Eldercare: To? For? With?
I was thinking about a subtitle for Diana’s book about ministry to people in late life. Or is it for people in late life? Or with people in late life?
To and for and with are prepositions, short simple familiar words that can be nasty tricky. When reading or writing they are easy to glide over, but they make a difference—possibly huge. The implications are great.
“Ministry to people in late life” can be done from a distance. It is armchair ministry done by proxy—writing a check, recruiting others to get involved, or, for the mildly adventurous, patronizing a youth group’s fund-raising carwash. Recline in comfort and watch the “boots on the ground” fight the enemy.
“Ministry for people in late life” can be done by establishing the structures of ministry. “I was one of the first advocates for this program!” “Hey, I voted for the church to do it; isn’t that enough?” “I even told the pastor how to do it and offered to be a consultant.”
Supporting the work of others is valuable but ministry to and ministry for let us slide easily into secondary levels of involvement; the actual work of ministry is done by others. Collectively, providing ministry to or for requires strong effort. From the individual perspective, support to or for ministry can be casually provided. It can be done by as little as a verbal pledge--a pledge that may not be honored.
“Ministry with people in late life” is another matter. Every with ministry is a ministry of relationship that can be done only by direct, personal doing. Beyond material expense it carries the cost of giving up what one prefers in favor of doing what is useful in the life of another. Ministry with imposes the strain of venturing beyond one’s comfort zone, the risk of being disappointed in outcomes, the repercussions of disrupting Satan’s work, and the discomfort of being different than your friends.
Ministry with creates the uneasiness of growing deeper in relationship with God, the Great Relater, the one who sent his son, Jesus, to demonstrate the meaning of being with, and ministry with calls us to rely on the Spirit to enable us to minister generously.
Yes, it must be ministry with—the Jesus way of delivering joy, hope, and healing.