Home Equipping Leaders Older Adults One Person Can Get Things Going! An Interview with Lynda Byrd

One Person Can Get Things Going! An Interview with Lynda Byrd

By Lisa Jean Hoefner

Lynda Byrd headshot
Lynda Byrd

Have you noticed that your congregation has a lot of older adults among its membership and constituency but few intentional ministry opportunities by, with, and for older adults? If so, you’re not alone, and you may wonder what one person can do. I’d like to introduce you to one person who became a champion in my eyes for seeing the possibilities. Meet Lynda Byrd.

Lynda not only noticed the need and felt called to get something going, but she also helped her church realize that failure to be attentive to older members of the congregations has a direct impact on the loss of membership in two generations: the children of older adults and their grandchildren. When these groups see how the church is failing to attend to their older family members, the disconnect from the church is almost certain. This is sad and preventable with intentional ministry plans!

Lynda took up the challenge of lobbying for older adult ministry to become a part of the church's overall discipleship plans. Having lobbied hard for this, she then felt it prudent to get a team together and serve as chair to get the ministry going. They started with quarterly newsletters. What happened over the next three years is an impressive list of services. Let me summarize what Lynda reported to me about their accomplishments.

  1. Doctors’ Appointments: For many people, getting transportation to appointments is a real problem. A team of drivers was developed, and congregants connected with these folks to get to their appointments.
  2. Elder Abuse Prevention: June is designated as the national observance for elder abuse prevention, so the church newsletter pointed out examples of abuse—physical, mental, emotional, sexual, neglect, and abandonment— and provided an elder abuse hotline.
  3. A midday Bible study was initiated to accommodate folks who were not likely to attend evening studies, and it attracted participants in the older adult age range.
  4. Articles on Fall Prevention were provided, predicated on the statistics that one in four Americans 65 and older fall each year; 8+ million falls require medical attention; and 88+ older adults fall daily.
  5. COVID-19 - Just the Facts: When there was so much disagreement about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, the congregation recognized the importance of providing accurate information and support regarding COVID-19. They published newsletters with factual information about the virus and encouraged vaccination among congregation members. New COVID variants and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) realities make vaccine information an ongoing need.
  6. Observance of Grandparents’ Day: Congregants were encouraged to have photos with their grandchildren on display and streamed on the monitors throughout the church. What a delightful way to celebrate together!
  7. Celebrating Veterans: The church is located in an area with a large military presence, and many congregants are veterans. The veterans are celebrated each year on the Sunday closest to the Veteran's Day Observance (November 11). Different celebrations were observed, ranging from sheet cakes representing each branch of service to a sit-down lunch served by Boy Scouts.
  8. “Where Can We Serve” was an article promoting volunteering within the church and beyond. The article cited the competencies, skills, and time that retirees have with an emphasis on the personal benefits of volunteering.
  9. Tying Up Loose Ends was a four-part series of workshops across eight weeks. First, the church offered general information on the importance of proactive decisions to address the inevitable challenges relative to serious illness and death. The second session featured a physician who shared information about having an advocate, attention to medications that might be counteractive, advantages to regular checkups, and types of information that should be located in a central place in the home when EMS (emergency medical series) visits or emergencies occur. The session included an opportunity for folks to ask questions and get directions on a plethora of medical concerns. The third session was with an attorney who helped participants understand the importance of wills and legacy information; power of attorney; provisions for children, stepchildren, and dependents from second marriages; including the church in the will. The fourth session included presentations from a local mortuary and the Neptune Society (cremation services). In a follow-up meeting with the presenter from the Neptune Society, less than three weeks after the session, sixteen individuals/families had secured arrangements for cremation. Cremation is not a fun subject, but it’s a necessary one.

If you’re as impressed as I am reading this list of ministries that were established as one congregation took stock and worked together in these areas, you may be overwhelmed, or you may be inspired to get going! I hope it’s the latter. One champion can get the ball rolling! I give thanks to God’s faithful servant in this work --Lynda Byrd!

Questions for Your Church:

  • Who cares about older adult ministries in your setting? Can you get a few people together to start a conversation?
  • What ideas from Lynda’s list of accomplishments get you excited? Is there one thing that would be a “winner” to get the ball rolling in your community?
  • What resources would be needed? (Don’t overlook other organizations in your area that work with older adults.)
  • What’s working in your setting that you could share with others? (Please let me know the best practices you see happening in this area of ministry. You can write to [email protected].

Lynda Byrd is a retired layperson residing in San Antonio, Texas. Lynda’s last employment was with the General Board of Global Ministries, where she served as Assistant General Secretary-Community Ministries, with oversight of six program areas. Her final responsibility with the agency was Director of Development. In retirement, Lynda’s passion for the work of the church has continued with the publishing of The Laity Fix-An Inclusive Approach to Church Growth.

Rev. Dr. Lisa Jean Hoefner is the Older Adult Ministries Coordinator for Discipleship Ministries. She has served as a pastor of churches and director of camping ministries in the New York, Susquehanna, Upper New York, Oregon-Idaho, and Cal-Nevada Conferences from 1975 to 2020.

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