Churches as Models

April 09, 2014

Churches as Models, a 2014 project by the Older Adult Ministry of the Committee on New and Vital Congregations (OAM/CNVC) is underway.
 
Project coordinator, Jackie Finley, recently visited the two churches selected as models based on their successful older adult programs: Castro Valley United Methodist Church and Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church.  During her visits she observed, and participated in, several programs and activities created for, or beneficial to older adults (ages 50+ years). She also talked informally with program participants to find out why they enjoyed the activities offered, and met with the pastors and project representatives at both sites to get their thoughts as to why their programs are doing well.
 
Both Castro Valley UMC and Sacramento Japanese UMC have long-established programs for older adults that are provided not only to congregational members, but to the broader communities as well.
 
During her recent visit to Castro Valley UMC, Finley took part in an exercise/falls prevention class, where participants gained strength and balance, and had fun; a creative crafting group, where individuals could not only knit, sew, and quilt, but also play cards and socialize; and a senior luncheon with hot food and lively conversation. 
 
At Sacramento Japanese UMC, she watched volunteers (Garden Angels) tend to the church’s gardens and learned the history and cultural connection of the long-term project; held a short question and answer session with participants in a fitness class; and learned how the church strives to keep  its older members connected through a sense of history and continuity.
 
Even with the project in its early stages, several common themes are emerging, including the following: 
 
  • From the participants themselves, the importance of older adult programs for keeping them connected, supported, and acknowledged, and for providing places and structures for feeling creative, productive, and having fun. 
 
  • From the pastors, project representatives, and others involved with older adult programs, the value of strong leadership, interest, and commitment of clergy and lay leaders, and the importance of encouraging program participants to establish leadership roles themselves.
 
One of the goals of the Churches as Models project is to determine ways valuable programs can potentially be developed and nourished in other congregations throughout the Conference. Direct observations and honest feedback are important to make this happen. Finley will be visiting more programs at Castro Valley UMC and Sacramento Japanese UMC during the coming months, and will keep the congregations apprised of her findings through articles, reports, blogs, and the OAM/CNVC website.  For more information contact Finley at Finleyjacqueline@gmail.com.