Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Pastoral Care to the Elderly is Still Needed

posted by Linda Mintle

My 90- year-old father has always been an easy going person. It takes a lot to get him to a point that he feels he must confront someone.

A year ago, my mom passed away. She had been very ill and was in a nursing home and hospice for several months. During that time, my dad and others in my family had asked the pastor of their church to visit my mom–just a few miles from the church offices. No one ever came and I wrote a blog about this, Neglecting the Elderly.

So last winter, my dad took his pastor (my dad has been a member of his church for 60 plus years and has served faithfully) to breakfast. Dad confronted the pastor and told him that his lack of pastoral care was unacceptable. The pastor laughed uncomfortably, promised to do better and told my dad that he would treat him to breakfast next time. Dad thought his breakfast meeting would make a difference. It didn’t.

My dad attends church every Sunday and is active in his Senior group. The pastor has not called even once to check on him or taken him to breakfast as promised. It has been a year now and not even a phone call. The church is blocks from my dad’s home.

As a family, we’ve given up trying to change the lack of attention to the elderly in this church. My brother, also a pastor, has met with this pastor and also talked to him. I have confronted him. My aunt has begged him to visit once in awhile. And to all of us, he promises to do better but makes no behavioral change. And that is the disturbing part. Do not promise us, and especially my father, that you will visit and then never do it. It would be better to admit that you have no interest in this type of pastoral care.

What is sad is that it would take such little effort to brighten my dad’s day and feel cared about by his pastor. To his generation, this is very important. And the pastor knows how this older generation values his attention.It is a small town with people who have been in the church for generations and served faithfully.

I am thankful that others fill in the gap. So thank you to the elderly group who takes care of each other. Thanks to Oscar and Mart who every week send my dad meals because they prepare a little extra and feel it is a nice gesture. It means so much.

Thanks to Aunt Betty and Uncle Harold who come and help whenever dad needs something, to Phil who takes him all around town and goes out to eat–these are the people who take a little time during their day to care. And to dad’s former pastor of over 20 plus years ago, who still calls him to check on him, Pastor Raymond. He calls a few times a year, but it means so much to my dad. Dad brought his cell phone with him to visit me. Hours after getting off the plane, he said, “I brought my phone to call Pastor Raymond. He thinks of me during the year and I want to wish him a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Me too! Thanks Pastor Raymond for being someone who cares about the elderly. You  have a pastor’s heart and care about your people. And thanks to the community of believers who tangibly show their care for the aging. This is a group who needs our attention. And someday, we will be the ones who hope people don’t forget about us.


How is your church doing when it comes to pastoral care to the elderly? Any suggestions as to how to interest church leadership in this need?

  • Linda Mintle

    Than you so much for what you do. You are a blessing!

  • Rev. Claudia Robinson

    I have been the pastor of Mercy Christian Church for five years. All my people live in an assisted living home and are seventy-five years old and up! Many have said that they asked their pastors to come and visit and no one showed…so, they come to my church and love it! I see their needs and my sermons address those needs. I love them and they love me-that’s the secret-you have to actually love the people or you can’t minister to them no matter what age they are!

  • Linda Mintle

    Maybe a first step is to have churches assess the needs of their elderly people and creatively think of ways to meet them. It doesn’t always have to be the senior pastor who responds directly but he/she needs to lead the charge to say these people are important, matter and continue to contribute to the church.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Susan

    I agree with the writer that our churches are not giving the substantive support our elders need from their faith communities. Our church attendants are aging just as our general population is aging, in fact more so since research shows older adults tend to attend church more often than younger adults. I believe we have not positively challenged our churchs to respond and offered ideas for how to better minister to our seniors. As a gerontologist and a Catholic I hope to find ways to educate faith communities to the special spiritual support our elders need and help find practical ways to create that ministy.

  • Linda Mintle

    I agree. The whole body must do their part. But my dad’s generation is really tied to their pastors. And the message is that if a pastor or someone on the staff doesn’t ever contact them, they do not care. You can try changing their mind on this but they come from a different time. My dad is not bitter. He sees that others care. But it is very disappointing to him that the pastor says he will come and doesn’t. I would prefer the pastor just say, “we don’t do that anymore” and not give the expectation. The point is, the care of the elderly in the church has been neglected as a whole. We are very youth and consumer driven and need to care for those who gave much of their service to the church.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jeanette

    I’m sad that I’m seeing comments that fuel the fire of offense but don’t offer ideas that would be helpful. Couldn’t the whole body be part of the answer – not just one certain man? I care give for my 90 year old parents & am grateful for so many people who come & encourage in many ways.

  • Pingback: Pastoral Care to the Elderly is Still Needed | Dr. Linda Mintle

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dr. Linda Mintle

    So far 10 responses on my Facebook page to this article. All saying the same. This is not an isolated case. We need to care for the elderly. Pay attention to their needs!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment E

    Linda this is not an isolated case for your mom and dad. It seems to be a systemic problem with todays church. We have witnessed the same problem with local churches in our area.

    We know of one elderly couple, the wife stopped going to church 2 years ago, the husband over 2 months ago. No one noticed them gone and no one has done any follow-up. They were considered with high regard by the pastor and his wife and well respected in the church.

    It is truly said that even the leaders of our church that understand the Bible and have chosen a life of preaching, teaching and living out God’s word have forsaken the elderly, the sick and the poor to pursue the respected, the rich, and the influential.

    We, the church, have reduced our followers to “disposable” when we no longer perceive them as providing “added value” to the church.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jeff

    So true Linda, unfortunatly it is wide spread in “the church organization” so many of the leader are so into building their little kingdom, they just have not SEEN Jesus. A very large local church desided that Sunday nites they were going to go after youth with the rock type atmosphere, light show, bands, loud, that hasn’t worked either so their closing down Sunday nites. WE NEED TO SEE JESUS AGAIN.

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