I wrote a post a few weeks ago about Why Older Women Don’t Serve at church in an in-front-of-people way or a “take charge of big things like VBS” way. But even though older women may have physical issues and may not have the energy to serve in certain ways doesn’t mean they should not 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 ladies’ group or cook for 200 members for a banquet or teach active five-year-olds in Sunday School, go for it! A friend of mine had an aunt who still delivered Meals on Wheels at 92. But if you’re not quite up to that, here are a few other ideas of ways you can serve:
1. Prayer. You may not have the energy to “go” and “do” a lot, but you might have more time than others to pray. There is a lot to pray for: your pastor, church, missionaries, young people seeking God’s will for their lives, adjustments for newlyweds, harried moms with young children, older moms in the “taxi years” taking their kids hither and yon, moms facing the empty nest, single ladies at any stage…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, resting, etc.
I can’t tell you what it meant to me when, while recovering from a serious illness, an older lady from a previous church in the town we had moved from called me to see how I was doing and to tell me she was praying for me. Some of my favorite missionary anecdotes involve people being prompted to pray for a certain missionary at a certain time, and in the days before texts and e-mails it may have been months before they knew what the specific need was, but as they and the missionary compared dates, the missionary had a specific need just when the individual was prompted to pray.
2. Show interest. As you cross paths with other ladies, ask how they’re 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 making them feel welcome. One lady with multiple health problems whom no one would have blamed if she stayed in bed all day instead came with her husband to every sports event, home and away, of our Christian school even though they had neither kids nor grandkids in the school. That meant a lot to those involved. Even in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, there are those who withdraw and keep to themselves and those who try to smile and brighten others’ days.
3. Word of encouragement. When you do show interest in others, you can offer words of shared joy when things are going well and words of encouragement when they’re not. One of my favorite posts of Shannon‘s was It Gets Easier for younger moms (though Shannon’s not in the category I’d generally think of as “Older Women,” we are all older than someone and can offer encouragement to those in the paths we’ve come through).
4. Offers of help. One older lady I knew would sometimes go and help a new mom after the birth of a baby when that lady’s own mother could not come, or when a pregnant lady was on bedrest. Practical help like doing dishes, laundry, tidying, making a meal can lift one’s spirits tremendously when one can’t keep up. Be alert even to little ways one can offer help: when a mom holding a baby is trying to help a toddler go potty in the ladies’ restroom at church, offer to hold the baby; when a mom is trying to coordinate a baby carrier, diaper bag, Bibles, and two preschoolers from the car to the church, ask how you can help (don’t just swoop in — the baby may cry if anyone other than mom holds her, the children may panic if you just take their hands and offer to take them in: ask, “Can I help you somehow? I’d be happy to take the baby or carry the diaper bag” or something similar.)
5. Sharing what you know. Once a lady told me she’d love to have a ladies’ meeting where someone demonstrated how to bake bread, because she couldn’t get a handle on it, and she could learn it more easily by seeing someone do it and being able to ask questions. But we couldn’t think of anyone who made their own bread. If you know how to make bread, can vegetables, knit, etc., you may or may not want to do so in a ladies’ meeting, but maybe you could invite one or two others over, or go to their houses to show them. I know one lady who went to help another younger mom harvest and put up her produce from her garden, and I know another mom who asked a retired school teacher to teach her daughters to sew, so that they could be influenced by her sweet godliness as well as being taught the basics of sewing.
6. Having one or two women over. I mentioned in the previous post a retired lady I looked up to who found various unique ways to serve. One thing she did was to have a couple of ladies at a time over to lunch at her house. She didn’t do so specifically to Try To Be a Good Influence, but people who walk with God do carry a sometimes unconscious godly influence into the lives of others.
Not merely in the words you say,
Not only in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
Is it a beatific smile,
A holy light upon your brow;
Oh no, I felt His Presence while
You laughed just now.
For me ‘twas not the truth you taught
To you so clear, to me still dim
But when you came to me you brought
A sense of Him.
And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Til I lose sight of you and see
The Christ instead.
—by A. S. Wilson
6. Visiting shut-ins. We tend to think of this with shut-ins who are alone, but when they have family nearby we assume the family is meeting all their needs and they’re well taken care of. The lady I mentioned above also brought another lady with her to visit my mother-in-law in an assisted living facility. One of us saw her every day, but it brightened her week as well as ours when these ladies came to visit her.
7. Sending notes. Or cookies. Or both. 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). And you may not have the stamina for a marathon cookie baking session, but maybe you could bake just a few and send a package to one person at a time.
8. 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. Similarly, Christian schools are having a tough time of it with decreasing enrollment, and volunteers can help provide services that the school couldn’t otherwise offer. At the Christian school my boys attended for twelve years, one older lady oversaw the library part-time while moms or sometimes grandmothers would handle each class’s library time, checking out books and reading a story to the class. Some helped with class parties, some helped sorting papers for students’ weekly folders, some helped in the lunchroom. And the students seemed to love their grandmotherly influence in the school. When I was coordinating our ladies group, sometimes when we would work on a project like cards and bookmarks for missionaries or favors for a ladies’ luncheon and wouldn’t quite get finished, ladies who took some of those things home to finish helped me tremendously.
9. Blogging. Sharing what God has taught you along the way can be a blessing to others who read.
A younger woman may be thinking, “Wow, I’d love to find an older lady to help me in some of these ways!” Pray about it and maybe take the initiative: they may be suffering from a crisis of confidence either in the loss of some of their abilities or the thought that perhaps they’re not wanted. I think many of these kinds of ministries work together: maybe as you invite someone over for coffee or ask them to show you how to do something, that can spark a relationship where some of these other things can flow.
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 (in any way) and wanting to be used of the Lord but don’t know how best to serve, pray, seek His 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.
(Graphics are courtesy of Microsoft Office clip art.)