Many congregations believe children are the church’s future, launching a variety of nursery programs, mothers and toddlers groups, kids’ clubs, youth groups, and young adult ministries, but the elderly and their needs are often forgotten.
At Gelnhausen Church of the Nazarene in central Germany, all age groups are well represented. While there were a number of clubs and Sunday School groups for children and young people, the elderly in the church didn’t have a special time to meet.
“We started to think about how we can serve the senior citizens in our church,” Johanna Goldbach said.
Goldbach leads a 60 PLUS elderly group at the Gelnhausen church, which is now a well-established part of church life. A team of eight leaders continue to emphasize that everyone is welcome, including those under 60. In March 2011, they invited the elderly for their first gemütliche, or cozy afternoon, and it was an immediate success.
About 30 to 40 participants meet every two months on a Saturday afternoon for a few hours’ worth of company, coffee, and cake. Some events have already become tradition: a barbecue in early summer, a trip to a miniature golf club in late summer, and an Advent-themed afternoon in December.
Other 60 PLUS events include talks by well-known Christian authors and trips to places such as an Easter garden that portrayed scenes from the events leading up to Easter. Some participants described it as traveling back in time. Last autumn the group visited a “fruit carpet,” where thousands of seeds were laid out on the floor of an unused church building to recreate the painting of a famous artist.
The most recent trip, taken in late April, took the group to Wetzlar for a tour of the Evangeliumsrundfunk, the major Christian radio and TV station in Germany.
The 60 PLUS team tries to make everyone feel welcome.
“They’re always full of praise about everything we do,” Goldbach said.
The program also became an outreach tool for the church. Locals are invited in a variety of ways: through friends, a notice board in front of the church building, the church newsletter distributed in the neighborhood and, most importantly, through regular articles in local newspapers inviting and reporting about every event that takes place.
“On average we have 10 new people at our events that came through friends or in response to a newspaper article,” Goldbach said.
The visitors make up a significant portion of the group, and the newcomers love joining in among the church folk.
“We think it’s great, all the things you do at this church,” one said. “We’ve often read about your events and have wanted to come. We’ll definitely come again.”
And these events are not all the 60 PLUS team does for the church’s elderly.
“One of our current goals is to coordinate the visiting of those who can’t come to events anymore, so that nobody gets missed out,” Goldbach said.
Another plan is to offer services for the elderly, like mowing their lawns or going shopping. The services may be a lot of work, but the people on the team love their ministry and say it’s fun to spend time with the people.
“What I especially enjoy in this ministry is that the elderly people are always so grateful for everything we do for them,” Goldbach said. “They’re great examples for me, the way they pray and live their faith. There are so many things I can learn from them, from their life experience… I really enjoy that.”
The original version of this article can be found here.