What happened to pastoral care?
About three months ago, my 84-year-old mom received a letter from the church she has been a member of for more than 60 years. The letter informed her that she no longer had voting privileges because of her lack of attendance on Sunday morning. Her absence is due her being bound to a wheelchair, which prevents her from being able to attend church on a regular basis. My 89-year-old father is her full-time caretaker. Since July 2009, she has suffered multiple medical problems and been in and out of hospitals. In the past nine months, not one of the five pastors in her church have called or visited. The senior pastor came to the hospital once after my aunt called and begged him to come. This is shameful. My parents' spiritual needs are being completely ignored by the church.
Mom and Dad have faithfully served at the church for decades. Every singing group, evangelist, speaker, and guest was housed by my parents' place. No matter who died, got married, or had a baby, my mom sent meals and food to help with every occasion the church hosted. My dad served as an usher, never missing a Sunday. He and his relatives built the camp grounds and fixed whatever was broken when called upon. For years, my mom baked the pastor’s favorite fruit pies and sent them to his house, per his request. Now, in their twilight years, we never hear from the church. And we aren’t alone.
Many churches have become so focused on numbers and youth, that meeting the needs of their senior members are not even on the radar. My parents’ church has 450 members and five pastors, and not one pastor does pastoral care. There is an older gentleman who gets paid $100 a month to hold a senior service. Other than that, the elderly seem to be forgotten. And during this time in their lives, when a call or visit would mean so much, the pastors are not taking the time to minister to them.
Fortunately for my parents, they have strong friendships and dedicated family members who step in, visit, and bring meals. But, they're mostly elderly and are also in need of a little pastoral care. My 81-year-old aunt who called the pastor to come is now in the hospital and no one from the church staff has visited her either.
God is meeting the needs of my parents. We know our dependence is on Him and that He is always present. But is it asking too much for a church leaders to call once in awhile and check on these saints and offer to pray with them? Is it too much to expect someone to organize a meal or bring a card of encouragement? What has happened to pastoral care? The church has been the center of my parents’ lives for 60 years and now it saddens me that they are being neglected by the very body they so faithfully served. God is their reward, but the church needs to do a better job of caring for the elderly.
Are the ministry needs of the elderly being neglected in our churches?
~ Dr. Linda