By Rev. Dr. Richard Gentzler, Jr.

The first annual ENCORE Ministry Awards were presented to seven churches in the Tennessee Conference.  The awards ceremony was held during the dinner sponsored by the Golden Cross Foundation and Martin Methodist College on June 13, 2018, at the Tennessee Annual Conference at Brentwood United Methodist Church.  Each church received a framed Certificate of Exemplary Ministry By, With, and For Older Adults; two copies of An Age of Opportunity; and a $500 check from the Golden Cross Foundation.

Leaders for ENCORE Ministry making the presentations included: Charles Hewgley (President, Golden Cross Foundation), Shirley Vaughn (Chair, Tennessee Conference Committee on Older Adults), Rev. Jim Robinson (Chair, ENCORE Ministry), Dr. Richard Gentzler (Director, ENCORE Ministry), and Kent McNish (Executive Director, Golden Cross Foundation).

Award recipients for each district included:

Caney Fork River District
Centertown UMC

Leaders for this ministry include Michelle Bodey, Barry Boyd, Joanna Lorance, Mike Lorance, and Pastor Don Spencer.

The Centertown United Methodist Church Food Ministry is run by a committee comprised of seven older adults. Every Wednesday a group of approximately 20 volunteers, mostly older adults, pack and distribute food boxes. The food is picked up from the Feed America First warehouse in Murfreesboro by one of our volunteers. It is delivered to our church fellowship hall where it is sorted, packed in boxes, and then given to anyone who drives through. We currently give away 165-170 boxes every week. A large number of those receiving food are older adults living in our community.
In addition to providing food for our community, we also invite everyone to join our prayer circle where we lift up praises and prayer requests every week. This ministry also provides a place for Christian fellowship and the opportunity to volunteer.

First UMC, Cookeville

Leaders include Associate Pastor Rev. Rob Wheeler and lay delegate, Tina King.

Within the past year, First United Methodist Church, Cookeville, has restructured our approach to our senior ministries. Our Senior Adult Council (SAC) has developed an organizational chart to assist in reaching out more effectively to our senior members. In the process of our reorganizing, we have identified and are now working with 16 senior ministries. These ministries fall under the headings of Serving, Health/Well Being, Events/Communications, Spirituality, Creative/Social, and Life Long Learning.

We feel a need to be sensitive to the value of, and needs of, our senior members. Our Young at Heart ministry, which meets monthly, features a meal along with interesting programs and provides opportunities for fellowship, enrichment, worship, service, and spiritual growth. When our members think of senior ministry, Young at Heart quickly comes to mind.  However, our senior ministry is more encompassing.

Cumberland River District
Greenbrier UMC

Leaders for this ministry include: Martha Woodham, Sandy Head, Catherine Sensing, Rex Howell, Rev. Don Sensing, and David Walters.

In October 2014, Greenbrier UMC hosted the first day for senior adults. Twenty seniors came together; most of them were members of Greenbrier UMC. The group decided to call itself JOY, standing for Just Older Youth. JOY has been meeting every Tuesday since then and now has an average attendance of 50-55 with many participants from the larger Greenbrier community. Many persons became introduced to Greenbrier UMC through JOY and have either joined the church or participate in its worship or other ministries.

Under the direction of Martha Woodham and with the help of a large group of volunteers, JOY’s Tuesday gatherings are days of games, devotion, and food. With a grant from The Golden Cross Foundation and generous donations from the congregation and others, we are completing installation of an electrical lift to enable full access to the activity. Glory to God for this wonderful ministry!

Harpeth River District
First UMC, Franklin

Leaders for this ministry include: Donny and Judy Jackson, Dot Ginn, Rev. Sarah Carty, Rev. Lynn Hill and Rev. Regina Proctor. Franklin First UMC Adult Ministry Plus is for those 55 years old and above. Donny and Judy Jackson currently provide our lay leadership for this team which was established by Dot Ginn and Nancy Massey. Rev. Sarah Carty serves as the team’s staff liaison and encourager.

Adult Ministry Plus provides opportunities to nurture faith, grow spiritually, build Christian community and fellowship, and equip seniors for faithful living and service. There are nine Sunday School Groups specifically designed for older adults and numerous weekday Bible studies, book clubs, and small groups.

Older adults are active in worship and our music programs. Fellowship groups include a monthly evening PrimeTimers and daytime DayTimers meal and program, a Dining Out Group, Hand & Foot Card Club, fitness groups, and quarterly fun Escapades events. We offer two major outreach events for our congregation and community for our Super Seniors (70 and older) including our Christmas Sweater Tea, where hundreds of FFUMC and senior living center residents enjoy great food, fellowship, and entertainment; and a Super Senior Spring Brunch for older adult appreciation. All of our programs and events are open to the community.

