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!