Rev. Dr. Richard Gentzler, Jr.

In the September issue of ENCORE Ministry Matters, I shared examples of various older adult ministry models I witnessed in United Methodist churches throughout the country. These models included: Adult Day Care Ministry, Congregational Care Ministry, Relational Ministry, Service and Missions Ministry, Study Ministry, and Support Group Ministry. To revisit this article, click here. In this article, I want to share the S.E.N.I.O.R.S. Ministry model.

How we age depends on a variety of factors such as physical and spiritual well-being, lifestyle decisions, educational and economic opportunities, nutrition, and healthcare. Gender, race, heredity, DNA, marital status, purpose in life, and just plain luck, also affect how we age. No two people age the same way.

If ministry models such as the ones identified above are available, why should church leaders engage in the S.E.N.I.O.R.S. Ministry model? The answer lies in the fact that very few churches go beyond offering a single ministry option for engaging older adults or the ministry is simply a ministry to and for older adults. The S.E.N.I.O.R.S. Ministry model is a lens through which ministry is viewed intentionally as a ministry by, with, and for older adults.

The S.E.N.I.O.R.S. Ministry model is offered as a means of designing an intentional older adult ministry that meets the needs of all, or at least most, of the older adults in your congregation and community. The model’s components address: spirituality, enrichment, nutrition (health and wellness), intergenerational, outreach (evangelism), recreation, and service.

Suggestions for each component:

S: Spirituality involves Bible study groups, prayer groups, small-group studies,Christian education classes, retreats, spiritual journaling, healing services, and special worship services

E: Enrichment includes learning opportunities and classroom seminars on topics of interest such as health care, finances, advance directives,elder law, computers and the internet, fraud and scam awareness, and life review

N: Nutrition/wellness and health involves congregational care and health ministries, community faith nursing, parish nurse, low impact aerobics and other forms of exercise such as tai chi and yoga, and cooking for one classes

I: Intergenerational includes programs, events, and study groups that engage all ages in learning and sharing. Invite older adults to serve as mentors and tutors for young people and invite children and youth to visit homebound members and nursing home residents.

O: Outreach involves opportunities for mission and evangelism such asVolunteers in Mission, NOMADS, and short- or long-term mission experiences (locally, nationally, and globally)

R: Recreation includes games, fellowship meals, travel events, and field trips as well as participation in activities such as golf, board games,fishing, tennis, swimming, arts and crafts, and quilting

S: Service involves transportation, respite care, support groups for grief and loneliness, home chore service, home maintenance and minorhome repair service, and telephone reassurance

As church leaders engaged in older adult ministry, we realize that purpose – being useful and needed – is not an automatic condition among older adults. Some older adults simply resign from activity following retirement, others retreat into their own self-fulfilling shell of loneliness. They are convinced no one needs them anymore or they believe that they have done their job and it is now time for others to take over. Feeling lonely, forgotten, or not being needed and valued, may result in anger, depression, fear, and isolation.

Each older person is an individual — a person with specific abilities, needs, interests, and concerns. If we take to heart the population explosion of older adults in our communities and churches and recognize the life stages and needs within the later years, we will look wholistically at the ways the church can engage older adults in an intentional ministry.

Churches must be concerned with the whole person; this includes older adults. Older adults look to the church to assist them in meeting spiritual and functional needs, and to make sense out of living. To help meet the needs of all the older adults in any congregation, the S.E.N.I.O.R.S. Ministry model allows for differences in individual needs, interests, and ability.

If you’re starting a new older adult ministry or if you want to strengthen an existing older adult ministry, evaluate how the S.E.N.I.O.R.S. Ministry model may help guide you in providing an intentional ministry for meeting the needs of older adults in your congregation. I believe that the S.E.N.I.O.R.S. Ministry is an excellent model for maximizing congregational older adult ministry. For more information on the S.E.N.I.O.R.S. Ministry model, read An Age of Opportunity.