Thinking Out Loud

June 14, 2014

Elderly Need Ministry, Too

Tony Campolo has written an interesting piece this morning at Red Letter Christians, which I am re-blogging here with emphasis added.

The church I attend currently has five people listed on the roster of ministry staff.

  • Lead Pastor
  • Associate Pastor of Care and Discipleship (a former youth pastor, currently in the process of moving to a new church, whose focus was on twenty- and thirty-somethings)
  • Youth Pastor
  • Director of Children’s Ministries (not quite full time)
  • Children’s Outreach Director (part time)

Other than the administrative assistant, there are no other paid staff. So you see the demographic consequences here, most of the ministry dollars spent on salaries are benefit parents with young children and teens.

Tony writes:

Tony CampoloIt seems strange to me that churches should show such favoritism to the youth and do little, if anything, for the elderly. When a church adds a new staff member, it is usually someone to work with the young people in the church, even though the young people constitute only six or seven percent of those who show up on Sunday morning, whereas a third of all those in attendance are over the age of 65.

In spite of this reality, the church is ready to appoint a youth minister, but not a minister with a specific assignment to the elderly. It is assumed that elderly people don’t need special ministry, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sociological studies indicate that elderly people are more likely to lose faith in God than young people. Through the years they have seen much suffering; they have seen too many unanswered prayers; and in the face of death they face incredible uncertainties.

I’m not saying that Youth Pastors are unimportant but what what I am saying is that churches go out of their way to add a youth worker position so that this person can help build up the church’s youth ministry, with the goal of attracting more youth to come to church. At the same time, there is already a large portion of the church that attend every week, give their tithes, and volunteer in church ministries but do not receive the attention or care that is essential to their spiritual well being. Churches are in greater need of a hired hand to assist with the day to day needs of the elderly than they are for the youth.

When I was younger I never realized the amount of time and energy that it takes to be old. Today, I spend countless hours going to and from doctors appointments and part of my daily routine now includes taking a variety of different medication that helps me keep going. It’s a hard task for me and I am in good health. For the millions of elderly individuals in our churches today without the luxury of good health I can easily see the struggles of keeping up with the demands of aging.

An Elderly Care Pastor could assist the elderly of their congregation by assisting individuals with transportation needs to and from doctors appointments, ensuring that prescription medications are taken on time and in the correct dosage, and by organizing elderly activities so that these individuals are not left sitting alone at home for days on end. Too many elderly people I meet tell me stories of how they spend most of their last years sitting alone with few, if any, visitors. We, the church, can and must do something to help the elderly. The addition of an Elderly Care Pastor is the first step towards making an immediate impact in the lives of the elderly of our congregations today.

Considering that the church is made up of elderly people more than young people, what is the church going to do in response to the needs of this important segment of its membership? My suggestion here is not the only suggestion worth considering. Please contemplate this issue and see what ideas come to mind that work to provide for the elderly in your local congregations.

To be fair, the church I attend has a Parish Nurse (a term borrowed from Anglicans, I believe) on call who does provide some of the functions Tony mentioned in the 4th and 5th paragraphs. I don’t know if she is paid beyond expenses as salaries aren’t broken down in the annual report and I’ve never bothered to ask.
So what do you think?
How would churches where you live relate to Tony’s perspective here?

Send Tony some link love and check out this article at source.


 

  • Related: Churches like to have young staff and young-looking staff. In many churches worship-leading and teaching pastor positions are given to people under 40. I wrote about this in June 2011, When 40 is Too Old to Serve Your Church.

 

January 12, 2012

Supreme Court Sides with Churches on Hiring and Firing


U.S. citizens who don’t get picked for a job with a religious organization, or get dumped by such an institution can no longer run to the courts crying foul.  That’s the outcome of a landmark decision by the Supremes, and I don’t mean the band led by Diana Ross.

In fact, the decision was unanimous.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision, as ABC News reports:

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said that the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment –”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”–bar the government from interfering with the decision of a religious group to fire one of its ministers.

Roberts gave a history lesson in his opinion, noting that “controversy between church and state over religious offices is hardly new.” He noted that the founders sought to foreclose the possibility of a national church.

“The Establishment Clause prevents the government from appointing ministers,” Roberts said, and the “Free Exercise Clause prevents it from interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select their own. ”

But not everyone was thrilled:

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he thought in today’s ruling the Court had gone too far.

“If you are declared a minister by a religious organization, you are out of luck if you have a claim for discrimination even if it’s based on race, gender or any other non religious factor,” Lynn said. “This effectively blocks almost any kind of serious challenge to an adverse employment decision. ”

The Washington Post also quoted Lynn:

“It’s just a gigantic new exception, a new loophole to the civil rights law for religious groups that will not be shut in a very long time — if ever.”

At NBC News, reporter Pete Williams noted that the judge emphasized the necessity of maintaining the autonomy of mosques, synagogues and churches — and religious schools, which was the particular test case — to

” preach their beliefs, teach their beliefs, and carry out their mission.”

Canadians will be forgiven if the following story reminds you somewhat of something that took place there a few years back, the Christian Horizons case

…Or the American World Vision case going back to 2007 that was resolved nearly a year ago.  In all cases, courts have allowed the religious bodies to set their own employment standards.

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