This week we hosted a small group on Zoom made up of champions from our existing Care Home Friends projects and other church members keen to explore options for enhancing their ministry amongst older people as we emerge into a "new normal". It was a very thought provoking discussion, and you can read below Tina's reflections on the session.
It’s a strange season. I feel like I’m cautiously emerging from an apocalyptic event, viewing the chaos around me and wondering how to forge a coherent path through the mess. Of course, I’m exaggerating a little for effect, but it was surprising to see the heads nodding in agreement when I shared this thought at the Champions zoom on Tuesday. Restrictions may have lifted on July 19th, but it’s not business as usual, and we’re all still trying to work out what the new normal might look like.
The analogy of a chrysalis was mentioned. We cocooned as caterpillars and are emerging differently – it’s not just a transition; it’s a metamorphosis. Now is the time to start thinking like butterflies and not caterpillars, but what does that mean? What does it look like?
From the feedback at the Champions' Zoom, everyone’s situation is a little different. In one church the older members have been gung-ho about coming back and have almost needed restraining when they don’t care about “safety” restrictions. Another church have found that people are hesitant to return and even though they have been open for four weeks, only limited numbers are turning up.
I was encouraged by the line in one of the songs played at my church on Sunday morning: “He turns our chaos back into order.” However chaotic things appear at the moment, God is with us, and He is in the business of restoration and renewal. Amid all the uncertainty there is opportunity. Now is a good time to review your ministry amongst older people: what needs to stay in the past; what helpful things that emerged from the lockdowns do you want to take forward?
A good starting point for any review is to consider your goal or vision for ministry amongst older people. Are you seeking to alleviate loneliness? Are you seeking to improve health and wellbeing? These are all noble aims, but what distinguishes us from other local groups offering similar? As someone shared at the Zoom call, “We need to figure out how we transition from coming into the building, into getting people to meet with Jesus. Otherwise we’re just a community group.”
When you have clarified what your goals are, then each activity can be evaluated against those goals. It’s good to do this in a group with those who are invested in ministry amongst older people, so that they feel part of any decisions that involve change. When we know what our vision is, we can focus on that as we navigate new paths.
Participants at the Zoom call shared ways they find helpful in sharing about Jesus with older people, from asking questions that open up conversations, to giving gospel tracts, to initiatives such as Hymns We Love. There’s a verse in Ecclesiastes (11:6) that can be translated, “Keep on sowing your seeds, you never know what will bear fruit, perhaps it all will.” The way we do that may be different for all of us: listening, building relations, giving out a leaflet, etc., but it’s all sowing seeds. Whatever we do, we need to be intentional about it. It’s not about trying harder but rather doing things differently.
What’s the difference between a caterpillar and butterfly? A caterpillar walks along the ground and its perspective is very different to the butterfly in the sky. We need to change our perspective. The pandemic has forced us to do things differently, and as we emerge we need to see things differently too. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, and asking for his perspective and his thoughts on the goals and vision of our ministry amongst older people, trusting that He will bring order out of the chaos and show us the path through.