Something extraordinary is going on at Old St. Andrew’s, Charleston. Their Seniors’ Ministry is not just alive with activity, but the organization and energy they put into the ministry makes those who are not yet seniors wish, for just a moment, that they were.
They host fun events: This year they held their 4th annual Sports Kick-Off, a dance where everyone wears a t-shirt of their favorite sports team and, following a brief talk (the Rev. Karl Burns, Rector of Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island, spoke on “Before they Called me Father they Called me Coach”), the DJ takes the floor to get the line dancing started. (Nearly 60 attended that event.) In the past, 41 joined in for a cruise to the Bahamas. Their annual bingo game is a lively, well-attended event, and they have a monthly lunch at a local restaurant as well as potluck suppers throughout the year.
But it isn’t just fun the group focuses on. They also do service projects benefiting Meals on Wheels, Canterbury House and the nearby Springfield Elementary School. Eleven of their members serve as mentors at the school. They have a team who visits and writes to senior adults who are in the hospital or shut-in.
“Just because you’re 55 or 70 or 80 doesn’t mean you don’t have something to contribute,” says Margaret Gossett, the ministry’s chair. “Our hope is to take people who are mostly retired and invite them to use their talents, knowledge and gifts and give them a purpose.”
The group got off the ground about five years ago when Gossett, a newly retired marketing and advertising salesperson, approached the rector, the Rev. Marshall Huey, with an observation holding just a touch of complaint.
“Seniors are the very heart of every church, Father Marshall,” she said. “They have time, talent and expertise, and a lot of them have money, as well. But they’re not doing much around here.”
Marshall turned the question back on her, “Why don’t you start something, Margaret?”
Having learned the importance of organization and planning throughout her 38-year career, Gossett took the challenge and began by creating a Seniors’ Ministry Steering Committee. She didn’t simply invite friends (though she does consider them friends now); instead, she looked for people who had an interest in the ministry, energy, and skills or an education/work background that made them useful.
“Everyone on the steering committee has another interest or ministry,” says Gossett. One member is over the elementary school mentor program; one is in charge of decorations and meal planning for events; another oversees publicity; another serves on the “Sunshine Committee” which keeps in touch with seniors who are in the hospital or shut-in, communicating those needs to the church’s pastoral care team.
“Everyone doesn’t participate in every activity,” says Gossett. “Some don’t want to drive at night so the luncheons appeal to them. Others are still working, and the more active evening events appeal to them.”
“One of the secrets to everything is having time to plan and prepare,” says Gossett. The steering committee began work on the sports team dance about four months before the event occurred, and the group often learns through trial and error. “You have to be willing to learn,” says Gossett. “Sometimes you fall on your face, but you pick yourself back up.”
“Margaret and her Seniors Steering Committee have an amazing ministry of shepherding our seniors at Old St. Andrew’s,” says Huey. “Our seniors attend all three of our services, so it is important to bring our church family together for social events and outreach ministries outside of Sunday mornings. Acts 2:42 lists ‘fellowship’ as one of the cornerstones of the Church, and certainly our seniors help foster fellowship, and service, in our Church and in the community around us. Old St. Andrew’s is a ‘parish’ church, and as such, we believe we have a responsibility to the community around us. Our Seniors Steering Committee demonstrates what is possible through lay leadership and shepherding, and our seniors have responded to the development of this vibrant ministry.”
Interested in Starting or Reinvigorating a Seniors Ministry in Your Church?
Margaret Gossett and members from the OSA Steering Committee are willing to come alongside parishes interested in stepping up their seniors’ ministries. If you’re interested in learning more contact Gossett at email@example.com.
By Joy Hunter, Editor