Author’s Note: This is the second part of an article that I started before the pandemic. My goal was to make the point that grief is a path for growth in our lives AND in churches. I did not know we would be in a time when the world is experiencing a collective grief.
What does it mean to grieve with hope? Most church growth strategies don’t start with grief ministries and older adults. But what if we did? Grief is often relegated to the sidelines of our culture. It is something we do in private with the exception of when the public figure dies or when a great tragedy impacts a community. But what if the church actually helped people grieve with hope? As I suggested in my previous article, legacy churches are dealing with continuous grief. There are a lot of people in our communities that need someone to model grief right now. This is our opportunity to give witness to the hope we have in Christ. Here are some specific ways:
Grieving our loss of place – Older believers have gone through this grief. They left a workplace that was a regular part of their routine for years. Their identity is no longer tied to their career or children in the home. They may have downsized their home to an apartment or a retirement community. They have watched their church buildings move from “comfortably full” to “mostly empty.” Our world has lost its familiar places in this pandemic. Work places, restaurants, parks, entertainment and places of worship are not accessible to us. Older adults in our churches can give voice to this grief.
Grieving the loss of our cognitive and physical abilities – Despite all of the advances in medical technology we do not have an answer to the loss of cognitive abilities through dementia and strokes. It is the most common fear I hear as a pastor. So many senior adults talk about what they were once able to do at the church that they are not able to do any more. The fears and grief related to physical and cognitive decline are very real and present in most legacy churches. Our communities are full of people who are dealing with this in isolation. We all know of many people who are caring for a spouse or a parent and that has led them to be isolated from their church and their friends. Churches understand all of this grief. We need to do a better job of saying to our community “we understand” and “how can we help?” A church that does this will find all the ministry growth it can handle.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Dan Carlton