We’re not all going on a Summer Holiday

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Author: Alex Drew

Cliff Richard’s sixties hit ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday’ describes a summer break away from it all; having fun, laughing, free of worries, doing things we’ve always wanted to. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

The summer season is also a time of God’s abundance. Under the glorious sunshine so much grows, blossoms, and flourishes in the summer; grass, spring lambs, fruit, vegetables, even children! That’s just how God designed it – a time of fruitfulness, a display of his splendour.

And yet for many older people in our church communities, summers, far from a jolly holiday when everything is better, can be a drought stricken wasteland, where everything stops and nothing grows, as leaders take a well earned break, and fewer people are around to facilitate the usual lifegiving timetable of activities. Of course, not every church reduces their missional offering in this way over summer, but many do.

It’s a missed opportunity really. Many older people experience better health during the summer as the warmer temperatures improve mobility, decrease pain, increase blood flow, and even boost our mood. People in later life are more likely to make the journey to church when it’s warm and dry, and more inclined to come out on a light evening than on a dark one. And for most, the only ‘difference’ the long school summer holidays make to their days is the devastation of increased loneliness.

Sunday services tend to continue, praise God, but these are often ‘all-age’ events, which, frankly tends to mean they’re focussed on young families, and often sail rather close to being more like a children’s birthday party than a time to worship and learn from the one who made the moon to mark the seasons.

Holding all this in tension is a challenge, no doubt about it. We want to rest our leaders, and do what we can to keep sharing God’s love and very good news with fewer helpers around, and yet a person’s need for meaningful connection and to be seen never takes a break. So what can we do?

From my vantage point at Faith in Later Life, whether in big ways or small, I see many churches being intentional about ensuring their older friends and members are not forgotten over the summer. The important thing is to give it some thought ahead of time, and make a sustainable summer plan that includes them.

A few principles and ideas…

Include seniors in the planning

If we want to know how best to bless our particular cohort of older people, we need to hear from them, or at least from their representative. Invite them to prayerfully consider whether or not necessary reductions in activities will affect them, and how. Ask for their thoughts and ideas on how you might sustainably meet needs this summer.

You may also find that older active people who are hesitant to commit to leading a year round programme, might be thrilled to be asked to organise the seniors summer programme or a one off summer event. If you don’t ask, you won’t know!

Make more of Sundays

Once the building is open and the kettle is on, why not start the day with a pre-service cuppa, or extend the morning with a bring and share, or summer salad lunch.

If resources are too strapped, simply opening the space and inviting people to come along earlier for connection, catching up, and making plans for the week ahead could be of tremendous value. If one or two volunteers are around to offer a listening ear or prayer, all the better!

All Age should mean All Age

If it really is for all ages, then the service should include helpful elements for engagement and worship for all age groups, and all age groups should be involved in its delivery.

Whether younger or older, not everyone is in a family, and many older people live alone. Be sensitive to this and get the language right.

All age services can still include some traditional hymns, the Lord’s Prayer, and involvement from older people at the front.

This is also a great opportunity for the church family (meaning the entire church) to hear wonderful testimonies from older people, perhaps about their childhood days of ‘going on a summer holiday’, their faith journeys, or heroes of their faith.

Home Deliveries

This is something churches were so good at in the pandemic! Hand delivered newsletters, children’s paintings, flowers, boxed cream teas, and goody bags were such a blessing to those staying at home – they would be a blessing again this summer to older people who have nowhere to go.

Like the idea but need to scale it down? No problem. We’re making some lovely postcards available to Faith in Later Life Church Champions this summer, order here. A card received half way through the summer simply letting an older person know the church is thinking of them and praying for them would be such a lovely surprise.

You could inlcude the phone number for DailyHOPE so they can receive comfort and Good News over the telephone this summer.

Why not ask the youth group to write a pile in the Spring term, ready to send in August?

Day Trips and Events

One church we know of gives the luncheon club team a break from cooking and the big set-up over the summer, and instead they hire a coach and take members out on a day trip to the seaside.

Another shows old movies on the big screen in the worship space and serves popcorn and tea!

These kinds of opportunities are not only good for connection, but in different ‘spaces’ new conversations often emerge – we get to know each other better, and speak God’s encouragement into peoples’ lives in unexpected ways.

Groups and Home Groups

It’s ok to have a break from doing exactly the same thing whilst still doing ‘something’.

Some groups and homegroups simplify things in the summer, still making opportunities for gathering and prayer, but less formal, perhaps with food, or games and puzzles.

One Church Champion shared with us that last summer, instead of their usual weekly meetings for their small group of older people, they offered something different each week including afternoon tea at local garden centre, fish and chips from local chippy for lunch at the home of a member, and even a visit to an RHS garden.

Holiday at Home

Many churches already embrace children’s holiday clubs as part of their reach to children in the community. A ‘Holiday at Home’ is organised in a similar way.

It’s an event which goes on for one day or more, giving older people the opportunity to have a holiday, but without leaving town. It can include activities such as quizzes, crafts, games, hand and foot spas, competitions, music, exercises, sing-a-longs, drama, and food. These events are fun and stimulating, giving people the chance to do things they enjoy, the opportunity to make new friends, and to hear the Good News of Jesus.

 

Far from being a parched season for people in later life, there is much churches can do this summer to help them flourish, know joy, make meaningful connections, be fruitful, and to receive God’s ultimate abundance; the gift of life in the Spirit.

Imagine what a harvest we might gather in this autumn if we would only tend the fields this summer.

 

Church Champions Online Networking & Prayer Session

On Tuesday 18th June at 1.30pm and 7.30pm we will gather together online to explore some of these ideas and others shared on the day. Find out more and book your free place.

Not yet a Church Champion?

If you have a christian ministry or paid work among older people, we invite you to come and be part of our growing network as together we help people everywhere to have Faith in later Life. Find out more and sign up for free to be a Church Champion.