by Barbara Harper
Editor’s note: Yesterday, Barbara took a look at why some older women step back from serving in their local church. Today, she offers some suggestions about how older women can make a difference in the life of their congregations and communities.
Older women may have physical issues and may not have the energy to serve in certain ways, but doesn’t mean they can’t serve at all. Psalm 92:14a says, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.” God has given to every member of His body gifts to exercise. Older women are given a specific assignment in Titus 2:3-5.
If you’re “older” and can still coordinate the womens’ group or cook for 200 people or teach active five-year-olds, go for it! But if you’re not quite up to that, here are a few other ideas of ways you can serve:
Prayer. You might have more time than others to pray. There is enough to keep any of us busy praying for much longer than we do. This doesn’t mean we necessarily need to spend hours on our knees: we can pray while cleaning the kitchen, driving, or resting.
I can’t tell you what it meant to me when an older friend called to tell me she was praying for me as I was recovering from a serious illness. Some of my favorite missionary anecdotes involve people being prompted to pray for a certain missionary at a certain time and finding later that the missionary had a specific need just at that time.
Show interest. Ask how people are doing. “How’s that new baby? Sleeping through the night yet?” “How did that job interview go?” “How’s Johnny liking school this year?” Just having someone take a moment to show personal interest can lift someone’s day. Watch out for new people and go the second mile to make them feel welcome.
Word of encouragement. “You will make it”, “I hope it gets easier”, “You’re doing a good job!” sensitively offered words can be balm for someone’s heart.
Offers of help. One older lady I knew would help a new mom after the birth of a baby or when an expectant mom was on bedrest. Practical help like doing dishes, laundry, tidying, making a meal can be a powerful ministry.
Sharing what you know. If you know how to make bread, can vegetables, knit, or share other practical skills, why not invite one or two others over to show them how? I know a mom who asked a retired school teacher to teach her daughters to sew, so that they could develop a relationship with her as well as learning the basics of sewing.
Having one or two women over for a visit. One retired lady I looked up to had a couple of women at a time over to lunch at her house. She didn’t do so specifically to Try To Be a Good Influence, but simply to share hospitality. Her hospitality was a godly influence on all those who shared her table.
Visiting shut-ins. We visited my mother-in-law almost every day in assisted living, but it blessed us immensely that the same retired lady mentioned above also came to see her periodically.
Sending notes. How many people send hand-written notes any more? Yet we all still love receiving them. You can brighten the day of a college student, military personnel, your pastor, or just about anyone with a little note – or even an e-mail or a Facebook post.
Volunteer. When my dad was in the hospital, the “pink ladies” were older volunteers who kept the coffee pot going in the waiting room, stocked donuts, helped people find which way to go, and just generally made themselves available and useful. Having a sweet, friendly face in that place helped a lot. Volunteers can help provide services that schools and other organizations couldn’t otherwise offer.
Blogging. Sharing what God has taught you along the way can be a blessing to others who read.
Not everyone will be able to do all of these things, of course. Time and energy will vary from person to person. But if you’re older and want to khow best to serve, pray, seek God’s will, and start where you are with a word of kindness here, an expression of interest there, prayer here, an offer of help there. He does have work He wants you to do, and He will guide you to it and enable you to do it.
Currently living in the Knoxville area, Barbara Harper has been married for 38 years to a wonderful man who makes her laugh and overlooks her foibles and a stay-at-home mom to three sons, now adults. In recent years a beautiful daughter-in-law and then an adorable grandson have been added to the family, and an ailing mother-in-law has been brought home. She has been blogging for 12 years about family, books, funny or interesting observations, and things God has been teaching her at Stray Thoughts (https://barbarah.wordpress.co
Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash
A dear woman in our church just went winging off to heaven this week, and she was my CHAMPION at VBS time. She would cut out anything for crafts or visuals, she was a cookie making machine, and I loved her laughter and enjoyment of the kids. In our ladies ministry, if I needed a hostess for our meetings, she was a stand by, always with an open door and a pie for refreshments.
She would have said that all this was “nothing,” because it came to her so naturally, and that’s how I want to be.
Me, too, Michele! That’s an area I hadn’t thought of for this article, but I have seen in action: cutting out or preparing materials for a teacher, bulletin board, etc. That could be done at home and brought in later, or done together while fellowshipping. I’ve seen dear women do this kind of thing behind the scenes while lamenting that they couldn’t be more active, not realizing this kind of service was such a blessing.
What wonderful suggestions, Barbara, to help us get our thinking caps on and ask God how He would have us serve others.
Thank you, Dianna. I should have asked at the end for suggestions from others. I’m realizing more and more that although organized ministry is useful, there are so many opportunities to just be available for God to use us in the moment.