By Cindy Solomon

With 65 percent of active members older than 65, Millington (Tennessee) First United Methodist Church (FUMC) is a graying congregation. However, the church is located in a diverse neighborhood with a high school, intermediate school, and single-family starter homes.

Pickleball: An Outreach Ministry for All Ages

In March, church members began an inter-generational outreach ministry — pickleball for all ages. Members Bernie and Karen Baetzel helped start the ministry.

Approximately 20 people, ranging in ages from three to 80, play each Wednesday. After pickleball — a game with elements of tennis, table tennis, and badminton — children and youth gather for devotions, crafts, and games. Adults attend choir practice or Bible study.

“While pickleball is a low-impact activity, our parish nurses recommended purchasing two automated external defibrillator (AED) devices due to the large number of seniors in our congregation,” said Linda Cooper, Millington FUMC’s director of communications.

ENCORE Ministry Grant Helps Buy AEDs to Ensure Health and Safety of Members and Guests

To help buy the AEDs and train church staff and volunteers, church members applied for and received a Growing Older Adult Ministry Grant for $2,000 from ENCORE Ministry.

“These devices will help ensure the health and safety of our members and guests who come to Millington to play, study, and worship. The physical activity is good for the body and the social interaction and bonding between generations is good for the soul,” said Cooper.

While intergenerational ministry is rewarding it’s not always easy.

“Senior adults, youth, and children have to learn to grow, pray, and play together,” said Rev. Amanda Hartmann-Westmoreland, Millington FUMC’s pastor. “It’s been amazing to see God’s love at work as adults mentor children and youth — not only in pickleball rules and techniques — but also in teamwork, sportsmanship, fairness, and honesty. Adults interacting with younger disciples develop empathy for children and youth and understand their cares, concerns, joys, and struggles. Ultimately, adults pass on wisdom and love to younger generations whom they see as the future and the now of the church and its ministry and mission.

“Having faith-filled friendship with adult mentors and role models is essential to discipling every generation. We pray that our intergenerational ministry will be an avenue for developing those relationships. It’s another way children and youth learn they are loved and supported by God and adults in our congregation.”

About Millington First United Methodist Church

Pickleball for beginners and families is played on Wednesdays in the church’s Flame Center gym from 4 – 5:30 p.m. Recreational pickleball for more experienced players is on Thursdays from 9 a.m. – noon. Everyone in the community is invited to come join the fun.

“It’s a lot of fun and can be a family activity since it is playable by many age groups. It’s easy to learn, easy on the joints, and provides social interaction,” said Bernie Baetzel. “Why play pickleball? Why not? We’ll teach you how to play!”

The church is at 8029 Wilkinsville Road. Each Sunday, worship is held at 10 a.m. Sunday School for all ages starts at 8:50 a.m. The church also houses the Millington Food Pantry — open 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. every Tuesday and on the third Saturday of each month. For additional information, visit, or Facebook and YouTube at First United Methodist Church – Millington, TN, or Instagram at millingtonfumc.