- Seniors & Prefects Work at Vacation Church School – Photo Courtesy of Greg Guinn
Churches searching for people to work in vacation church schools or camps may do well to tap into the wealth of talent and experience of older adults. Seniors may drop by for an hour or so to bring a snack, homemade or otherwise, sing songs, or just join a classroom in art or other summer church school activities.
Why Use Older Adults to Help Staff Vacation Church Schools
Many older adults are available during the day and can give time both before or after to help in the planning, clean up, and debriefing sessions. Others live far from grandchildren, so they might invite a grandchild to stay with them during that week to attend the vacation church school or camp together. The activities they share will make memories children will cherish for years.
For seniors who either don’t have grandchildren, or whose grandchildren can’t visit that week, volunteering can provide a fine opportunity for bonding with younger generations. Their ideas and efforts are greatly valued since it can be a challenge to find enough volunteers to staff daytime summer activities which help keep the sparkle in the summer for children.
Ways Seniors Can Contribute to Vacation Church Schools or Church Day Camps
There are volunteer opportunities in both classroom and non-classroom activities:
- Snacks need to be provided and served.
- Music is always needed, and if a senior has skills in that direction, most welcome. Teach the children The Bible in a Boat and other songs which teach character lessons or people from Biblical stories.
- Outdoor activities are just right for sports enthusiasts and others. One retired engineer in Houston worked on a design for Quidditch for a summer day camp based on Harry Potter theme. He continued year after year to run the games at the vacation church school of Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church.
- Teachers and assistants in the classroom give one to one interactions with children. A retired psychologist donned a cape and used his wonderful booming voice as a professor at the Hogwarts summer day camp at Northwoods.
- Arts and crafts usually happen in air-conditioned rooms for those who enjoy that. Sometimes this can be combined with a service project, like making Happy Summer cards for the elderly who receive Meals on Wheels.
Older adults often have a wealth of experience that can be shared and greatly appreciated. It is not necessary to stay during the whole day’s program, be it morning or all day. Older volunteers can choose to stay only for the time period of the particular session they are supporting.
Intergenerational Value of Seniors Helping With Vacation Church School or Camp
A common concern of some seniors is feeling isolated from other generations. Families are often spread out and older adults may find themselves seeing a shrinking group of other senior friends, due to sickness, death, and mobility of populations.
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Connecting with younger generations, including both parents and children, can spark a feeling of community which is encouraging to all involved. Sometimes these experiences may be followed up by continuing the relationships. This could be in the form of once a month visit to their church school class or exchanging social niceties at church or elsewhere.
This can help the children since they often don’t have local grandparents, and due to population mobility kids at times don’t develop as close relationships with their biological grandparents as desired. Friendships between older adults and children can provide a continuing way of staying interested in life, and the magic of childhood. Intergenerational ties generate positive energy for senior citizens as well as their young friends.
Older adults can enjoy helping with vacation church schools or vacation church summer day camps. As to why they do it, seniors make quite a contribution to the lives and character training of children, who will carry the memories for years. These senior citizens also fill a recruiting need since so many parents work and can’t be there.
There are many ways seniors can contribute to staffing vacation church schools or camps. Intergenerational relationships formed during these events is a win-win to all concerned. Seniors are a valuable asset to summer church activities like vacation church school or church day camp.
Source: Information about the vacation church school at Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church was obtained by an interview there on June 21, 2010