ideas for Youth to Minister with the ELDERLY

By Fr. Michael Anderson

Several   years ago the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord on February 2 has been designated   the World Day of Orthodox Youth. On the day following this feast and celebration   we commemorate Ss. Simeon the Elder and Anna the Prophetess, who the Scriptures   tell us were old, righteous and devout, worshiping in the temple night and day,   waiting for God to send His Savior. (Luke 2: 21-40)

Often   in today’s world youth spend very little time with elderly persons even in our   parishes. Paradoxically, as our society is growing older, we tend to increasingly   avoid and neglect these people. Like our young people, our seniors have a very   real ministry within the Church. 

These   20-something ways include opportunities for seniors to offer something to young   people as well as opportunities for young people to offer something to seniors   in need. Review the list and make it an annual project to involve elderly people   in your youth ministry efforts.    When   discussing the type of activities your parish or region would like to do, be   sure to remember this list and provide opportunities for youth to minister to   and be ministered by our seniors. 

1 Talk   to the youth! Young people   have a strong desire to help others and often have   great ideas.   Plan a meeting to discuss how they might want to minister with the elderly.    

2 Do   an oral history of the parish. Make it a project to interview the long term   members of your  parish   about how the parish was founded. Compile the interviews in a book and   keep it in the parish library.   

3 Celebrate   elderly parishioners’ names days. Since many elderly people do not live   near to their    family, have the youth plan name’s day celebrations for them. These can   take place at the parish or in the person’s home if they have trouble getting   to services.  Celebrations could include a meal and skit about the patron   saint’s life. 

4   Plan regular visits to the hospital and nursing homes in your   area. Whether parishioners are in a particular facility or not,   have young people make cards for residents with photographs of the people who   made them with a personal note about themselves. 

5 Have   your parish’s youth group form a “Sunshine Committee.” Ask your   priest to keep your group informed of anyone who is sick, in the   hospital, or homebound. Create and send   cards reminding them that they are missed and loved and are being prayed for.  

  6 Tape   a book on Orthodoxy for seniors who have difficulty with their eye sight.   (One of the volumes in the Orthodox Faith: Handbook of the Orthodox   Church, lives of saints, etc.) 

7 Prepare   and host a meal honoring One or more senior members of the parish.    Use a “this is your life”  format and perform skits portraying their efforts in the Church.  

8 Form   work groups to offer various services that elderly require. Evaluate the   needs of some of the senior parishioners and form work groups to   help them with snow removal, leave raking, garage cleaning, fence painting,   shrub trimming, grocery shopping, etc. 

9   Adopt a grandparent. Many   senior’s families do not live nearby. Pair a couple youth up with an elderly   person. Have the youth spend time with them, and invite them to    their home for Sunday dinner or holidays. 

10   Ask a senior to be part of your parish’s youth ministry team attending   activities and events.  One of the greatest fallacies in youth ministry   is that you have to be young to be “effective.”   

11   Tape the priest’s sermon each week, make copies, and   distribute them to homebound and hospital bound seniors    

12 Prepare   Pascha baskets, Christmas packages, etc. for seniors who are not able to   prepare the foods. Be careful to find out any dietary restrictions   they may have. 

13 Raise   money for seniors to go on a trip together. Have a fund raiser and plan   a pilgrimage to a monastery, a trip to a play or musical, etc. Be   sure to involve seniors in the planning.   

14 Raise   money for a senior charity organization like AARP or a nearby adult facility.   Find out if a nearby facility needs anything (recreation money,   a new VCR, etc.), raise the money and donate it. 

15    Invite seniors into youth group meetings and church school classes   to discuss how they   have seen the parish grow and change. They   can even talk about their faith and how it has changed over the years. 

16  Form   a youth choir to visit nursing homes and homebound parishioners. Try to   come around at times other than Christmas. Learn some of their favorite   songs, either from the past or present. 

17  Start   an apprenticeship program.  Ask   elderly persons if they would be willing to teach   youth various   abilities that they know about (woodworking, needlework, cooking, etc.).    

18  Visit   elderly parishioners whose family does not live nearby. Plan visits for   a couple times a year (or more) to simply sit and have home visits.    

19 Have   seniors raise money for youth events. Ask seniors to sponsor a youth event,   camp   scholarships, to send a youth to a special event in another   part of the country (All-American Council, Saint Vladimir’s Christmas Retreat,   Eastern PA Winter Youth Encounter, Pan-Orthodox College Conference, a local   camp, etc.) For a list of these types of activities contact the Office of Youth   and Young Adult Ministries (see below).       

20 Start   a mentoring program. Ask seniors to commit to spending One hour a month   with a   young person in your parish such as children of single parents.   This would give these kids a chance to spend time with faithful adults who care   for them.     

21   Talk with the elderly in your parish! Sit down with the senior members   of the parish and tell them how important it is for them to be a part of your youths’   lives. Ask them what types of things   they would like to do with the youth. They have great ideas!