Recently, I got an email from a friend. She had heard through the grapevine that my husband had been briefly hospitalized. (He’s fine.) She wanted to let me know she was praying for us. I’ve known Doras for around 17 years and during those years, she has often sent emails letting me know that she’s praying for me, and I know that she reaches out to many this way.

I don’t get to see Doras as often as I used to, but I did get to see her recently for a special occasion—her 100th birthday party!

You read that correctly. I have a 100-year-old friend who prays for me and who communicates by email.

I met Doras when my husband was called to be the pastor of her church. She was 83 years old and had been a widow for several years. Doras was quick to make sure she had my email address. I learned that while the church was without a pastor, 83-year-old Doras decided it would be a good idea to start an informal email newsletter to encourage the congregation and help everyone stay connected.

On a regular basis, she would send emails that announced church events, shared prayer requests, and offered encouragement to gather for worship. She forwarded prayer letters sent out by our missionaries and if a member of our church wanted to get the word out about anything, they needed only to send an email to Doras. For the next twelve years, while my husband served as pastor of Doras’s church, I could count on regular emails that encouraged, informed, and blessed me.

At our next church we were blessed to worship with Elizabeth each Sunday. She was in her late nineties. Elizabeth rarely missed a Sunday and was exceedingly grateful for the different friends and family members who took turns bringing her to church. It would make me smile to see her (and her walker), slowly but surely make her way to the front of the church each week.

For a time, I had the pleasure of spending two hours with Elizabeth several afternoons a week. During our time together we read from a devotional and did daily Bible reading following a “Bible in a year” plan. We took turns reading the Scriptures aloud. Elizabeth read with unbridled enthusiasm. While obviously familiar with the Bible and its stories, she eagerly engaged with God’s Word. She had been reading through the Bible in a year for decades, yet she was truly delighted when I arrived each afternoon because my arrival signaled that it was time to read the Word of God.

Elizabeth celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year.

I’ve been blessed to have significant fellowship with two women who are now 100 years old. Their lives mirror that of the psalmist in Psalm 71:17-18:

“O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
 So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.”

Aging saints who continue to faithfully proclaim God’s might and wondrous deeds are an extraordinary blessing to Christ’s church and we are wise to learn from them. In Job 12:12, we read:

“Wisdom is with the aged,
and understanding in length of days.”

While neither Doras nor Elizabeth mentored me in a traditional way, through their wisdom, both poured into me. Their faithful examples taught me invaluable lessons about walking with Christ and aging with grace.

  • Keep coming to church. You might be tired. You might not be able to get your hair done. You might feel embarrassed that you need to use a cane or a walker. It might be hard to hear the sermon. But come anyway. It’s good and right to gather with God’s people and receive the means of grace. God’s people benefit from your presence.
  • Don’t stop serving. Many older saints believe that they’ve “done their time,” so they shouldn’t have to serve anymore. Others are discouraged by limitations that prevent them from doing the ministry they once did. But there are always opportunities to serve. Maybe you can’t do the job as quickly as you’d like or don’t have the stamina you once did. It’s good to show up to the church work-day and pitch in the best you can or to bring a simple dish to the potluck. And of course, you can always pray.
  • Church events aren’t just for the “young folks.” Often churches design events to accommodate young families, but that doesn’t mean older folks should feel excluded. It’s okay to be the oldest one there. The younger generation benefits from seeing older saints faithfully walking with Christ.
  • Keep reading and studying the Bible. After reading the Bible for years, you may know all the stories. It may seem that nothing is new. But Doras and Elizabeth remind me that God’s Word never stops teaching us. As we age, the Word continues to comfort, encourage, and strengthen us.

Through my experience with saints like Doras and Elizabeth, I have also learned some things about how to encourage, bless, and honor the seasoned citizens in our churches.

  • Offer transportation on Sunday morning or for mid-week Bible study. Even if an older adult is still driving, they will often feel blessed to not have to drive and may enjoy the company.
  • Ask them to pray for you or a loved one. Prayer is one of the things that believers can do despite almost any physical limitation, and most will be delighted to pray. If your church keeps a prayer list, make sure they have access to it. Share with them when you see answers to prayer.
  • Make sure that older folks aren’t cut off from opportunities because they don’t have a certain app downloaded or are intimidated by the internet. If you use a tool like “Takethemameal” for arranging meals for families, perhaps you could print out a schedule for the less tech-savvy. If your church calendar is posted on a website, or available on an app, make sure paper copies are also available.

These are just a few ideas. To truly understand the needs of older folks in your church family, get to know them. Befriend and spend time with these precious saints. Drink from the well of their wisdom. Learn from their experience. You will be a blessing and you will be blessed.

Leviticus 19:32 reminds us:

“Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord.” (NLT)

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash

Kim Barnes

Kim has been married to Robert, a PCA teaching elder, for over 33 years. She has a passion for training, teaching, and serving women in the church. She especially delights in leading women’s Bible studies and mentoring younger women. Kim loved homeschooling her children and misses it a little bit each fall when the new school year comes around. Kim and Robert have been blessed with a daughter, a son, and a son-in-law. For a decade, starting when their children were very young, Kim and Robert were caretakers for Robert’s mother, who had suffered from a stroke. After a 12-year break from that role, Kim and Robert recently relocated to Tampa, Florida, to live with and care for Kim’s aging mother.