Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Older Adult Ministry Week/Month begins May 5

POAMN debuts multimedia resources to support ministry

by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service

The first full week of May is a time for churches to celebrate older adults in their congregations and the vibrant ministry in which they are involved. In addition to having its planning guide updated annually, the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network (POAMN) recently launched multiple webpages of resources and videos designed to guide and enrich ministry with older adults.

May 5 kicks off national “Older Adult Month,” beginning with the PC(USA)’s special emphasis week on ministry with people over the age of 65. Closing out the month of celebration and focus, POAMN will be holding its annual conference May 29–30 in San Diego.

Today’s population of older adults is growing in numbers, diversity, energy and activity. Their unique caregiving needs are also increasing. POAMN has developed multiple resources under the title “Expressions of Older Adult Ministry” to address the shifts in demographics and life experiences of today’s older adults.

“We in the Office of Christian Formation are so pleased about partnering with POAMN on this project to create and gather content to support formation leaders as they engage intentionally with the older adults in their ministry contexts,” said Miatta Wilson, associate for Christian Formation at the PC(USA). The new resources available from the POAMN website under “Expressions of Older Adult Ministry” invite leaders to explore the guiding principles of older adult ministry, an older adult Reformed theological framework and some best practices. The resources include videos sharing expressions of older adult ministry in different contexts, as well as QuickSheets with program ideas and advice.

“There is something for you, whether you are a volunteer leader, formation leader or pastor. The team is hoping to help people see older adult ministry as interwoven in the life of the worshiping community and not a ‘program,’” said Wilson. She added that POAMN leaders realized they needed new ways to interact and connect with local leaders beyond their printed annual planning guide and to highlight the new approaches to this expanding ministry.

Formation leaders, volunteers, pastors, ruling elders and older adults themselves recently gathered on Zoom from across the denomination, and several short, engaging videos were created from the gathering that POAMN hopes will help people enter into conversations about people in their “third 30” and the church. Listening to the variety of voices, experiences and contexts was energizing, as participants described older adults in five words or told stories about ministries with this demographic in their settings. Other resources feature older adults talking about major transitions and the spiritual lessons they learned, such as their experiences with caregiving for a spouse.

“I am so gratified to see older adult ministry gaining a spotlight with empowering, insightful resources emerging for a broad audience,” said the Rev. Joyce MacKichan Walker, who retired in 2018 after 30 years of ministry at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey, as minister of Education and Mission and director of Christian Education. MacKichan Walker underscored the unique needs of older adults as they retire and experience big changes in circumstances or moves, deaths of partners and friends, and increasing loneliness and isolation. MacKichan Walker was invited to explore the topic of developing older adult ministry in congregations and elder-care settings for POAMN’s online platform because of her teaching connection to the certificate program in Older Adult Ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary. Now in its 15th year, the certificate program fills up quickly after enrollment opens each year, a reflection of the high interest in this area of ministry. Other contributors to the new POAMN content who have participated in the Columbia certificate program include the Rev. William Houts and the Rev. Dr. Charles Tinsley.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Tinsley created a resource for older men discussing the spirituality of caregiving.

The Rev. James M. Potts facilitated a recorded discussion for the series with millennial pastors to explore the rich interplay between generations in the pastoral relationship and congregational leadership. Potts, who was serving a rural congregation of older adults at the time, wanted to connect with colleagues “to share ideas and challenges of cross-generational ministry” and to celebrate that “older adult ministry is still a vibrant area of ministry.”

“Ministry with older adults is rooted in our baptismal vows,” said the Rev. Dr. Sarah Erickson, whose course “A Theology of Older Adult Ministry” debuted on the site this week. The POAMN “Expressions” site will continue to grow in its resources. “I see the whole thing in a baptismal arc,” she said. “We spend so much energy in the church ministering to youth and children, but there’s another part. We live out our baptismal to adults, too.” Erickson turned to hymns, Scripture and past theological work to shape a theology grounded in the idea of covenant and living it out through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The Rev. Dr. Sarah Erickson contributed “A Theology of Older Adult Ministry” to POAMN’s new web resources. (Photo contributed by Sarah Erickson)

However, Erickson, who also teaches in the Older Adult Ministry certificate program, sees the potential for richer theological conversations and encourages her students to write their own theological basis for older adult ministry in their context. In fact, the final projects of some certificate earners have inspired additional resources for POAMN’s “Expressions” web resource.

Several of these resources featured on “Expressions of Older Adult Ministry” draw on the video testimonials of older adults. Quentin A. Holmes, a POAMN board member who helped shape the vision for the resource, shared what he appreciates most about the mutuality of a ministry with older adults and why it is so important to ground the ministry in both lived experience and in community. Older adults’ “knowledge, wisdom and grace will change the way you think about your life.” To Holmes, this is the blessing in disguise of ministry with an aging population. “You start out thinking that you will be helping them, but soon learn that in reality, they are helping you.”

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.