Serving God is what we are called to do as Christians. Sometimes we overthink ways to serve Him. We think that we have to do some grand activity that takes a lot of time and money. Today, I am going to share one rewarding way to serve God as a family.
Starting a ministry to elderly people is an easy, rewarding, and readily available way to serve God as a family. I will provide 6 steps and 6 tips for serving in the elderly in your community. Read until the end and receive 5 bonus tips for serving God as a family in an elderly ministry.
You can also sign up for our newsletter to receive a sample program that we use in our own ministry.
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Our experience serving the Elderly in our Community
My children, mother-in-law and I have been serving in the nursing home ministry off and on for over 13 years. My mother-in-law got me interested by going to the local nursing home and bringing a lady to church. This woman had dementia and she could not see well, but when she came to church she was happy. My mother-in-law faithfully did this until the woman passed away.
As my husband and I had children, we made an effort to take our young children to local nursing homes. Nothing brings more joy to old people than seeing young children. As my children grew, we began singing at nursing homes.
From Farmers to Local Celebrities
Then God pushed us way out of our comfort zone. We have a ministry singing at local nursing homes. That is our comfort zone. We love these elderly people and we have building relationships with them over the past couple of months.
Someone on a local Facebook page was looking for carolers for an apartment complex for disabled people. I volunteered because we love blessing older people with singing and Bible verses. We love to show the love of Christ to them. We scheduled if for an afternoon after we visited another nursing home that I scheduled earlier.
Anyway, that morning while I was outside watering the cattle a reporter sent me a message and asked if they could do a story about our family. I was thinking we are just a farming family loving the older residents in our community. I didn’t want the praise of men. We just want to share the love of Christ with the elderly people in our community. But after discussing it with my husband, I reluctantly agreed to allow them to do a story in the hopes of sharing the love of Jesus with a larger audience.
6 Steps to Starting a Ministry to Elderly People in your Community
1. Find the older people in your community
Here is a list of places to find the older people in your community. You could just google these words and the name of your city.
- Nursing homes
- Long-term Care Facilities
- Senior Living Apartments
- Assisted Living
- Income Assistance Housing
- Senior Centers
If you still have trouble finding local facilities, contact your county nurse or a local social worker. They will be able to recommend facilities for you.
2. Contact a Facility Liaison
Usually, this liaison is called: Activity director, manager, social worker, administrator. Sometimes these people are difficult to get in touch with. Therefore, contact them right away, even today. It may take a few days to get in contact with them.
3. Ask permission to come to the facility
I tell the director who we are, and how many of use will be there. I ask permission to sing (or whatever activity you plan to do) It is important to mention that your program will be Christian. I am very specific and let the director know that we will bring biblical material, sing Christian songs, etc. We have never been turned away, but I don’t want to break any facility rules.
4. Schedule your appointment
If at all possible, try to be flexible. We typically visit right after lunch. The residents are still out of their rooms after lunch. However, there is one facility we visit where they asked that we come later in the afternoon after nap time. Since we are a homeschool family, we can be flexible. See yourselves as guests in their home.
5. Plan out your program
Our program isn’t long or complicated, but I do write out a plan and give a copy to each child so we are all on the same page at the nursing home. If you would like to see an example of our first program, sign up for our newsletter and I send you a free PDF copy.
6. Practice your program
When we first started going or if we change our program, we practice during school time three or four times a week. It only takes 15-30 minutes and it is beneficial for so many reasons.
Our program consists of singing hymns, my children playing songs on the piano and reciting Bible verses.
Therefore, my kids are learning:
- Public speaking
- Bible verses
- Community Service
Once you have built relationships with the facility, these steps become second nature. We try to visit the facility once a month at the same time. We are adding more facilities. Right now we visit three places regularly, but we just visited two more. I think four facilities is a good number for our family. That means one per week.
6 tips for your first visit the Elderly facility in your community
- Check-in at the nurses’ station or front office.
- Help the staff bring people to the community room. Make small talk with the residents while everyone arrives.
- Once the people are settled, introduce yourself and your family. Speak loud and slow. Make eye contact and stand close to the residents so they can hear and see you.
- Let the people know the purpose of your visit. Be honest. We say something like “We want to share the love of Jesus through Bible verses and hymns.”
