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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.

According to the National Council on Aging, about 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 68 percent have at least two. Sixty to 75 percent of those adults also suffer from chronic and debilitating pain. In fact, chronic pain affects more North Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

What role can and should the church play in supporting and helping the third-thirders in our congregations who are struggling with pain and illness? Use the articles and videos listed on this page to stimulate conversation and action in your church community around these issues.


  • Helping Seniors with Chronic Illness Improve Their Quality of Life. This article describes many of the chronic diseases seniors face and suggests ways of offering concrete help and encouragement. Although the article is addressed to medical professionals, its advice also applies to families and members of the church community.

  • The Paradox of Chronic Pain. Author and pastor Jeremy Linneman describes the reality of living with chronic pain that no one understands. He also reflects on how that pain has helped him understand his full dependence on God.


  • Seniors and Chronic Pain. Though this video is an ad for a pain center in Florida, it does a good job of defining chronic pain and explaining why it’s important for seniors to get help with it.

  • Older Adults and Chronic Illness discusses many of the chronic conditions older adults face, the way these conditions narrow life possibilities, and the way others—medical professionals, families, and churches—can provide encouragement, community, and help.

  • Faith and Chronic Pain. This edition of Groundwork, a podcast created by Reframe Media, focuses on long-term illnesses and pain that can alter daily reality and even cause us to question what we know about God. The study offers help and encouragement from Scripture and includes questions for group discussion. 


  • Return to that question we raised at the top of the page and talk about it together: What role can and should the church play in supporting and helping the third-thirders in our congregations who are struggling with pain and illness? 

  • Evaluate your congregation’s success with this support. What are your goals for change and improvement?


If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.

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