n 2014, one year into my community worker role with a brief to focus on older people, I attended an event where someone shared their vision for a nowglobal youth ministry: “I was standing over the city and I felt like everything needs to be poured into the young people!”

I would never argue with the way God continues to use this ministry in remarkable ways, but I couldn’t escape my inner reaction: What about the older people?! Three words dropped into my thinking: silver cord ministries.

Ecclesiastes 12 starts remember your creator in the days of your youth”, followed by a poetic description about aging, before it concludes with before the silver cord is snapped”. As I read this, I felt God give me a glimpse of His heart for ministries that will point older people back to their creator, with the same gusto we apply to youth ministry.

My role in the church didn’t begin as a community worker. I was first employed as a youth worker, but around the time of my own spiritual awakening’, the leadership were exploring with me what God was stirring in my heart: it was issues of loneliness and isolation that I felt God breaking me for. 


I had such a loving upbringing, belonged to an incredible church family, and now experienced the reality of being in the grip of a loving God. The thought of the many local people who knew none of the above felt almost unbearable. Also… my grandad had been my best friend growing up, and I’ve always had a general love of all things old: films, furniture, songs and people. The community worker role then took shape with a freedom to develop the ministry, alongside an enthusiastic team of volunteers.

Fast-forward to present day and we have a rolling programme of events at our weekly Monday Matinée’ including quizzes, day trips, sing-a-longs, chair aerobics and even a retro cinema. Through all these activities, we have looked for ways to communicate our hope in the gospel (testimonies, the stories behind hymns, and offering prayer). 

We also tour three local care and residential homes each month, providing afternoon entertainment in the communal lounges. This has developed into monthly church services in one care home and biblical exploration in another using Pilgrims’ Friend’s Brain and Soul Boosting’. 

Being involved in youthwork seemed to be part of God’s plan for me (no surprises there then!) as we realised the potential to bridge the gaps between generations – a challenge faced by many churches around the country. At our annual Big Night Out’ event, for example, around 70 people from the community mix with young people from the church who are serving their tables and then dance the night away together to a live jazz band.

Something magical happens on occasions like this. Our older friends report back a strong sense of being valued because of the love shown to them by the young people. These intergenerational links have increased over the last 18 months, with children from the local primary school regularly attending our Monday Matinée. 

One of our events left an older lady in tears. I don’t see any of my grandchildren,” she said. It’s just so nice to spend time with children here; they bring so much joy.” We are told the children are positively affected by these new relationships too; they go back to school saying they have made new best friends.

We stepped into the gap

We don’t have to look far in the scriptures to understand God’s heart for the isolated, do we? The only thing in all His glorious creation that God deemed not good” was to be alone”. God Himself is community, and people, created in His likeness, are made for community. Surely, then, it is inherent to human nature to long for connection and an assault on our humanity when it is absent?

In response to this, we set up Silver Cord Befriending Service, training volunteers from two local churches. What can you do in your context? Yes, it’ll not be easy, and it’ll test your patience and resolve, but, as we’ve found, God is faithful. Our initial publicity didn’t seem to attract the referrals we expected, but we knew the need was real. 

So many times on this journey God has brought us to the same position… our knees. Don’t push – pray!’ has been a recurring theme. But, sure enough, before long, a door opened through the police connecting us to all the vital local services. Through GPs, social services and others, the referrals started coming in thick and fast.

Now we have partnered with five local churches in our area and have responded to more than 90 referrals. Befrienders were trained initially for cosy cups of tea and coffee with old people, but God had other plans. We have seen scales of deprivation we vastly underestimated. So now we meet regularly with our befrienders to reinforce boundaries, pray and remind ourselves that there is only one hero in this story – and it’s not us.

It has also been a delight to host a Christmas day lunch over the last two years for our Silver Cord friends who would otherwise have spent Christmas Day alone. I’ll never forget one person’s comment afterwards: It made me feel human again.” 

A twist in this story is that these referrals haven’t just been for older people. For some, including addicts and those living with acute mental health issues, the vital services have reached the limit of what they can offer. But through connecting into church community, some have described finding a family to be a part of, and with it, a new hope in Jesus.

It has also been pure joy that most of our befrienders are retirees who are energised by having a front-line position on the mission field. They offer deep levels of empathy through lives shaped by their own tragedies but can still say God is good”.

We are now planning to develop Silver Cord into a charity so that we can develop it even further. We pray God gives us the courage to keep stepping out in faith knowing ultimately, He is the rescuer. I am convinced that, other than the gospel, one of the greatest things we can offer others is the power of presence. So, what three things might you want to take away from our journey?

  • Simple listening affirms the value of any person created in God’s image. If you are wondering where to start, start with this. Simple but effective. It doesn’t have to be flashy. Make a welcoming space to connect and be heard, fuelled by prayer to a magnificent God who longs to bring life.
  • Remember that healthy church doesn’t value one age group over another (though I do feel there is much to recover in how we honour older people in the way God instructs).
  • Let others know that our new life in Christ is a welcome into the most beautifully diverse family of all, comprising people of every culture and age group. Far from perfect, but united with Christ at the centre – that is our unique gift to the world.

The church can walk the long road where the services aren’t able and in that we have never been more needed. God places the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), wrote David. The challenge ahead is how we be that family to a world that is watching and demonstrate His love to the many who are so longing to be a part of one.