Needs of seniors vary by congregation

Ministries to senior citizens within churches are as much about providing opportunities for interaction as they are about ensuring the spiritual and physical needs of aging members are met, said Glenda Sparks of Bayshore Baptist Church in LaPorte. Providing for the array of needs for retired adults within a congregation is as varied as the community the church serves.

Sparks knows not all senior citizens have the flexibility to “up and go” whenever they want?day tripping to Galveston, eating lunch with fellow church members, or distributing food to the area needy. But the Silver Saints of Bayshore Baptist Church is a ministry through which she encourages her peers to get “up and go” and stay connected to their church and in their community.

What gets the Silver Saints mobile is a fleet of buses provided by Harris County Precinct Two. Sparks makes sure the church ministry takes full advantage of the Senior Program offered by the precinct. That equates to at least 12 bus trips a year within a 149-mile radius of Houston. Trips coordinated by the church include jaunts to Brenham, College Station, area malls for shopping, special Christmas outings, or just a trip to Hermann Park to visit the zoo and have a picnic.

Many of the Silver Saints might not participate in the trips if there was no other means of transportation. The buses are provided in Harris County at no cost to senior groups with members 50 years and older.

At Chaparral Hills Baptist Church of Amarillo, members of the CCC?Chaparral Coffee Club?head to the church every Wednesday and Friday for a cup of coffee, a look at the daily paper, and catching up on the news on the plains of West Texas. Three times a year, the church treats the group to dinner on the town.

During Chaparral Hills’ annual Joy Club Christmas party, each member is given $5 and a trip to the mall. The challenge? Buy as many different items as you can with just $5 ? including tax.

“They scour the mall for specials,” Pastor Alan Burkhalter said, laughing at the resourcefulness of the senior adult population. Each of the purchases was then given to each other as gifts. “They can squeeze a nickel like nobody’s business.” One participant came back to the church with 20 items.

Providing the means of fellowship for senior adults in a church opens the door for ministering to unchurched peers. Silver Saints of LaPorte are encouraged to invite friends on their excursions and church fellowships. On more than one occasion, Sparks said people have joined the church because of the camaraderie of the Silver Saints.

Senior adults are often the workforce behind distribution points for Angel Food ministries, a nationwide program created to provide low-cost food staples. At Bayshore Baptist and many other SBTC churches, seniors work side-by-side with youth on distribution days, or simply being a smiling face to those who visit the church to take advantage of the program.

A volunteer force made up of teenagers and adults commit to particular days of service at First Baptist Church in Springtown as they help seniors with mowing, cleaning windows or other basic maintenance that can be difficult to aging members.

Members of the senior adult group from Springtown travel to a local nursing home every week to sing, drawing 16 participants on a recent week, member Nora Upshaw said. “My relationship with my church is strong,” she said, as strong as any time during the 70 years she’s been a Southern Baptist.

From singing in the choir to helping with preschoolers, senior adults continue to perform vital ministry in local churches. Fifty senior adults from Southcrest Baptist Church in Lubbock traveled to Euless recently to sing at the SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference.

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