Principle 4 – Relationship and Community are Key to Adult Faith Formation

Post 5 of 11 in a series on the 10 Principles of Older Adult Ministry (banner image by Raul Petrie from Unsplash)

Older adults find community in family, friends, “neighborhoods”, church, small groups, social gatherings, and the list goes on.  Being in relationships with these types of groups is so important as we age.  Most of us need to be in some sort of community and this is especially true of older adults. 

The fact is that older adults today are more engaged in learning and interested in contributing to their communities. Keeping older people involved in their community can substantially reduce the anticipated drain on financial, health care, and housing resources associated with an aging population.

A key issue in aging is social integration, the extent to which a person is actively connected and engaged with their family and community. Cross-cultural evidence shows that older adults are able to maintain a fairly high level of physical and emotional well-being when they have something considered valuable by others in their society, whether it be customs, skills, knowledge, or economic resources.

Today’s older adults want more than to simply “keep busy.” They want meaning. Meaning has to do with feeling that your life still matters (to yourself, at the very least) and that what you do makes sense. It has to do with the conviction that your life is about something more than simply surviving.

When my father died 3 years ago, it became of utmost importance to my siblings and myself to move my mother from her home of 51 years, the house I grew up in, to a new place.  Because so much of her life was tied to her life partner and to our home, this was going to be a difficult move.  My parents had been married for 64 years and so much of who my mom is was tied to my father.  They were a team and now she needed to develop new relationships and find new communities in which to participate.

While mom had wonderful support from her family, her friends and her church community, living on her own in a large house, was just not an option for her children.  She needed to be in a larger community where she would be in contact with others on a daily basis in order to build new relationships.

Studies have shown that as we age, we need communities even more.  Yes, most of us have the foundation of faith that we learned as children and young adults, but now, maybe even more than before, older adults need to be in community to continue to build on their foundational faith.  Learning does not just take place in the school aged years but in all of life.  Being in healthy adult relationships allows older adults the ability to share with one another all of life’s up and downs.

I am blessed to serve a congregation that has a healthy relationship with a Senior Adult Living Community.  This community offers a full continuum of living options.  During the pandemic, it was so hard for the residents as it was for the disciples of my congregation, to get in touch with one another.  The facility was on total lockdown to help keep their residents safe.  The isolation was unbearable for all!  What could the church do?  Normally 2 van loads of residents would be in worship every Sunday.  Normally, there would be at least 10 disciples who made weekly phone calls and visits to the residents.  Normally, those who were still driving would be at the church during the week for Bible studies, book clubs and other events.

The church had banners ordered to place on the lawn of the facility to show our love for both the residents and the healthcare workers.  The children of the church made pinecone bird feeders and delivered them to the various buildings to be hung outside so the residents could look outside and see God’s creation and know that they were still thought about and loved.

Being in relationship and in community and continuing to seek to learn in the last third of life is essential to adult faith formation.

Barbara Benton Flynt is the Director of Adult Education and Discipleship at The Brandermill Church in Midlothian, Virginia.  The Brandermill Church is a union congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Methodist Church.  She is also a member of the Hope4CE Steering Committee.

Micropracticing

“What is the simplest this can be and still be effective?”

Over the last twelve months I’ve found myself asking the question above over and over. I’m exhausted by the realities of day-to-day living during a pandemic, and I’m guessing many families around the world would say the same.

As I was brainstorming what to offer for Lent in Vibrant Church Communications, the question of simplicity was front and center in my thoughts. As my thoughts tumbled around, the rough edges knocked against each other and smoothed into shape: micropractices.

directions for planting seedlings

On the surface, micropractices are simple. They are an action that can usually be taken in the moment or easily done at some point in the day. They follow the three pillars of Lent: praying, fasting, and giving. There’s an additional fourth category called “more” for practices that don’t fit into the first three.

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Puppetry and The Pandemic

I have learned many new technology skills during this time of physical isolation and virtual ministry. I’m sure you have, too. I’ve also discovered that I could reach back to skills that I haven’t exercised in a while that find new life in these challenging times.

One of those skills is the art of puppetry. I’ve always been enamored with puppets, since my time growing up with the likes of Captain Kangaroo, Shari Lewis, and later Fred Rogers and the Muppets. There is something magical that happens when you animate these pieces of fabric and stuffing into a living character with particular personality traits.

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A Glimpse: What Fall Ministry Might Look Like

We’re starting a week on planning in a time of uncertainty by this reblog of another excellent post by Christine V Hides. Please share your own plans for the fall and what you are doing to prepare this summer either as a comment here or on the Facebook group page.

Christine V Hides

In the spirit of collaboration and modeling vulnerability, I am offering you a glimpse of the first iteration of our plan, designed in the shape of a teeter totter, able to pivot smoothly between gathered and online as needed. Here are the steps we took to get to our first iteration from which we will learn, adapt, and grow.

FYI,  I’m part of two upcoming planning webinars that will delve deeper into planning in these unpredictable times:

Step 1:

Remember your why. While just about everything has changed over the last few months, your ministry purpose has not. There are many ways to say it, but our purpose has always been to nurture disciples who know, love and serve God and in so doing transform our hearts, minds…

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Connecting With Kids This Summer

We are all coming up with NEW ideas to help connect with our kids and families this summer.  We may not be able to gather in large groups, but we can still CONNECT in creative and meaningful ways.

I have gathered ideas, suggestions and try-it’s to share.

This is a start; I am sure this awesome group of Ministry Leaders/Teachers/Educators will keep adding to the list.  Most of these you can do with a small group 3-5 people or families can meet up and participate as their own small group.