Creativity abounds with sewing and quilting groups, and a huge older adult art fair each October. Prayer groups meet weekly including a vibrant Prayer Shawl Ministry Team.

Aging well is a cornerstone of our ministry. We offer monthly day and evening Coffee & Conversation events on various topics on aging using the NPT Aging Matters series and local experts to prepare and assist us as we navigate the aging process.

Many of our older adults are actively engaged in mission and service, and provide key leadership in our Giving Garden, Meals on Wheels, Project Transformation, UMW, and UMM. Working alongside our Congregational Care Team, our older adults are provided with a mobility closet to obtain needed equipment, weekly blood pressure checks, and opportunities to participate in Grief Share, Stephen Ministries, and other care and support groups. We currently offer worship services for six area senior living communities. We are grateful for the training we receive through the Tennessee Conference Older Adult events and ENCORE Ministry.

Red River District
Gordon Memorial UMC

Leaders for this ministry include: Angella Current, Mrs. Marion Scruggs, Mrs. Joyce Long, Mrs. Mary Dunn, Mrs. Marie Dunkerson, Mrs. Barbara Thomas, Rev. Charles White.

Three years ago, Gordon’s Community Cares Ministry through its Meals on Wheels and Best Years Club programs, began to recognize that many older adult members within the congregation and the community had limited mobility or access to transportation and were not getting out of their houses or apartments, receiving nutritious meals, or participating in socialization and physical fitness activities. They were also in need of spiritual nurturing and often lacked funds to purchase household goods, i.e., paper towels, toilet paper, dish washing liquid, hand soap, and may only have one cooked meal per day.

Funding support from the Golden Cross Foundation which provided funds for a bus driver, nutritious meals, an exercise instructor for weekly physical fitness activities, socialization activities, spiritual nurturing sessions, health screenings, field trips, and workshops on issues affecting the aged population, greatly enhanced the weekly meetings of the Best Year’s Club and dramatically increased the participation of older adults from an average of five per week in 2014 to a weekly attendance today of 60 older adults ranging in age from 70 years old to 90. During the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter holidays, attendance averages 85 to 100 participating in the special program activities.

The program is held each Wednesday, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at Gordon. Half of the participants are members of Gordon and the other half reside in the same apartment complexes or neighborhoods and come with Gordon members either by bus or car pool.

Stones River District
First UMC Smyrna

Leaders for this ministry include: Steve Bradford, Peggy Davidson, Joe Elliott, Greg Lister, Rev. Felicia Kumar, Moses Kumar, Loyd Mabry, Barbara Pierce, Carol Smith, & Jackie Vaughan.

Beginning a new ministry within a church community can have its challenges. At Smyrna First United Methodist Church, about 60 percent of the membership comprises senior adults ages 55 plus. A huge need existed to empower our seniors physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

In January 2017 we formed a committee of nine. We sent out a survey to get feedback from our church’s seniors on what the church could do to meet their needs and concerns. The results included building community, offering a safe and welcoming environment, extending fellowship beyond Sunday services, and enrichment through spiritual growth. In addition, response to the survey showed a significant interest in community outreach projects.

Throughout the year we have events featuring topics on safety, health, and tax with an average attendance of 40 members. We also had community and spiritual events like Retreat at Beersheba, Rise Against Hunger, and packing of Bags of Grace.

We started  2018 with lots of excitement and enthusiasm. Response from our senior adults has been amazing. We look forward to what God has store for us in the coming months and years! Again, our sincere thanks to the Golden Cross Foundation for their support and guidance in our senior adult ministry!

St Mark’s UMC, Murfreesboro

Leaders involved in this ministry include: Sages’ co-chairs, Noel and Laura Hinote, and Craig and Stephanie Goff, and Dr. Jim and Trish Clardy.

St. Mark’s older adult ministry is guided by the wonderful direction of the Sages Ministry Team. This team meets monthly or more often as necessary. Also the team plans about a year in advance. Plans include fellowship dinners, trips, studies, red hat parties, and recognition with a birthday for those who are 90. Our Sages travel to Lake Junaluska each year for the Festival of Wisdom and Grace.

One of the ministries our Sages take very seriously is care for all those who are on our caring list. These include birthday cards, visitation with flowers, Communion, and many other caring ministries. We are presently serving as a pilot church for the conference sponsor of a new DVD series Alzheimer’s/Dementia: Ministry with the Forgotten.

Centertown UMCFirst UMC CookevilleGreenbrier UMCFirst UMC FranklinGordon Memorial UMCFirst UMC SmyrnaSt Mark’s UMC, Murfreesboro