Dr. Richard H. Gentzler, Jr.
Relationships are important to people of all ages and equally important to adults who are older. Staying connected to God and to other people is an important need for senior adults. However, some older adults are isolated from their church and family members. They may be one of the last members in their family. Adult children may move away. Spouses, siblings and friends may pass away. After many years of normal family activity, older adults may feel alone, even abandoned by those they love most.
While many older people turn to their church and Sunday school class to find the community they need, what happens to senior adults when they no longer can drive and are unable to attend Sunday morning worship, Sunday school, prayer meetings, or Bible study classes? Having to give up driving can lead to depression, isolation, and loneliness.
Providing transportation for seniors can be a very important ministry for many congregations, especially for churches in rural communities where opportunities for transportation may be limited. Being able to attend one’s church or having transportation for weekly grocery shopping and visits to the doctor, dentist and pharmacy can be challenging for many older adults who no longer can drive. But churches that provide transportation can make a significant difference in the well-being of older adults.
One church that is making a difference in the life of their community is Martin Chapel Fellowship (United Methodist Church) in McMinnville. Pastor Carol Ann Richardson saw a need in her community for transporting older adults to church and for other services but the church did not have a van. Pastor Richardson contacted ENCORE Ministries and discussed the church’s need. The church had the funds to maintain a van on an ongoing basis, but it did not have enough money to purchase a used van. After the need was assessed, Pastor Richardson applied for an older adult ministry grant from the Golden Cross Foundation of the Tennessee Conference. The Golden Cross Foundation reviewed the request and provided Martin Chapel Fellowship with a grant to assist the church in purchasing a used van. Now the church and this van is making a big difference in a small community.
Recognizing the need for senior transportation and the role churches can play in this vital ministry, both the Tennessee State Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously approved in the spring of 2015 the PROVIDE Act which created the “Protection of Volunteer-Insured Drivers of the Elderly.” The legislation covers the area of tort liability and reform and grants immunity from civil liability in the State of Tennessee to individuals providing volunteer transportation services to senior citizens on behalf of a charitable organization or human service agency, so long as the individual driver is acting within the scope of their official duties. The PROVIDE Act provides additional protection for churches that engage in transportation ministry. Churches and drivers still need to be covered by adequate insurance but the PROVIDE Act gives another layer of protection.
You and your church may want to start a transportation ministry in your community. Or perhaps there is another type of ministry with older adults that is most needed in your congregation. ENCORE Ministries can provide consultative services to help you assess your need in intentional ministry by, with and for older adults. Simply contact Dr. Richard Gentzler at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no cost to you or your church for this service. Visit our website at www.encoretnumc.org where you will find many resources available to help you in your older adult ministry, including the Golden Cross Foundation Grant Guidelines and Application Form. ENCORE Ministries can help you and your congregation make a difference in the lives of older adults in your community.