Pro tip: I recommend singing songs to the residents the first time and then in subsequent visits bring hymnals to ask them to sing.
- Have children play their instruments. Introduce the child and the piece of music they will play. Remember, speak loud and slow
- At the end of your program, greet the residents again.
Thank them for coming to your program.
Give them a small gift such as a gospel tract, bookmark, etc.
Stick around and speak with them.
Get to know them.
Helping Children become comfortable with Elderly People
Sometimes visiting nursing homes can be scary and intimidating to children. There are different kinds of people. People who cannot care for themselves. Your children probably aren’t used to seeing people like this.
My number one tip is to start taking your children while they are very young, even when they are a baby. Older people love babies just like anyone else. Keep taking them as they grow up. I would just take my toddlers through the halls and visit people in their rooms. The residents loved it and my kids became accustomed to it.
Interacting with Alzheimer’s or Dementia Residents
If you have older children and are not familiar with the facility, talk with them before you visit. We go to a memory care facility and there are residents who suffer from severe dementia. Prepare your children. Explain what dementia is. I tell my children that we will treat these residents with the same kindness and compassion as anyone else. Jesus loves this person. Sometimes we have to “play along” with the reality that this person is experiencing.
There is one man with dementia who was very disruptive during our program. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, so we kept on singing pretending not to hear him. He finally got up to leave. I offered to help him since he had a wheelchair. He sat back down and I wheeled him out. I asked him where he wanted to go. He wanted to go to his room so I took him there. We were able to continue our program after he left.
I don’t know if there is one uniform way to handle these types of situations, but it is important to show grace and respect to each person. I often put myself in the person’s shoes. What if it was me who had dementia? How would I want to be treated? I asked my children to put themselves in the person’s shoes too. It gives them a new perspective.
Consider doing a meet and greet Visit
The first time you go, just walk through the halls (after checking with the manager or nurse) and greet people. Do not do a program. Tell the people you will be back to visit to sing to them. This will help the children know what to expect when they do a program. Allow your children to ask questions after you leave. Ask your children to describe the experience. Address any fears or concerns.
5 Bonus Tips for Serving God as a Family in an Elderly Ministry
. 1. Dress up
This is a personal preference. When we first started going to Nursing Homes, we wore what I would describe as town clothes. My husband suggested that the kids dress up. As the mom, I saw this as a hassle, but then I realized dressing up shows these people that they are important and make them feel special.
2. be consistent
It is important to be consistent with your visits. I try to schedule our next visit while I am still at the facility, so we are committed. Keep your appointments. Be on time. Again, this demonstrates that you care about these people and they are important to you.
3. Bring a small gift for each resident
We hand out gospel tracts. We often sing Amazing Grace and there is a tract that explains the story behind the song. At Christmas time, we make bookmarks of the Candy Cane Story and attach a small candy cane.
4. Be Kind and Outgoing
I tell my children to treat every resident as if they are their grandma or grandpa. I also explain to my children that Jesus loves these people. They were young just like you once. They need to be loved, maybe now more than ever since they have lost many people they love.
Cover your visits in prayer. Pray before you go. Ask the Lord to make you a blessing to these people and they would see the light of Jesus shining through you. Pray for the residents and the staff. Pray when you return. Thank God for the opportunity to serve Him as a family. It truly is a privilege.
Serve God as a family in this amazing way
In this fast pace world, we live in with so much evil, it is easy to get discouraged. However, when you serve God as a family, it brings joy and hope not only to your family but to others as well.
During these long, hard days of training your children in the ways of the Lord. Homeschooling them when you feel like you are failing. Practice the song one more time. These days will pay off. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. And not to be recognized on T.V. but to serve people who cannot give you anything in return, to love them, to share Christ with them. Serving God as a Family in an Elderly Ministry is something any family can do. It is more rewarding than you know. Make the call now to a local nursing home and use these steps to bless and be blessed.
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If you are interested in our sample program, please sign up for our newsletter. I will never share your email with anyone. I will, however, send you a weekly-ish newsletter and more free downloads. In the download, I give an example of songs to sing and play. Here is the simple beginner piano book that we use.
Have you ever served the elderly in your community? Tell me about it in the comments.