How Churches Can Support Immobile and Confined Senior Citizens

Can you offer any suggestions for organizing an effective church outreach to shut-ins and residents of nursing homes?

It takes just one person and a lot of prayer to get a seniors ministry off the ground. If that one person really cares about the elderly and infirm, and if he or she is willing to devote time to the outreach, promote it, offer interesting programs, and be flexible, there’s no telling how the Lord will honor that commitment and cause that seed to grow. If you have a heart to serve the elderly in this way, we’d encourage you to call the church and see if there is any interest. If possible, draw up a plan, sit down with the staff, and explain what such a program could accomplish.

The church’s ministry to the elderly can be both spiritual and practical, and it can be conducted both at church and in the homes and residences of the senior citizens you’re trying to reach.

Spiritual help for the elderly

  • Ministry to shut-ins. The church can provide a vital function in caring for people who are “shut in” and cannot attend services. Pastors can make regular visits. Groups of volunteers can send birthday cards and arrange times to drop by and talk with seniors at home.
  • Counseling. Some larger churches have Christian counselors on staff. These professionals can help elderly members and caregivers deal with interpersonal problems, stress, or unresolved guilt or anger.
  • Telephone assurance networks. Recruit a few dependable church members to take turns calling the elderly once a day to say hello, ask about health concerns and prayer requests, and chat a bit.
  • Caregiver support groups. Form a congregational support group for caregivers and relatives of aging loved ones. If finding a meeting time is difficult, you could make your group into a Sunday school class. Put together a caregiver phone or email list so you can reach each other.
  • Stephen’s Ministry. Thousands of congregations, representing ninety denominations, are enrolled in the St. Louis-based Stephen’s Ministry program, which trains and equips lay people to provide one-on-one support to individuals dealing with emotional, physical, or spiritual problems.

Practical help for the elderly

  • Respite care. Organize a team of volunteers who would be willing to relieve full-time caregivers in their homes for two hours three times a week.
  • Adult day care. Some Christian churches are beginning to offer daytime care and activities for aging adults. This would involve the use of a room or suite of rooms at the church as a center where seniors who are lonely, needy, physically incapacitated or mentally disabled can spend the day enjoying memory-stimulating games and activities, armchair exercises, crafts and flower arranging, Bible study, occasional parties and field trips, and a homemade lunch prepared by church volunteers. Expenses are paid through donations.
  • Transportation. Many older people depend on public transportation or other services to take them to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, hospitals, worship services, and anywhere else they need to go. You can meet a tremendous need in their lives by starting a church bus ministry or putting together a list of volunteer drivers.
  • Clean-up and repair services. Many elderly individuals don’t have the financial resources to hire professionals for all home repairs. Simple fix-it jobs can usually be handled by a church member who is handy with tools. For bigger jobs, the church could take up a collection once a month to provide benevolent help to elderly members.
  • Parish nurses. Parish nurses are registered nurses who provide education and counsel, and who act as referral agents for health care needs of a church congregation. For more information see the website.
  • Equipment loan program. Some church members may have canes, wheelchairs, commodes, or other home-care equipment that they no longer need and could donate or loan to others. Ask the church to post a list of available equipment and a contact person for each item.
  • Social and educational events. Encourage your church to offer lunch outings, day tours, or ministry-related events for aging members.
  • Housing. Some churches help with senior housing needs by purchasing old homes and developing them into shared-housing units. Residents can pay a modest monthly fee while church fund-raisers help subsidize the cost of running the home.

For additional help and information on this topic, we’d encourage you to consult the resources and referrals highlighted below. Or if you have relationship concerns and challenges associated with this situation, please don’t hesitate to give our Counseling department a call.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Caring for Aging Parents


Caregiver Action Network

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Stephen’s Ministry

Crossroads Ministries USA


Caring for Ill or Aging Parents

Elderly Care


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