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Ministry to older adults

Ministry to older adults

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Ministry to older adults

Jan. 13, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0225}

NOTE:  A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

I enjoy the company of older people. One of the rewards of pastoral ministry was the opportunity to learn from elders about the whole cycle of life and benefit from hearing about their personal experiences of mistakes and achievements.
I also appreciate the major contribution elders make to local congregations. Elders are often some of the most faithful Christians in fulfilling their vows of membership. Most of all, their maturity greatly enhances the culture of the congregation and contributes to good decision-making.

Tragically, we live in a society that engages in "ageism," a pattern of discrimination against elders. At the very least, often our society lacks a positive image of that part of the cycle of life that is old age and fails to cherish its elders and seek their contribution.

This "ageism" can occur in the church. In our rightful endeavor to reach out to youth and young adults we may ignore the elderly population. An effective congregation will be just as enthusiastic in its work of ministry to and with the elderly as it is in its work of ministry to and with other age groups.

Ministry to the elderly is a great opportunity, especially for us in Florida. Most of our congregations are located in communities where there are large numbers of older adults. Yet, do they realize the opportunity to minister to and with them? Do they have an intentional strategy to reach out to them and include them?

We have an excellent opportunity to strengthen our churches' ministry to older adults. On Feb. 1-3 at New Covenant United Methodist Church in The Villages near Leesburg, there will be a convocation on ministry to older adults called "Tapestry: a New View of Aging." There will be exciting presentations by Dr. Richard Gentzler, the Older Adult Ministries director of the General Board of Discipleship, and information about models for ministry for small, medium and large congregations. For information contact the Rev. Lois Barnum Munn at 352-750-4529 or This is going to be a splendid convocation, and I hope many congregations will send a participant.

The great second century bishop, Irenaeus, said Jesus was 50 years old when he was crucified. He believed the incarnate Son of God had lived through every phase of the life-cycle and sanctified it. While Irenaeus' information about Jesus' age must be mistaken in light of Luke's record that "Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work," we can agree with Irenaeus that the redemptive work of Jesus Christ is relevant to us when we become elders. In an era when many people are living longer, we have a responsibility and opportunity to share the Good News with elders and learn how to be more effective in our ministry to and with them. 

This commentary relates to Discipleship.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.