"Unlike in other churches, the elderly believers here are not the ones who need to be taken care of; rather, they are the very backbone of most of our ministries!" commented a young pastor who is responsible for the elderly ministry, praising the invaluable contribution of the elderly believers.
During Easter, I had the opportunity to communicate with leaders of the senior fellowship of Fuhua Church in Fuqing, Fujian.
This church boasts a congregation of 3,000 to 4,000 churchgoers, with elderly believers making up almost half of the total. These elderly members participate actively in the shepherding of believers, group pastoral care, visitation, reception, and social services. According to a pre-COVID-19 statistical report, 90% of those who participated in the church service were elderly members. "With the exception of those who are bedridden, nearly all of our elderly members actively take part in the church's ministries," the pastor in charge informed me.
In the 1980s, under the leadership of the first generation of pastors of the church, the "Welfare Association for the Elderly" was established with a membership structure to shepherd the elderly. In 2003, on the basis of the Welfare Association for the Elderly, a senior fellowship called Hu Ai Hui (transliteration, "mutual aid") was founded with a more robust system structure. Today, it has 108 groups and nearly 2,000 members.
Lin, the chairman of the third and fourth senior fellowships, who is over 70 years old, said, "Truly living fellowship must be rooted in truth, and it should also correspond to the specific situation of the elderly. Combined with the practical experience of Hu Ai Hui, I think the course should be based on 'Christ' and 'salvation'. "
Regarding specific training courses, the fellowship has united the church to set up a weekly Bible study class and a prayer training class. Furthermore, youth pastors also conduct courses on spiritual growth for elderly believers. Through the aid of scripture cards, they help the elderly understand and follow the mission and vision of the church by studying the life of Christ and the salvation of the cross. They also often teach them from the perspective of sin, leading them to live like Christ with a more reverent heart. "'Each person is cared for, and each person can also pastor others.' This is our greatest mission vision," stated Chairman Lin.
To ensure the Bible study is carried out successfully, the pastor leads directors of different apartments, who train team leaders, and team leaders discipline their team members. Moreover, directors report the progress and results of each group’s follow-up study; “this will ensure that each of our more than 1,800 Christians is fed by the Word,” revealed L (pseudonym), the vice chairman.
The fellowship also encourages every elderly member to share what they have learned with their family members, and then to extend it to their neighbors, relatives, and friends. In pursuit of this goal, the fellowship collaborates with ministry groups within the church to provide relevant courses and training to elderly believers.
"For instance, elderly staff members serving in the visiting group can obtain specialized training from the visitation ministry, which focuses on nurturing skills such as caring for, comforting, and conversing with sick members. Similarly, those serving in the evangelization group are provided with tailored training conducted by the Ministry of Evangelism, which teaches them how to preach the core principles of the gospel, how to clearly explain the gospel to non-believers, and how to retain seekers," Chairman Lin explained.
Ever since its inception, 26 directors of the fellowship for the elderly have been cooperating with groups of believers to carry out weekly visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and families of believers, respectively. Moreover, more than one hundred groups conduct regular, full-coverage visits to senior members on weekdays.
"We have recorded the birthdays of all senior members, and organize a collective birthday party each quarter for the corresponding believers." Chairman Lin introduced, "The birthday parties have been held for more than ten years, with at least two or three hundred aged members attending each party.”
In addition, as L, the vice chairman, added, the fellowship regularly plans spring and autumn outings each year in addition to the wedding anniversary celebrations held every five years during the autumn. Furthermore, Chairman Lin stated that during every group activity, younger members of the senior fellowship offer assistance and care to the older members. Besides, in the same age group, members with better physical conditions serve other believers with inferior health.
In recent years, the fellowship has been self-sufficient and does not require the help of young volunteers for any event, irrespective of its magnitude or complexity.
- Translated by Abigail Wu