Older people are the fastest-growing age demographic in the Western world, but when it comes to church evangelism and outreach, they’re often overlooked. Pippa Cramer says if we want to share the gospel with them, the hymns they know and love can help
Older people have always held a special place in my heart. I think this stems back to my childhood, where I spent a lot of time with my grandparents; I adored them, and loved hearing their stories and learning from them. Later, working as an occupational therapist in the NHS, I found that one of my favourite parts of the job was working alongside older patients.
We have so much to learn from our elders, all of whom have enormous amounts of life experience and wisdom, and who deserve our respect, love and care. My heart aches when this precious generation gets overlooked and marginalised, especially as older adults are the fastest-growing age demographic in the Western world.
Whether housebound, anxious, sick or frail, many older people have a real need for community and connection
Today, there are 12 million over-65s in the UK – that’s 19 per cent of the population - and that figure is set to rise. In the US, older adults are expected to outnumber children by 2034.
As we are living longer, sadly, this also means that many are suffering more profoundly with physical illness, dementia and mental health struggles. Following the pandemic, I have seen loneliness and isolation increase among the older generation, with many losing their confidence and, consequently, feeling even more on the fringes of society.
Whether housebound, anxious, sick or frail, many older people have a real need for community and connection. And, as Christians, Jesus calls us, his people, to love our neighbours, whoever they are and wherever they are at. With an increasing number of our neighbours now likely to be older, there is an urgent need to reach out to them.
For many years now, I have longed for the profile of this wonderful generation to be raised, and for older people to be valued and respected as they deserve - in our families, local communities, churches and society. So, after a lot of prayer, I started a group for seniors, called Connections, at my local church.
Older adults are the fastest-growing age demographic in the Western world
Our vision was that this would be a safe and welcoming place for older people to come, where loneliness and isolation could be reduced, and where people were given the opportunity to hear the gospel and discover the difference Jesus can make to their lives.
Sharing our story
Connections has now been running for 12 years, and is one of the largest church-based groups for seniors in the UK.
Over the years, I have tried various evangelistic courses with our seniors, yet none of them seemed to resonate or work that well with this age group, and there seemed to be a real lack of resources available. Eventually, after much prayer, we decided to launch Hymns We Love.
Many of this generation have grown up singing hymns at school, church or Sunday School. Using these well-loved songs to share the good news of Jesus and key truths about the Christian faith has proved to be a perfect way to help seniors engage with the gospel. Each session looks at a different hymn – the story of the writer, how the hymn came to be, and the Christian message behind it, along with testimonies and prayers. Week by week, guests are taken on a musical faith journey from understanding who God is, to making a personal commitment to him.
Hymns We Love can be used in church groups, community groups, care homes or even individually. It has been such a joy to work on, and my prayer continues to be for hundreds of thousands of older people to be given the opportunity to hear the gospel and discover how much God loves them.
Hymns We Love is available from The Good Book Company