At this time of year many churches would normally be planning a ‘Holiday at Home’, a week of activities and social fun, a holiday for older people, but without the need to travel. This year is different. Is a ‘holiday at home’ possible in lockdown with physical distancing?
As Burwell Baptist put it: ‘During the summer some activities and groups stop and it can seem a long time for those who are unable to go away on holiday. It can be a lonely and isolating time when family and friends are enjoying a time away. So churches all over the country offer activities which bring people together to experience the fun of a holiday with others whilst getting home to your own bed every night.’
People will still be away this year, so a shift in support structures can be expected. According to a YouGov survey at the start of July 2020, 11% still plan to travel abroad and 12% haven’t decided yet. It is expected to be a bumper year for UK ‘staycations’. This may not be a great comfort to the 1.3 million aged 60+ who are classified as ‘extremely vulnerable’ to Covid complications.
Holidays at Home have been a traditional way to give a summer treat to older people unable to travel away for holidays. On our Resource Hub you’ll find a full downloadable guide from our partners at Salvation Army. St John’s Harbourne would usually get around 50 people aged over 70 into the church for a choice of activities: gentle exercise, speakers, discussion groups, games, craft, computer corner, and so on, and plenty of time to deepen friendships. A meal is provided, there is a thought for the day, and a thanksgiving service to end the holiday. For more information, click here. Over half the guests are not from the church.
A theme week has worked well for Frimley Baptist, similar to a children’s holiday club in some ways: previous years have included a cruise, a royal theme, safari park, school and markets. It is heartbreaking to see on their website that unfortunately this year’s event has now been cancelled due to the COVID 19 issues.
Deborah Kelly helped run holiday clubs for the elderly when she attended St Peter’s Harold Wood, and writes this for ‘Passion for Life’, an evangelism initiative: “In running our first Holiday at Home we drew heavily on the experience and best practice of our children and youth teams in running holiday clubs, camps and house parties. Gospel ministry is gospel ministry after all, even if the sphere of application is different.”
These words are relevant for 2020: the sphere of application is different, but we can be creative.
Here are some ideas for a ‘Holiday at Home’ using the medium of phone, video call and some limited physically distanced meetings outside:
- If you are reaching those who are only on the phone, decide whether your ‘holiday group’ will be a pair of people or a larger group, in which case you will need to make sure everyone has given permission for their number to be shared.
- If you are using a video call platform like Zoom, ensure everyone has trialled it before your first meeting, and ensure you have followed safeguarding and data protection guidelines from your church.
- Plan the programme times, perhaps once or twice a day, and deliver a plan for the week either by hand, in the mail or over email.
- The week might have a theme, or each day might have a theme, as a focus for conversations and to make it a bit different to normal life. For example, each day could be themed after a decade: people could wear something which reminds them of that decade, and you could think about food and music to match. Seasons and countries could work too. There are more theme ideas here.
- Make sure everyone knows what is happening for the next session in advance, so they have a chance to prepare and perhaps share what they’ve discovered, made or remembered the following day.
Here are ideas for a lockdown holiday at home, with distanced version of activities other churches have used before – and there are more ideas in the HOPE Together ‘Fun Day’ pack on the Faith in Later Life resource hub here.
- Musical moments: perform for each other, or listen to your favourite performances. If people have a library card, many local libraries now offer free access to Medici.Tv which has recordings of concerts and ballets (find out by searching for your library at login).
- Interview with someone interesting: with ‘Zoom’ you can use the ‘Chat’ feature so people can ask live questions as well as those prepared. The bonus of this time is that the interviewee can live anywhere in the world! Be creative!
- Computer lesson: you can offer skills classes, perhaps with the help of local younger people or charities, which may even extend beyond the week.
- Quiz time.
- Bring a photo: perhaps on a theme, with a story to tell. People will enjoy preparing and sharing.
- Scavenger hunt: this could be a race, or could be a search for quirky things at home.
- Art time: a lesson, or an individual art challenge to encourage each other afterwards.
- Live British Bake Off: simultaneous baking can even work over the phone if you have it on loudspeaker.
- Fancy dress competition: a hat, an accessory, or even a theme.
- Craft time.
- Book group.
- Poems and Riddles.
- Play reading.
- Museum and Gallery Tours: there are some incredible ones now online – see a list here.
- Around the world: you can travel the world online using tools like Google Earth. There are ideas from Sixty and Me here, and here are the 10 of the best virtual tours of the world’s natural wonders.
- Pets: introduce each other to your pets, photos of long gone pets, or have an online zoo or safari visit – see a list here.
- Names: talk about each others’ names, whether they are important to you, what they mean, whether you use a name other than your given name. What is the meaning of Jesus’ name?
- Watch party: watch a film or TV programme together and chat as if you were in the same room!
- Thought for the day: make sure to share something of hope. You’ll find some ideas in our blog, or use the testimony or stories of faith from older people in your church.
- Songs of Praise: listen to your favourite hymns together, sing from the comfort of your own home together, and use these talks here on our Resource Hub to talk about the meanings.
- Listen together: use the Daily Hope prayer line and then talk about it together.
As we wrote last year about Holidays at Home:
“In the coming weeks, congregations across the UK (and beyond) will be gathering those in later life and offering them food, friendship, fun activities and opportunities to deepen faith in – or for the first time respond in faith to – the Lordship of Christ. But our prep needs to be about more than just activity – like all Christian ministry, prayer is essential – unless the Lord builds the house, the labourers labour in vain, we are reminded in Psalm 127. So how can we be praying for the many Holidays at Home to come? There are many prayers we could choose but maybe Paul’s prayer in Philemon can spur us on our way:
“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have towards the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. (Philemon 4-6)” ”
For more fun video call activities, see our blog post: Fun Video Call Activity Ideas for Churches and Older People.
First image by Georg Arthur Pflueger, the second by Gervyn Louis, third by Malcolm Lightbody, from Unsplash.