Including Older Adults This Holiday Season
The holidays can be the most joyful time of the year for some and the most painful time of the year for others. For many people in our churches and community, the holidays bring a lot of bitter sweet feelings as happy memories mix with the reality of loss. This is most widespread among our older church members because most of them have already lost loved ones as they have grown older. This sadness can then be further complicated by loneliness if family is not nearby, or if they live alone. So, how can we go about including older adults this holiday season?
Inclusion Not Seclusion
Our churches are to serve as a place of family, community and inclusion where everyone, no matter their stage in life, can feel involved, cared for, and appreciated. Unfortunately, this often does not happen with the older population in our churches. Many activities are geared toward the young people, and let’s face it, you need some fairly young people to keep up with those kiddos.
Although a church’s children’s ministry does often need younger workers on a full time basis, this doesn’t mean that older members of the church family cannot be involved. Often time older members don’t get involved because they know (or assume) the younger workers have it covered. Perhaps they don’t want to “slow down the program” or “get in the way.” The reality is that older adults often have wisdom to share and energy to contribute if we’ll just be intentional about HOW we involve them.
Ideas for Involvement
Even if an older volunteer can’t take a regular, ongoing position in the children’s ministry, what about inviting a different individual once or twice a month just to assist for one class? This gives them involvement without getting them overwhelmed with the stress of an ongoing class.
When the church is doing a special activity like an outing or a special gathering of some kind, invite the older members to join the fun. Many of them will welcome the opportunity and may make a valuable contribution in ways you don’t expect.
Consider having a, “Back in My Day” Bible study. Our church did this recently for the kids and it went surprisingly well. One older person in the church was invited to visit a specific session. They began their visit by taking questions from the kids and teenagers about how life was when they were a child or young person. The kids got a hoot out of hearing the ways kids spent their time and what life was like 50 or 60 years ago or more!
Then our guest brought a devotion to the young people on serving God through all the different ages and stages of your life and what they have learned. “You will change, life will change, but God never changes.” It was a great time, the kids learned a lot and our guest felt important and included in the ministry.
There are lots of great ways to include our older members in the kid’s ministry in a way that is not stressful, but rather inclusive and loving. Take some time this holiday season to consider how you might include these precious members of our community more deliberately.
You can see all of the articles by Sarah on Sunday School Zone.