‘The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord,they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him”’ (Psalm 92:12–15).
God didn’t create old age by accident, and the Bible speaks of older Christians flourishing and bearing fruit in later years. With an ageing population there is both an urgent need and real opportunity to reach older people in residential care with the good news of the Lord Jesus. Let’s encourage older Christians and reach older people for Christ.
To put on an event which will enable church members to provide spiritual support and encouragement to Christians in care homes, as well as reaching older people with the gospel.
Running an event in a care home will also have the added benefit of helping to develop relationships with care home managers and carers, and hopefully encourage them during this time of immense pressure.
How to plan
- Identify a group of church members who have a heart for older people, and who are committed to building relationships with a local care home.
- Find out where the local care homes are in your area and then decide which one(s) to focus on.
- Start praying as a group regularly.
- Decide what you can offer a care home (i.e. running a service, offering prayer, or just chatting with residents – who may not otherwise have visitors and who are lonely).
- Phone your local care home and introduce yourself and your church, explain what you can offer and ask them what their needs currently are. Care homes will have different needs depending on how they have been affected by coronavirus, and these needs may change on a regular basis. Let the care home know that you are appreciative of all they are doing, and that you are praying for them.
It’s also worth being aware that the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates care homes, requires them to ensure their residents have access to religious provision, so your local care home may welcome your support.
Before the event
Introduce your church and your team to the care home manager and relevant staff. They will let you know the best times for visiting, and give you helpful information about the home, its procedures and routines, and anything they feel would be helpful for you to know about their residents.
Decide how many volunteers you need and ensure they have any relevant clearances the care home requires.
Check how well you can be heard in the room where the event or service will be held. It’s best if you take in a microphone and amplification equipment.
Top tips for leading a service
- Thank everyone for welcoming you into their home and say how pleased you are to be there. Make sure that everyone can see you and ask if everyone can hear well.
- Look as though you are pleased to be there. Body language can be as powerful as words!
- Be aware that some of the residents will be deaf so speaking a little slower with good pronunciation is necessary. If there is no amplification system you will need to speak loud enough to be heard.
- Introduce yourself and the rest of the team. It’s usually helpful to simply state which church you are from and give the name of the person leading the service.
- Be prepared to be flexible and remember that you are in a home not a church. Some people may comment out loud – which should be encouraged. It helps residents feel that they are part of the service, not simply passive recipients.
- If you are going to sing, use older hymns that are familiar instead of modern ones.
- Ask if anyone has a favourite hymn and why it is special for them.
- Use a version of the Bible that is familiar to older people.
- Ask if anyone would like to pray.
- Invite someone to read a verse or two of Scripture. It may be a good idea to have a large print version of the Bible.
- Keep the message short and to the point.
- Don’t be discouraged if residents fall asleep.
- Don’t be alarmed if residents interrupt – remember that some may be living with dementia.
- After the service, always speak to everyone who has attended and tell them how good it is to be with them.
- Smile and encourage the staff; they do a very demanding job and will appreciate a kind word.
- There may be family or friends present, so make them feel part of the service if they wish.
You may use your own material but if you are looking for a resource then ‘Worshipping Together’ by Pilgrims’ Friend Society is very good. You can find this and other resources on the Faith in Later Life website.
If you are unable to access a care home then there are other ways to engage. A friend of mine, Bev, manages the care home team at a city mission and suggests that people send postcards with encouraging messages:
‘They are much appreciated. They know people outside are thinking of them. We need to pray for staff who are stretched. We are praying that the DVDs we sent with hymns and prayers will encourage those who are Christians, and really touch the hearts of those who aren’t, that they will turn to God in this time.’