suggestions, Dora! I love your giving heart.

Liz Westwood from UK on September 10, 2019:

You give an interesting perspective on worship. One of my greatest struggles in years past (not where we now attend) is how much the wealth of wisdom and experience in older members of a congregation is ignored and goes unused by churches.

A point I would add to your list is setting worship at an acceptable volume. Too often our ears are assailed by music set too loud, causing me to fear for people's hearing and my husband to ask:"Do they think God is deaf?" We have been known to sit through services in churches we have visited with ear plugs in and still heard every word. I am so grateful for the church we now attend that respects its elders and sets the volume to a reasonable level.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 10, 2019:

The suggestions you make ring true based on my grandmother’s experience. She also appreciates a visit or card from the preacher when she’s in the hospital.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 10, 2019:

This is a very informative article. These are excellent suggestions.

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