As a member of the Older Adult Ministry of the Committee on New and Vital Congregations (OAM/CNVC), I am happy to be the project coordinator for the 2014 Churches as Models project.
I recently visited the two churches selected as model churches based on their long-standing successful older adult programs: Castro Valley United Methodist Church and Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church. While at each church I observed and participated in several programs and activities created for or beneficial to older adults (ages 50+), including exercise classes, crafts and gardening groups, and luncheons, all offered not only to congregational members, but to the broader communities as well. The visits also afforded me the opportunity to meet with the pastors and project representatives to discuss their thriving programs and to talk firsthand with program participants to learn why they enjoyed and appreciated the programs so much.
Even with the project in its early stages, I have already discovered much, including the value of older adult programs in keeping individuals supported and connected, and in providing a structure for creativity, productivity, and fun. Also, the importance of strong and committed program leadership and direction, not only from clergy and involved lay leaders, but from program participants as well, in order to keep programs relevant in meeting the needs of the congregations and communities.
A key goal of the Churches as Models project is to find ways similar programs can be developed and nourished in other congregations throughout the Conference. During the upcoming months as I visit more programs at Castro Valley UMC and Sacramento Japanese UMC, I will post what I find, along with ideas and strategies for potentially replicating them at other churches. If you have questions, please contact me at Finleyjacqueline@gmail.com.