Church in East China Inspires Elderly Believers to Participate in Ministries

A picture shows a senior believer reading the Bible.
A picture shows a senior believer reading the Bible.
By Zhang YaoJuly 14th, 2022

Elderly believers in a church located in an East China city make up nearly 70% of the congregation. Despite the small number of believers, the church's various ministries are in full swing, with the elderly believers outnumbering younger believers in participation. How have they achieved it? Recently, a pastor of the church showed their practical experience to the Gospel Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper.

The meaning of service: overcome loneliness by loving each other

"In our small city, it is quite common for young people to migrate to bigger cities where they work or start families. Meanwhile, most elderly members as their parents staying here can rarely feel the warmth of home, which reflects the absence of the family," the female pastor of the church, C (pseudonym), shared.

At the same time, as the cognitive ability of the elderly weakens, the high-tech and high-efficiency modern life also put them at a loss. Nowadays, there are quite a few senior people who live in houses full of smart furniture but still maintain old-fashioned and simple living habits.

"In order to help the empty-nest elderly members to overcome loneliness, we start to implement the concept 'the church is the home of God's children', so that believers can experience the warmth of home in the church," said C.

Based on this pastoring concept, Church A (pseudonym) stresses more on the teaching in their regular sermons that believers should love each other. At the same time, they also encourage the elderly believers to help each other in the meeting points, fellowships, and small groups. Whenever an elderly believer encounters difficulties in life or physical health, other churchgoers in the same group, under the call of the pastor, will pay them a visit at their home offering comfort or making donations within their financial capabilities.

"It is observed that the elder members in our church really treat one another as family members, for we all understand that everyone may inevitably encounter some difficulties." C said: "At present, our elderly members gather at various meeting points in the city. Every morning they will check in with the WeChat group of devotionals, to exchange greetings and discuss their spiritual progress. Those who need help will also communicate in that group. Now, there are far fewer senior believers coming to pastors for a way out of loneliness or intercession than before.”

C also told the Gospel Times that the church would organize an outing for the elderly believers every six months. While admiring the beautiful scenery, they would enjoy the wonderful spiritual fellowship as well. "Many members acquainted with each other at outing camps have eventually become close friends in faith and life."

Seeing the need for ministries: pastors lead by example to revitalize the church

In the book Pastoral Care for the Elderly, the author, Dr. Li Zonggao, gave a detailed explanation of the duties of a pastor. He believed that for pastors, in addition to executing the roles of "prophet", "priest" and "shepherd", the "servant" office was also an indispensable and important part.

In reality, however, in some grassroots churches, the absence of pastors in the "servant" position is often one of the causes of tension inside the church. Some pastors give believers the impression of "being aloof". Except for during gatherings and worships, they don't see much of the pastors at all during the rest of the time.

“In order to encourage our pastoral staff to truly serve and care for the lay people, the church has set a benchmark of 100 family (or believers) visits per person per year for each of us. So almost every week we have a plan to visit the homes of believers,” C said. “During the suspension of onsite gatherings due to the pandemic, our visits were mostly to bring comfort and exhortation to believers, helping them with answers to some doubts about their faith. For the elderly or disabled members who are not familiar with smartphones, we also teach them how to use mobile phones. In this way, on the one hand, they can connect with the outside world at home. On the other hand, it also facilitates subsequent online pastoral communication.”

"Before, some believers who didn't know the situation might have some misunderstandings of our pastoral staff. When we went to their homes to visit with deep care, believers know more about us. When they saw the ministry need in the church, many elderly Christians began to join us in the visitation ministry.”

"Now, every time we visit, we don't worry about whether there will be a shortage of people to serve. Instead, everyone is enthusiastic about participating in the ministry, sometimes 'competing for the opportunity’!" She said with a smile.

Provide serving positions to believers

"The church now offers sufficient serving positions for the elderly members in the choir, the reception team, the cleaning team, and the visiting team. At present, all active (members) are participating in the church service," Pastor C said.

Today, in Church A, the elderly volunteers have accounted for over half the personnel in the church ministries. Nevertheless, their volunteer training continues.

"Next, we plan to empower the young believers and engage them in more ministries. Although there are not so many young members, it is still necessary for them to stand strong in the Lord. It is not always possible for the young people to enjoy the old ones' serving," Pastor C concluded. 


Rev. Shan Weixiang, vice-president and general-secretary of CCC&TSPM, once articulated in the article "Some Reflections on Pastoring Silver-haired People in an Aging Society": "The church should attach importance to the elderly ministry, in which the basis is spiritual pastoring, the key is pure teaching, and the soul is loving care. Encouraging their participation in ministry is a channel for the elder people to make contributions.”

- Translated by Shuya Wang

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