How does a pastor shepherd elderly church members?

It can baffle our minds as we set care for someone who has lost their soul mate, especially when the person enjoyed that companionship for over fifty years.  This is truly a great challenge, but one that God in His grace can equip pastors and the church to do.  There is no way to fill the void of a life-long companion, but there are ways to soften the sting of loneliness that most who have lost their spouse will always struggle with, regardless how long ago it happened.  One effective way to care for these dear saints in this way as well as other elderly members who live alone is to find something in their life they enjoyed doing with their spouse, offer to go do it with them, and enjoy their company.

A widower in our church enjoyed 63 years of marriage with his wife, when he was shocked with her sudden diagnoses of advanced cancer.  She died six weeks later.  Four years later, this man has never stopped grieving her loss. There are many ways her death radically changed this man’s daily life.  One in particular was his pattern of eating meals.  He loved going to a restaurant with his wife, but after she died, he stopped going out to eat.  Though his love for eating out still remained, he didn’t want to sit and eat by himself, knowing he would be thinking and missing her the whole time while out.

Once I realized through a conversation with him that this was the reason, I asked if he would be willing to go to a restaurant and eat with me.  He was surprised by the offer, but took me up on it.  We began going to lunch about once every month for the next several years.  He beamed every time we went; he loved the company, loved to introduce me to his friends, and tell me the same stories.  Although I invited him out originally, he never lets me pay.  These outings have provided an opportunity to shepherd and care for him spiritually as we eat and visit that I would have never had otherwise.  I received regular encouragement from him about how meaningful this time had become for him.

As a result of this fruitful experience, several other church members have pursued lunch with this man and the spiritual care he has received from the congregation through this medium has been immeasurable!  These times of fellowship and care continued until the day he died, eight years after his wife preceded him in death.

Some of the best ways to care for widows/widowers and other elderly members is to simply spend time with them doing the things they enjoy doing.  Ask about their deceased spouse and the things they did together that meant so much.  Then, offer to do those things with them.  You will gain insight into those things they loved to do as well as provide a healthy way for them to continue to grieve their loss.  Make the time.  Think creatively.  You can have confidence you will be as blessed as they are by your efforts.

 

 

Posted in Caring for Widows, Oversight of Souls
One comment on “How does a pastor shepherd elderly church members?
  1. Thanks Brian for your words. Dealing with so many Senior Saints I have the privilege of meeting with them, helping in the funeral arrangements, and talking with them over a period of years. No one person grieves the same way. What makes it difficult from a shepherd’s perspective is when you minister to the people for years and then a spouse die something is also taken from the shepherd. I believe it is important for the shepherd to be able to learn to grieve and have someone to talk to with concerning these very important ministerial issues. Thanks Brian.

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