Saints on a shelf

Saints on a shelf

December 12th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

They’re known as the “saints” of the church, “our treasures,” “most revered.” There are so many names for this group. So who are they?

They’re our church members who, because of illness, disability or simply their age, are no longer able to attend church. If they are able to make it on occasion, it’s simply because someone has intentionally made a special effort to go by and pick them up, making certain that they don’t have to travel far once they’re at church to attend whatever the event might be.

How many people in your congregation even have any idea who these people are? And how many people are aware of the other senior adults who are not able to participate in the normal comings and goings of life taking place in your community but who are not connected to church at all?

These people are for the most part forgotten. They may have been at one time, the backbone, the pillars of your church, of your community. But now that’s no longer true. These forgotten people are in one of life’s most difficult stages, the stage of life when they are forced to face more loss than any other time of their lives.

Loss of a career. Loss of income. Loss of health. Loss of a spouse, children and friends to death. Loss of independence, being no longer able to drive. Loss of physical mobility. Loss of being able to attend church and being mobile in the community. And much more. They have to learn to accept all of these life events. And for the most part, they have to go through the acceptance of all of these alone. Yet they do, and most do this remarkably well.

How can we in our comfortable churches reach out to help restore their souls, to bring hope to their lives? It really takes very little. It can be done by something as small as a phone call. Maybe a special note from the pastor during the Christmas season to wish them a Merry Christmas. Perhaps your church could invest in a small gift for them that would be mailed on behalf of the church – a gift book, Christmas ornament or something that would make life more manageable for them (magnifying glass, flashlight, pill or bottle grasp).

You may even have a few people in your church who could band together for the sole purpose of doing something in the homes of these seniors in need. They could help them in such ways that may seem very simple but are overwhelming to those who no longer can do even the simplest of tasks for themselves.

They could offer a checklist of ways to assist – changing light bulbs and batteries in smoke detectors, cleaning out gutters, putting up and taking down a few Christmas lights, trimming some bushes in the yard, cutting down low hanging branches on trees. And you may want to do more.

For several years now, our church has assembled baskets of fruit and goodies for those who are no longer mobile. We have people volunteer to assemble those baskets, and we have people volunteer to deliver them. Then, on the Sunday following Thanksgiving, the volunteers come by tables set up in our welcome center to pick up names and addresses for delivery.

When they go into the homes, they do so much more than just drop off a basket. They are also given a kit containing enough juice and bread to observe the Lord’s Supper with these wonderful people. It’s an amazing time of our church renewing their appreciation and recognition of these folks. And it’s a very affirming time for these people as well.

They see that while they may not be able to attend church any longer or be part of the community around them, they’re not forgotten. They are “touched” in a significant way by their church. Our church members may be visiting these people in their own home, the home of another family member or in a nursing home. But that “touch” by their church at Christmas is a very special moment for the “deliverer” as well as the “recipient.”

To be going through a season of life where there is constant loss is difficult, but to have a surprise “exclamation point,” a touch from their church and community in the name of the living Christ during the Christmas season can truly lift the spirits of anyone, especially if their lives aren’t lifted too often.

We don’t have any idea what Christmas may bring into the lives of these people. They may be experiencing Christmas alone or with other family or friends, but if we can intentionally take a few moments out of our own lives to remind these folks that God still loves them and so does their church, the value of these moments can’t really be measured.

Be intentional this Christmas. You’ll be amazed at what this will do for you as well.

By Larry Link, minister to the Second Half (55+) Ministry at First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

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