 

FamilyBikeRiders

*Meet up or Drop off (limit 3-5 people and observe social distance protocols)

  • Bike Ride
  • Visit a farm – the Bible uses a lot of farming and shepherding metaphors (ask the farmer to demonstrate calling animals for feeding time or how they plant a field or to explain what gleaning is)
  • Drive-thru farm (we have a few of these in Ohio)
  • Serve at a Soup Kitchen or Homeless Shelter
  • Petting Zoo
  • BinGO – Bingo in the church parking lot. Open the back of the mini-van or SVU, sit in lawn chairs near your vehicle.  Use a bull-horn to call #’s.
  • Movie – outdoors (bring your own blanket or chairs)
  • Book Club – read a book together and discuss in person or over zoom
  • Dog Show – dress up your dog, best groomed, tricks or agility (even if you don’t have a dog, it would be fun to come and watch)
  • Hike at a local park
  • Walk and meet at smaller/less known Nature Preserves
  • Kayaking or Canoeing
  • Video – send in a 60-second video of anything – blowing a bubble from bubble gum, cup stacking, playing the piano, reciting a poem, doing a trick on their bike, burping the alphabet…etc

*Disclaimer: I wouldn’t use the church van this summer but encourage parents to meet you or drop kids off for a designated work time.  I would also encourage mask wearing.

Low Touch or No Touch Games

  • Frisbee golf (each participant brings their own frisbee, or provide cleaning wipes)
  • Bocce Ball
  • Cornhole (make up new bags using ziplock baggies, easy to wipe down)
  • BadmintonWater fight (002)
  • Capture the Flag
  • Croquet
  • Supersoakers – water fight

 

Things I have been thinking about, but not sure how to do

  • Theology on Tap with Kids — Lemonade on the Lawn?
  • Some Good News – based on John Krasinski’s SGN channel – ask people to send in short videos of people doing good things (make a compilation video to share)
  • Mission UNTRIP – serve locally – dog shelter, resale or thrift shop, food bank, community garden, etc…
  • Unwind at 9 – a meet up time with parents to check in, share fears and hopes and connect

What have you been thinking about?

What can you add to this list?

Update in the comments – share your ideas.

jenni bio pic  Jenni Whitford is a Certified Christian Educator in the PC(USA) and Director for Children’s Ministry at Worthington Presbyterian Church (Columbus, Ohio), Member of Hope4CE Steering Committee

Daily Devotionals

When I was an educator/pastor at the Nassau Presbyterian Church, the Adult Education Committee had the idea of creating a Lenten devotional, with daily entries written entirely by members and friends of the congregation. Guidelines for submission included a maximum word count, inclusion of a 2-3 sentence prayer and brief bio, and style suggestions such as preferred Bible versions for a brief selected quote and appropriately inclusive language for God and humanity.  This is not a unique or even a new idea, but two features of it, and a Covid-19 time expansion that grew from the practice this spring, may be developments worth noting.

The first year, 46 days of devotions, based on each person’s choice of text from the daily lectionary, were printed in a small booklet, and reproduced in large print. The latter were in such high demand multiple additional copies were printed. Older adults were enthusiastic users!

In subsequent years, these additional access points have been added:

  • Daily posts are sent by email (the first one automatically, subsequent ones to those who subscribe)
  • All are made available on the church website
  • All are posted in the early morning on Facebook

These two features have become very important to readers:

  1. The writer’s name and a short bio are attached to each devotion, primarily stating one’s involvement in the congregation
  2. Writer’s email addresses are provided so readers may write a note of appreciation or connection to the writer. Emails are listed in the print version only to protect privacy. Those using other formats may send an email forwarded by the church office.

In this spring of virtual worship and programming, connection is so important no one has wanted to stop receiving these after Easter, so the practice has been extended through the 50 days of Eastertide to Pentecost. No print version is available but all other ways of distributing the daily devotion continue. Volunteer writers are solicited and all submissions follow the usual guidelines and focus on a selected lectionary text for the day. (See below for an example of a recent Daily Devotional Post.)

Daily posts inspire faith and prayer, offer encouragement, and most important of all, create and nurture connection amongst the congregation, something worth valuing at all times, not just in this time.

Devotional Post Example 6-1-20

Joyce portrait

 

Joyce MacKichan Walker, Retired Church Educator/Pastor, Princeton, New Jersey

Bytes of Faith-An Idea for Faith Formation

When Covid-19 stay at home orders came in March, our congregation was caught off guard.  Our Christian Education ministry relied on face-to-face gatherings.  From Sunday School to youth Confirmation, Wednesday night LOGOS to weekly small groups, we were used to traditional ways of doing Christian education.   And we were in the midst of our Lenten Small Group study!  Teacher training events never talked about what happens during a pandemic when you are told to physically social distance from other people.

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Faith at Home- Narrative Lectionary

Just as Hope4ce offers Revised Common Lectionary related at-home activities, we want to provide a similar resource for congregations that follow the Narrative Lectionary. From the Working Preacher site, “The Narrative Lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. On the Sundays from September through May each year the texts follow the sweep of the biblical story, from Creation through the early Christian church.

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Family Trivia Night

Zoom fatigue anyone? Yeah, me too. I realized it finally when I had a youth meeting and only my kids showed up because I made them. We are forgetting time and what used to be a normal schedule and routine. In many ways I am ok with this, except it is 11 am here on a “school day” in North Carolina and I have yet to see a child emerge from their bedroom.

My children and youth families I am sure are feeling the same. We have been picking back up with attendance to meetings now that school has gotten organized, but one thing that has never dropped off is our family trivia night. Every Friday at 7, I lock myself in a room in my house so my husband and kids can participate while I facilitate. Our church families log on to a Zoom meeting and talk a little trash while I play a little Yacht Rock to get them pumped up for competition.

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