Ministry with the Older Generation – A Review by Revd Debbie Keegan

Rev Debbie Keegan, from the Sherwood Forest Methodist Circuit, shares with us her reflections on the Cliff College course that she attended earlier in the year.

Armed with a pile of books purchased online I felt prepared and hopeful to engage in the recent Ministry with Older People course at Cliff College.

The potential reward of such learning was new understanding of ministry among the senior generation. It is an aspect of ministry that was lacking in my ministerial training – well, they can’t cover everything I suppose. When it comes to ministry and mission the usual focus is on young children and young families. Even the older generation in the churches request, even demand that the new minister reach out to this missing generation. We work our clerical socks off thinking of new ways to ‘do’ toddler groups or young mother groups, but what is often overlooked is evangelism and discipleship amongst the ageing congregation itself. Who looks after their needs? Why not be the shepherd that increases the flock with senior sheep? Are they not as valuable as the younger lambs? What did I need to learn more of to pastorally care for the flock.

This is what drew me to the course.

So, armed with my library full of books, bought online in preparation, I spent the first couple of days on the course sat on the edge of my seat – eager to dig deeper into a new knowledge of how to grow in my ministry to the churches that I serve. To also be with likeminded people was an added bonus.

Unfortunately, after the initial days, the course focus drifted more towards Anna Chaplaincy, a wonderful group of people, called to be chaplains to the elderly in a variety of contexts. For me this was not the reason that I had signed up and it somewhat overshadowed the course. The challenge for me then was applying the work of Anna Chaplaincy to my role as minister in a church and community context. The books from the reading list were really helpful and I know I will be referring back to them over time.

Despite the mixed focus of the course I feel as though I came away with a better understanding of ministry to seniors. Issues of dementia, loneliness, spirituality of ageing and facing one’s own mortality will be more and more important as we minister to an increasingly aging congregation.