It isn’t fun or exciting to talk about aging or death. So we don’t. Maybe we think that by ignoring it we can pretend neither reality exists. North American culture has been particularly adept at sanitizing death and coming up with any number of products to disguise the reality of aging. The result is that we aren’t honest with others, ourselves, or God about the challenges and fears that surround either aging or death. It also means that we often don’t honor or celebrate the older adults in our communities.
Articles in this issue:
In this issue one of our focuses is older adults. Sometimes younger folks think faith comes easily and somewhat naturally for those of more advanced years, not realizing that the faith of older adults is tested just as their own—yet they still believe. But how does one endure? What is it that has sustained these living saints? Though they might not answer those questions this way, I would argue that it is their baptism that has provided the sustaining power needed to endure.
Christian churches of all denominations live in a world of constant media banter about generational differences. The progression goes from the Silent Generation to baby boomers to Generation Xers, to millennials (or Generation Y) and now to Generation Z.
The statistics tell it all. The population is getting older. The first of us born in the so-called post-World War II generation of “baby boomers” are now in our early 70s, and even the youngest of this group—of which I am one—are turning 55 in 2019. Small wonder that something like Social Security has become imperiled. When President Franklin D.
Like the author of Psalm 71, many—perhaps all elderly members of your congregation—have worshiped God from their youth. And when they become old, their desire to worship God in the assembly might be stronger than ever.
As we did in the last issue of Reformed Worship, we have presented a question to a few of our subscribers so that we may learn from each other. This time we chose to ask individuals living outside of North America about the role and importance of older adults in worship. We are grateful to be able to learn from individuals from Australia, Hong Kong, and Ireland.
How are older adults shown honor and appreciation in your worship services? How much importance is given to their presence, needs, and even preferences?
As I write this article I am listening to a song by Casting Crowns titled “Only Jesus,” and I’m immediately brought back to October 5, 2018, when it was sung at the last funeral service I led. Karen was 33 years old. A five-year survivor of a double lung transplant she needed because of cystic fibrosis, she passed away as a result of the West Nile virus. Her funeral was the second one I officiated in just six weeks for someone under 36. The first was for Curtis, who passed away after a stroke.
In my ministry with seniors, I have discovered that while some may be hesitant to talk about their own deaths, it is an important pastoral focus that can lead to very meaningful discussions.
To facilitate that conversation I created a funeral planning form (“My Funeral Preferences,” see p. 37) which I’ve found to be a helpful tool. Asking an elderly person about favorite Bible passages and songs can lead to rich sharing. Some great questions are:
Funeral planning is a growing pastoral challenge. Even ten years ago, families mostly left planning to the pastor, who worked to personalize each service. Now, families often make requests of the pastor—but many don’t fit well in a Christian funeral. So how might pastors respond wisely to such requests and even proactively avoid them?