Published August 7, 2018
Conducting Vacation Bible School for children during the summer months isn't all that "newsy." But how often do you hear about a VBS that is especially for senior adults? What a terrific ministry idea!
The Oklahoma Baptist Messenger recently reported about a Baptist church in Oklahoma City that hosted a senior adult version of VBS in July. Each morning, about 20 seniors gathered from 9:30-11:30, saying pledges to the Bible and the American flag, singing and doing motions to upbeat songs, doing crafts, playing games and learning about missions.
"We weren't sure what kind of turnout we would have, but they responded well," said Gina McKean, director of children's ministries at Portland Avenue Baptist. Church member Eli Sheldon agreed: "Most of our people were apprehensive about coming, but it has been a fantastic experience."
Can you see the opportunity for intergenerational ministry here? Youth and young adults become involved in organizing the VBS, turning the tables by serving your church's older adults and leading recreation, crafts, music and other activities. As a community outreach, local nursing home residents and senior adults who can no longer drive might be picked up by a church van or adult volunteers.
Imagine members of your church's youth group going out together to visit senior adults to invite them to attend the VBS, participating in the skits during opening assemblies, serving refreshments to their tables, and assisting them in making crafts. Children could participate by demonstrating motions to the songs they learned earlier in Vacation Bible School.
Older youth and college students could teach the Bible stories during a senior adult VBS. Kentucky missionaries or International Mission Board missionaries on furlough could share about their ministries and how senior adults can pray specifically for them. All the while, youth are listening to these missions stories and perhaps considering going on a mission trip or becoming a missionary some day.
Portland's event concluded with a "tailgate party" offering hotdogs and homemade ice cream. Here's yet another opportunity for church members to be involved in serving your senior saints. And, if the event is held outdoors, it becomes a visual witness of how the church cares and is serving its community.
"One thing that we have done in trying to be a vital church is we've had to look for creative ways to connect with our community," Walter Mullican, the church's pastor, said. "We just see it as an opportunity to be known in the community, and then that gives us opportunities to share the Gospel."
Just this week, I read about a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that indicates teens who report high-frequency digital media use are twice as likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Of particular concern, though, Christian mental health practitioners noted excessive screen time can damage the soul as well.
"Screens today are the modern-day Baal," said Joshua Straub, a marriage and family strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources, "the socially acceptable thing that keeps us from a deepening relationship with Jesus" … and one another, I might add. The study "supports ongoing research that too much screen time is detrimental to our hearts, minds and souls," Straub, a child psychologist, said. "Yet, for some reason we, as a society, seem to be ignoring the data."
The digital platforms studied included social media, texting, internet browsing, streaming or downloading music, chatting online and streaming television or movies. Take a look around the next time you're in a restaurant, doctor's office, or even at church. Youth aren't the only ones! Most of us are always on our smartphones, watching and texting, rather than enjoying the moment and conversing with those around us.
Perhaps, through providing intergenerational opportunities like a senior adult VBS—the church can play a vital role in our society by encouraging youth and adults alike to put down their smartphones and tablets, disconnect from their device for few moments, and connect instead with another person LIVE. And, what if in the process of serving another person, we connect someone with Jesus?
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