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Thursday 3rd June 2021

Championing Older People

Carl Knightly, Chief Executive of our sister charity Faith in Later Life, shares how the organisation is equipping church members to serve older people through its Church Champion network

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In the knowledge that there is an army of Christian volunteers across some 40,000 churches in the UK, and a significant need to reach older people in the community, Faith in Later Life created a community of ‘Church Champions’, a network to support Christians engaged with older people in their local area. And it has been a blessing to see this community grow, to almost 400 Church Champions (so far) at corresponding churches, all being supported by the work and resources of Faith in Later Life.

Faith in Later Life was launched in 2017 with a mission to inspire and equip Christians to ‘reach, serve and empower’ older people everywhere through the local church, encouraging older Christians and reaching older people with the good news of the Lord Jesus. We do this through our website and resources, our national directory of church activities, and our growing community of Church Champions, equipping and encouraging them in their gospel impact in their local communities.

One of our Church Champion community, Rhi Cross, based at Hope Church Winchester, shared how she has felt supported by Faith in Later Life as she started a new older people’s ministry at her church. She says, "I felt alone, I didn’t know what I was doing. Becoming a Church Champion was an ideal way to link up with other people, a community of people with the same vision and passion."

As we know, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on many older people. Being unable to meet up in person for much of the last year, whether in church, community groups or in our own homes, has meant older people have been even more vulnerable to isolation and loneliness. But this has provided an opportunity and challenge to reach out into our communities.

At Christmas and Easter, Faith in Later Life produced seasonal postcards with Bible verses on the front and encouraged our nationwide Church Champion community to use them to reach out to older people in their local communities. We praise God that as a result over 5,000 people were reached with a gospel message from a local Christian!

Rhi Cross was particularly helped by our Easter Postcard campaign, as she found it hard coming up with new ideas for outreach and said it would have been a lot of work for her to do on her own. She explained that the personal nature of the postcards was tailored to her audience and that being provided with them as a Church Champion was a huge help to her.

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As well as regularly sharing our resources and ideas with our Church Champion community, we host a monthly equipping session, currently over Zoom, during which we reflect on a topic, such as dementia or evangelism, and how to practically apply this in ministry. We regularly have guest speakers who share their experiences and advice. It is also an opportunity for Church Champions to share their thoughts and encouragements. It was wonderful on one occasion to hear from Pippa Cramer, Seniors and Pastoral Minister at Holy Trinity Claygate (and co-founder of the Daily Hope telephone line) on how she and her team have continued to support older people in her community, throughout the pandemic.

Joining together in this ministry is a real blessing. We sow the seeds and then wait on the Lord. An older lady who received one of our Christmas postcards from a Church Champion said simply this, "Thank you for my postcard which was lovely, I appreciated not being forgotten at Christmas."

This year we want to grow our Church Champion community to 700, as we seek to share the love and good news of Jesus across the nation. Could you join us? For more information visit www.faithinlaterlife.org.uk

Resource hub recommendations

The Faith in Later Life website has a wealth of resources for those working with older people, including:

  1. Guidance for Christian faith organisations in the support and value of older people Read it here
  2. Book Extract from Finishing Well: A God’s eye view of ageing by Revd Ian Knox Read it here
  3. Make a Meal of it – a guide to hosting a community event Read it here