NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Grants totaling $75,000 have been awarded to 31 churches around the world by the United Methodist Committee on Older Adult Ministries (OAM) to support Aging in Poverty ministry programs.
The Aging in Poverty grants seek to address a core issue in the mission of The United Methodist Church concerning worldwide poverty, said William Randolph, director of the Office on Aging & Older Adult Ministries at Discipleship Ministries.
All of the grant recipients have a component in their plans to address long-term poverty through education.
“Our focus was to be in partnership with churches in developing creative programs to not only address the issue of poverty short term through direct aid, but to address the root causes of poverty, particularly hidden poverty,” Randolph said.
All of the grant recipients have a component in their plans to address long-term poverty through education and to comprehensively address “not only financial poverty, but also spiritual and cultural poverty,” Randolph said.
Examples of hidden poverty in the older adult population which was addressed by creative approaches proposed by grant recipients include rural poverty, health and wellness poverty, food insecurity, drug and alcohol addiction poverty and transportation poverty, according to Randolph.
Programs receiving the grants focused not just on ministry to older adults living in poverty, but also with older adult volunteers performing the ministry.
The Committee on Older Adult Ministries selected grant applications it felt could easily be adapted or duplicated by other churches. “We wanted programs which could be ‘pioneer programs’ and blaze a trail other churches could follow,” Randolph said.
Although only $75,000 of grant money was available, applications seeking $188,554 from 61 churches were received by the committee. Over 50% of them received funding.
A weekly luncheon, Bible study
Three grants were awarded in the North Central Jurisdiction, four in the Northeastern Jurisdiction, two in the South Central Jurisdiction, 16 in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, two in the Western Jurisdiction and four in the Central Conferences.
In the new Great Plains Conference of the South Central Jurisdiction, for example, Meriden United Methodist Church, a medium-sized rural congregation in Kansas, created a new program to provide a weekly luncheon, Bible study and empowerment class to directly address poverty issues such as food security, nutrition, wellness and older adult addiction, including chemical and other addictions.
At Sacramento First United Methodist Church, a large urban congregation in the California-Nevada Conference of the Western Jurisdiction, a program called Wisdom in Maturity addresses poverty through education and transportation by using older adults to minister to other older adults. Because transportation is an independence issue for many older adults, this ministry works to address often hidden forms of poverty.
Money goes a long way
In the Central Conference, the Light & Life United Methodist Church in the Philippines received a grant to a program providing health and wellness, financial education and spiritual care support for older adults in an area with sustained medical poverty that was severely damaged by a recent typhoon.
“The Aging in Poverty Committee gave more money than was requested because a little money goes a long way in this setting,” Randolph said.
OAM and Discipleship Ministries made the grants, which allow clergy and lay leaders to address issues that ordinarily could not be addressed through their church's current budget, for the fourth consecutive quadrennium.