Before my 84-year-old mom died last year, she received a letter from the church she had been a member of for more than 60 years. The letter informed her that she no longer had voting privileges because of her lack of attendance on Sunday morning.
Her absence was due to being wheelchair bound. My then 89-year-old father was her full-time caretaker. Even though she was critically ill, not one of the five pastors in her church called or visited during the two years of her illness.
Mom and Dad faithfully served their church for decades. Every singing group, evangelist, speaker, and guest was housed by my parents’ place. No matter who died, got married, or had a baby, my mom sent meals and food to help with every occasion the church hosted. She was also the church pianist for years. My dad served as an usher, never missing a Sunday. He and his relatives built the camp grounds and fixed whatever was broken when called upon. For years, my mom baked the pastor’s favorite fruit pies and sent them to his house, per his request. Now, in their twilight years, we never heard from the church. And I don’t believe we were alone.
About four months ago, my dad took the senior pastor to breakfast and told him how much it bothered him that none of the church pastors visited my mom. This was a bold move as my dad doesn’t usually confront on such matters. The pastor said he would do better. He has yet to call on my dad in the 9 months since my mom died.
Many churches have become so focused on numbers and youth, that meeting the needs of their senior members are not even on the radar. My parents’ church has 450 members and five pastors, and not one pastor does pastoral care. There is an older gentleman who gets paid $100 a month to hold a senior service. Other than that, the elderly seem to be forgotten. And during this time in their lives, when a call or visit would mean so much, the pastors are not taking the time to minister to them.
Fortunately for my parents, they have strong friendships and dedicated family members who step in, visit, and bring meals.
Here is my question. Is it asking too much for a church leader to call once in awhile and check on these saints and offer to pray with them? Is it too much to expect someone to organize a meal or bring a card of encouragement? My mom would have loved having communion when at the nursing home. What about the elderly who do not have the family support like my parents do?
What has happened to pastoral care?
The church was the center of my parents’ lives for 60 years. It saddens me that they are neglected by the very body they so faithfully served. I know God is their reward, but the church needs to do a better job of caring for the elderly.