By Kent McNish

With the graying of America and our churches, older adult ministry is now more important than ever. The new Tennessee-Western Kentucky (TWK) Conference includes organizations devoted to older adult ministry that have their roots in the legacy Tennessee and Memphis conferences.

ENCORE Ministry and the Golden Cross Foundation (GCF) served older adults in the legacy Tennessee Conference. ENCORE Ministry provided consultation, training and support, resources, and networking opportunities to equip church leaders for intentional ministry by, with, and for older adults. The Golden Cross Foundation provided grant funding to local churches, districts, and conference agencies for older adult ministries. The grants benefitted older adults through spiritual fellowship, access to food security, healthcare, housing, transportation, and church building retrofitting projects.

In the legacy Memphis Conference, older adults were served through Wesley Living and GOLDEN CROSS Senior Ministries. Wesley Living provided housing and services that enhanced the quality of living for 2,200 older adults in two assisted living communities and 29 senior housing communities in West Tennessee, Western Kentucky, and Arkansas. Rents for the seniors in the Wesley Living affordable housing retirement communities were subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. GOLDEN CROSS Senior Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit organization, mission is to enhance the quality of life for all seniors served by Wesley Living.

The good news for Tennessee-Western Kentucky (TWK) Conference churches is that these organizations continue the same work on behalf of older adults. However, potential confusion regarding two separate organizations having similar names — GOLDEN CROSS Senior Ministries and Golden Cross Foundation — needed to be addressed. By action of the TWK organizing conference on December 4, 2021, the ENCORE Ministry Committee and the Golden Cross Foundation merged to become ENCORE Ministry of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.

Today, these three older adult ministry organizations continue their individual work for the mutual benefit of all older adults in the TWK Conference:

  • Wesley Living — affordable housing and enhanced services for seniors
  • GOLDEN CROSS Senior Ministries — services to Wesley Living residents
  • ENCORE Ministry — consultation, resources, training and support, networking opportunities, and grant funding to assist church leaders for intentional ministry by, with, and for older adults

“We believe this cooperative approach will give TWK congregations an excellent opportunity to create and expand older adult ministry from the Cumberland Mountains to the Mississippi River,” said Charles Hewgley, chairperson of the ENCORE Ministry Board of Directors.

Rev. Dr. Richard Gentzler, director of ENCORE Ministry, said, “The opportunity to serve all 1,000 churches of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference is both exciting and challenging.”

Kristi Owens, executive director of GOLDEN CROSS Senior Ministries, said, “Working together on behalf of our conference’s three older adult organizations will benefit all older adults in the two legacy conferences.”

None of the organizations receive conference apportionments. Rather, they rely on donors’ generosity and fundraisers. In the past, both legacy conferences observed a special offering called Golden Cross Sunday. A proposal will be presented at the 2022 Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference requesting two conference-wide special Sunday offerings. The Golden Cross Sunday offering traditionally observed in May will benefit GOLDEN CROSS Senior Ministries. A second offering on the second Sunday in September will benefit ENCORE Ministry.

In the coming months, ENCORE Ministry Matters will feature more stories about the programs and ministries offered by the three adult ministry organizations. You may also visit these TWK older adult ministry websites for more information: and

Kent McNish, is executive director of ENCORE Ministry. You can contact him at or phone/text at (615) 479-6175.