One common reason for leaving a church later in life is that you're moving away from your community. Older adults who downsize into independent living communities may move to a new state or city to find the community, amenities and weather they want for their retirement, for example. Or seniors who need assistance with some acts of daily living or mobility may move so they can be near loved ones.
No matter the reason for the move, a change this big can mean other changes, including finding another church to belong to. Check out the guide below for what older adults may want to look for when searching for a new church.
Probably the most important consideration is whether the doctrine and core beliefs of the church align with yours. By now in your faith walk, you may have realized that every person has a unique relationship with God, and 100% of each person's beliefs don't line up with 100% of another person's beliefs.
However, before you become a member of a church and begin to build community within that congregation, you do want to ensure that major core beliefs are in alignment. Otherwise, you can experience uncomfortable friction down the road or find that the community you entered into doesn't actually support and work for you in the way you thought it did.
Start your research by looking at any website or social media that the church has. Most modern churches put a statement about their doctrine on their website. This provides a high-level overview of what the church believes.
Visit the church for a few Sundays to hear sermons and experience teachings and worship. Look for belief themes in those experiences. Don't be afraid to ask about beliefs — interview pastoral staff or congregants before you make a choice to become a member.
Look for a church that offers the opportunity to build fellowship and move into a community that provides support (and where you can support others). You may want to search for a church that has a vibrant senior presence and ministry, for example.
Find out about small groups, widow and widower dinners, Bible study opportunities and anything else that might be important to you. If you enjoy serving in church, look into potential opportunities for volunteer work that you might be able to move into in the future.
For many older adults, physical accessibility is essential to a fruitful church experience. Think about what you need now as well as what you might need in the coming years if you stay with this church. Some accessibility amenities to look for include:
When you first visit a church, consider how people are welcomed and integrated into the congregation. Do you feel welcome, and do you feel like the church welcomes people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities with the same excitement and love?
Think about who greeted you and what information and assistance was offered. Did people seem happy you were there? Did multiple people introduce themselves and begin to share appropriately about ways you can get involved in the church community?
Not every older adult wants to belong to a church that swarms newcomers with affection. Consider your own social preferences and how you like to interact with people when choosing a church. However, a church that doesn't greet you at all may not be the right choice.
Finally, consider whether the teaching, preaching and worship styles align with your needs and preferences. While it's difficult to find a church that addresses every single preference all the time — and this isn't typically the best way to grow in faith anyway — no one wants to go every Sunday to a church that grates completely on their nerves.
For example, if loud music makes you uncomfortable, you may want to search for a church that uses traditional worship rather than contemporary worship that includes a rock band. If you prefer your preacher to stick only to the Bible, look for a church that offers expository preaching.
Be ready to visit a few churches before you make your final choices. And if you're moving into one of the communities under the Bethesda Senior Living Communities umbrella, ask about worship, Bible study and devotional opportunities right in the community.