Post 11 of 11 in a series on the 10 Principles of Older Adult Ministry (banner image by Raul Petrie from Unsplash)
Not all older adults have the resources or desire to engage in an online world, but let’s talk about the ones that do.
When our building had to close in 2020, people of all ages had to decide how they could continue some of their favorite parts of church life.
Our church had already been livestreaming one Sunday service for several years. Many members had already figured out how to watch on a week when various reasons – health, weather, travel – kept them away from the sanctuary. Others had never considered worshipping in front of a tv or computer.
Through guiding phone calls and even personalized video tutorials, families and friends reached out to help older adults learn how to connect. Many had tablets or even Roku and just needed a little guidance to be ready for Sunday morning. This one step forward gave many people the courage to keep exploring and see how they could continue to connect. It seems that many have fully embraced faith formation in this new way and are encouraging each other onward.
Our church began offering mid-week videos with prayers by the staff. The Formation team created video Lectio Divina practice five days a week. Many members visited the church website for the very first time in order to connect. The weekly church email became a lifeline featuring links to these various offerings.
Even the Monday morning prayer group – which has been around for decades – decided to give Zoom a try. Members ranged in age from early 50s to late 80s. The attendance has actually increased as those who weren’t necessarily morning people realized they could just roll out of bed and join in. All winter long there was never a week we had to be concerned about icy roads and deciding if the group needed to be canceled.
The 8am Sunday morning adult education class also reached all time high in attendance with those non-early risers joining in. The class leader could give the normal introduction to the day’s topic, share his screen to show documents and then divide the class into smaller groups for discussion.
An evening Bible study that switched to meeting on Zoom has decided to stick with this virtual option into the future. Two members of the study made the big decision to move out of town to live near children during the pandemic. They are thrilled to remain connected to their old group because of this new way of interacting.
A sermon discussion group over Zoom is another way adults of all ages have connected. There is no book to try to order and organize. The written text from the sermon is emailed in advance with numbered paragraphs to aid in the discussion. There is also no worry about driving in the dark of the winter evenings.
Our Theologian in Residence took what would normally be a 6-week evening study and created videos for an asynchronous offering. Each week he posted a summary page and list of questions. Discussion groups formed throughout the week on Zoom. These series have been well received with all ages embracing this new digital option.
Many older adults are grateful that the building closing for a time encouraged them to put fear aside and give something new a try. They are in turn encouraging their peers to join this digital community and the possibilities seem endless.